Nobody’s good at everything. Whether it’s the work that you do for a living or your work in the studio, there are some things that you’re better at than others. That’s no surprise, right?

But what are those specific things that you are really good at in the studio? And what are the things that you’re not-so-good at?

If you remember that old TV show called “The Weakest Link”, at the end of the show this British lady would stand up and say, “Joe, you are the weakest link. Goodbye.”

That poses an interesting question. What should you do with the weaknesses that you have in your studio, in your abilities as a recording engineer? Let’s think about that.

Identify weaknesses.

So chances are you are well aware of what your weaknesses are in the studio. Or perhaps you’re not. Take a few minutes to think about the last project that you worked on.

What were the things that came really easy to you? What were the things that were most difficult? Which parts of the process do you really enjoy, and which parts are really tedious and boring?

The idea here is to identify those weaknesses, so at least you know what they are and can decide what to do with them. More on that below.

Identify strengths.

Once you’ve looked at what your weaknesses are, focus on what your strengths are in the studio.

For me, I’m very good at coming up with guitar parts, especially acoustic guitar. I’m also good at arrangement, coming up with creative ways to flesh out a song in the recording process.

Those are just a few examples of things I really enjoy and I’m also good at. I also love to sing and come up with really nice harmony background vocals. Those are things I’m good at and also passionate about.

Focus on your strengths.

Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, a lot of people will tell you to focus on those weaknesses and get better at them. If you’re not good at programming drums then you should spend 10 hours a week perfecting that craft and learning how to do it better.

Or if you’re not good at recording acoustic guitar, they say you should spend lots of time learning how to record acoustic guitar. I get that. And there is some truth there. You should learn to improve those skills that you’re not very good at.

However, I suggest that you focus on your strengths, those things that you are really good at. Focus on those, and do your best to improve those.

If it’s something you are passionate about, you’re going to improve in leaps and bounds, as opposed to something you don’t really care about.

And, if there are certain things that you don’t like to do, think about outsourcing those. If you don’t like editing, pay somebody $20 to edit a track for you. It will save you time and it will be something that you didn’t really want to do to begin with. Next thing you know you have a nice, edited track that only cost you $20 and zero minutes of your time.

I know this is fairly philosophical and somewhat outside the norm here on HSC, but it’s something to think about. If there are things you love to do and things you hate to do, do the things you love, and find somebody else to do the things you hate.

What do you think? Are you willing to “outsource” certain parts of the production process to make your life easier?

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5 Responses to “Are You the Weakest Link?”

  1. Joe Gilder

    I think most of my 400+ articles follow a similar format. 2-5 main points. 3 main points gets it around 400 words per article, which seems to be the “sweet spot” for me personally.

  2. Anonymous

    Thanks for the reminder…As I look around, it seems my weak link is the will to get up and fix the dodgy gear that is causing hassles… I could save days if I would invest a few hours…

  3. Frank Adrian

    In my day job, I manage people. One of the things I’ve found over the years is that people should be assigned tasks that emphasize their strengths. It leads to jobs being done more quickly and people who have the satisfaction of having a job well-done. If a person wants to grow, or improve a weakness, by all means do your best to accommodate them (try to do that on a non-critical task, however), but, in most cases, run with your people’s strengths.

    In addition, there are limits to the amount and speed of improvements people can make. In the final analysis, you can increase the speed of a cow by training it, but it’s never going to be a racehorse. And, you’re going to put in way too much effort in your attempts to speed up the cow.

    So one should focus on ones strengths as much as possible and outsource the things one is less good at. However, there are limits to outsourcing, too. The main barrier I run into is cost. Most work I do at my level of experience is either for people I want to record who aren’t paying me, work done on spec, or work done at a very low-cost (or for barter of services). Outsourcing work would often leave me in a position of investing money on a project (or an inordinate amount of effort pitching it to get someone else to work on it for reduced cost) when now, at worst, all I’m investing is my time.

    So yeah, I know that there are some things that should be left to others. Really, the only parts of the process I’m particularly passionate about are writing songs, getting really good performances from people, editing (and that because I can’t trust others to do it right), and mixing. The physical mechanics of recording I could happily leave to others (while monitoring the performance and its sound, of course) so I’d probably do better hiring a studio and/or an engineer to do that. And mastering is almost always better left to someone else. But, until the projects I’m working on make more financial than artistic sense, I’m probably going to have to do these things myself.

    • Joe Gilder

      Great stuff, Frank. I think the idea of “time cost” comes into play. While a lot of home recordists aren’t making money from their efforts, their time is still valuable. Spending 20 hours editing versus paying $50 to have someone else do it? That 20 hours has real value. It could mean you’ll have time to record the other 9 songs…or whatever.

      I do a lot of trading, too. A buddy of mine does graphic design. He’s also a musician. I trade him a recording session at my studio for a logo. Strength for strength.

    • Anonymous

      “you can increase the speed of a cow by training it, but it’s never going to be a racehorse.” Sir, this get the “memorable quote of the day” award, in my book.


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