Last night my wife and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary.

I bought her some pearl earrings.

At first she said she loved ’em…you see where this is going.

Later on that night she informed me that she actually doesn’t like pearls.

She was afraid my feelings would be hurt, or that maybe she just shouldn’t say anything and force a smile and where ’em.

Was she right?

Do I wish she hadn’t told me?

Heck no.

I’m thrilled she told me. I’d much rather she get something she LOVES than pretend to be happy with my silly pearls.

There’s a recording lesson here…can you see it?

It’s simply this — encourage your clients to be honest.

Tell ’em up front that you’re going to make creative decisions all along the way in the recording process, and that you want their input. Assure them that they can’t hurt your feelings (even if that’s not entirely true), and tell ’em to be honest with you.

It’ll be worth it.

It reminds me of a project I was mixing last year. The producer sent me the tracks and essentially just said, “Here ya go!”

So I listened to the tracks and started mixing. I had in mind a create direction I was taking the song, and it was sounding pretty cool! So I sent a mix over to her…

And she was honest. 🙂

As it turns out, she had a VERY different idea of how she wanted the mix to go. Once we figured that out, I was quickly able to make the right adjustments.

And?

We were both happy. She got the “feel” she was going for, and I made her happy. (And the mix still sounded really cool.)

Win. Win. Win.

I know it can be difficult to hear anything less than absolute praise for your work in the studio, but it’s a heck of a lot better than them lying to your face and never working with you again, right?

Right.

Go forth and let ’em tell you they don’t like your pearls, then go back and get ’em something they REALLY love.

Joe “Better Luck Next Time” Gilder

P.S. Getting feedback from your clients is the first step. Knowing how to take that feedback and get the sounds they want is the second (potentially much more challenging) step. They may say, for example, they want the lead vocal to stand out more in the mix. You’ll need to have a good understanding of compression to do that without killing the vocal tone entirely.

Fear not.

I can help you with that. 🙂

Go here:

www.UnderstandingCompression.com

  • So True, I mixed 3 tracks a while ago when I was starting out and I thought they were the bee’s knees. Gave them to a friend who is a dance producer and asked him to be honest. He tore them to pieces ( Yea I said he was a friend), Sad thing is when I actually listened, he was right!!!

    So never take criticism the wrong way, Any review is a good review in some way shape or form. As long as you listen, it will make it even more pleasurable when you take the same person your next mix and they love it!!

    • Agreed. It hurts but ’tis good for you.

  • musicmachineshop

    Very true, hearing constructive criticism is almost always a valuable experience. On the flip side, critiquing the artist’s performance requires a great deal of tact. Good topic for a future post don’t you think?

    • Jlird808

      True! Knowing the terminology and being able to offer constructive suggestions can alleviate the emotional strain felt when you’re basically expressing disfavor towards someone’s “creation”.

      Miscommunication…..the source of so much grief 🙁

      Also, be weary of some people’s critiques and stand by ur stuff if u really believe in it. Along the same lines, be ready to defend some elements of your song and explain WHY something is that why…for instance, why the high-hats are quite loud. U could just possibly convince someone to accept something that is not normal for them.

      But on another note…sometimes I’ll tell someone that I like their stuff even when I don’t. That’s just bcz my interactions with these people is brief and I am not going to be a part of their creative evolution. In those cases, I will just let u think that I think you’re stuff is good LOL

    • Great idea. You must “tread lightly” when critiquing us sensitive musicians. 🙂

  • David Duer

    So I have been reading your blog post for a week now….I have learned that listening/reading/learning about how other people tackle challenges outside of my work area can be really beneficial. I have had a more productive week by taking your advice/suggestions and I have never touched a mixing board to actually “mix”.

    • Duer…you beast. Thanks for reading. Let’s get you in the studio, eh?

  • Jlird808

    What about a pearl necklace lol?

    • Ha. That’s the funny thing. I KNEW she didn’t like pearl necklaces. I thought earrings were different.

  • agree with this tip completely! If there’s one thing I’ll never understand, it’s this: If I can hear there’s something wrong with my recording, and it’s obvious to me, who by default am biased, why do perfect strangers praise it like they’ve never heard anything like it…giving fake praise helps noone people…