My new friend Eric Block said this to me the other day:

“Knowing how to use a word processor and knowing how to write are two very different things.”

Imagine you’re an aspiring writer. You sign up for a class to learn how to become a better writer. But as it turns out, the class is all about how to use a word processor. Bummer.

Or maybe you’re an aspiring fisherman. You take a fishing class…but all they teach you is how to drive the boat.

Those examples are ridiculous, of course, but you know what? A lot of home studio folks do the same thing. 

Don’t believe me?

They decide they want to learn how to record music at home. They buy a bunch of equipment to get started. So far so good. Next comes the idiocy. They spend the next several years learning EVERYTHING there is to know about their recording software.

They spend hours and hours researching and learning their software. Sure, they record a few things, but they certainly don’t record anything “serious.” They must first master this software.

Do you see how silly this is?

Here’s the opposite story:

A guy wants to record music. He buys a mic, an interface, and some software. He starts recording music. He just figures it out. He learns the bare minimum and starts making and putting out all sorts of recordings.

When he runs into a snag, he figures it out and keeps going. He doesn’t wait until he knows all the answers to get started.

Why? Because he’d rather be great at making recordings…not great at running a stupid piece of software.

Do you want to be good at writing or good at running Microsoft Word?

Do you want to make great recordings or simply know how to use recording software?

I think you know the answer.

If you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to mixing, it’s time to put down the books and get your hands dirty. You’ll never improve by studying software.

You WILL improve by doing lots of mixes.

Get started on your next mix tonight by joining Dueling Mixes:

It’s the first of the month, and that means we’ve got a brand new song, ready for you to mix. See you on the inside.

2 Responses to “You’ll Never Learn”

  1. Frank Adrian

    I second this.

    People ask “Which DAW should I use?” Like this makes a difference!

    Basically, unless you’re recording and mixing day-in and day-out as a career (which most of us are not), the workflow and tool advantages for one DAW over another are not going to be substantial. Similarly, knowing the DAW inside and out and spending time trying to optimize workflow will not make much difference.

    I’ve worked with four DAWs during my time recording. They’ve all been slightly different, but I’ve found ways of doing what needed to be done in all of them. Just like with word processors, if you’ve seen one, you know the basic capabilities; if you’ve seen three, you’ve probably seen all of the major paradigms that underlie the workflows and UI’s; if you’ve seen six, you’ve seen them all – it’s all just mouse pushing after that.

    So what will make a difference? Knowing how to set gains on your input channels so that the first five takes aren’t spoiled when you record because the meters popped into the red. Understanding how attack and release times and ratios work on your compressor so that your t’s don’t end up sounding like d’s and your s’s like z’s when you record a vocal take and your drums don’t sound small coming in. Knowing how to set up a good sounding headphone tracking mix for overdubs quickly so that you keep a session moving. Having your equipment working and set up well enough to patch through any outboard gear efficiently, should you need to. These are things that you learn by doing and that you get by careful preparation. And none of them have anything to do with the DAW.

    • Joe Gilder

      That said, I think there’s certainly a need to know your DAW well. A really slow engineer, who takes forever to do anything in his software, can be frustrating for musicians…especially when they’re in the zone and ready to record.


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