When The DIY Becomes An Obstacle

I want to talk about DIY – that is, the do-it-yourself approach to making music. Some people have the desire to begin massive projects where they create everything themselves, from scratch. They hunt for samples, they record bits of this and that, they spend days writing and re-writing melodies, they do everything themselves and more, and it takes forever if they don’t become overwhelmed by it all first and end up scraping the project altogether. This is when the DIY becomes an obstacle.

It reminds me of the video that went around the internet about this guy who decides to make a sandwich from scratch and create all the elements needed all on his own. He’s collecting salt from the sea, milking the cow himself, learning to bake bread. etc. Spoiler alert – when the guy finally eats the sandwich (which cost him nearly $1500 in expenses) the result was somewhat mediocre, and disappointing.

People who specialize do ‘their thing’ better, faster, with better ingredients, tools, finesse, and experience that more than often makes a world of difference. In the studio, it’s the same thing. I’m sure there are areas of music writing and production you don’t look forward to and others you could do all day. If we let every obstacle along the way frustrate us and chip away at our mental energy, the effect can be quite damaging.

The path doesn’t need to be cleared from obstacles. Obstacles are the path. (Buddhist Proverb)

You might have a feeling where I’m going with this as I’m a big fan of collaboration in music and productivity in the studio. It’s a great feeling to push ahead quickly in your productions when one person can lead with his/her strengths in an area and vice versa, so the question is – how do you make the most of your skills while taking advantage of help?

Find what you love doing. Identifying your strengths will make a big difference in the confidence, and understanding of yourself as an artist. It’s a task many people I coach and speak with overlook. Is your thing sound design, mixing, searching for the perfect set of samples? The production-oriented tasks where you’re the most happily active and engaged is where you’ll find your strength. On the flip side, it’s important to understand the areas you’re less happy and skilled at doing, and make a mental note of this when collaborating with others. If you can specialize at what you do best, you’ll be a great asset to anyone who is struggling in that department.

Invest in yourself. In whichever area you are strongest in, consider acquiring the best equipment and knowledge in that specialty. For example, if mixing is your strength, you should definitely follow Pensado on Youtube to learn as much as possible about mixing, and learn about kick-ass plugins used by the pros. Find your role model in that department and study what he/she does, what gear they use, how they use it and also go above them, and find out who are their mentors. If you get to know who influences your role model, you’re gaining critical influences.

Check your ego. Have you ever observed yourself snubbing a technique or tool just because you think it’s not for you? How many times have you counted out something great without even giving it a chance? If you can, think if you’ve been avoiding some plugin such as channel strips or a specific compressor, perhaps even a DAW without any evidence for doing so. Also, if something is considered ‘bad’ it’s important to understand the difference from that which is regarded as good and make your own judgment after accessing the facts. Things I’ve read people shouldn’t use have drawn my attention to tools such as multiband compression, which is one of my favorite tools for sound design now. For some reason, rock producers seem to dislike multiband compression, yet I can’t understand why if you imagine what’s possible in the right hands.

As always I want to hear your opinion and look forward to keeping the discussion open ~


1 reply
  1. George Chipuc
    George Chipuc says:

    another important step, in my opinion, is to stop following the rules and create your own. It will open a world full of possibilities and maybe even create new genres, who knows…and it’s working for me


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