Don’t be lazy!

Are you taking shortcuts? Are you glossing over the details? Are you ignoring the intimate depths of your music, thinking no-one will notice?

Think again – they will notice.

Maybe not right away. Maybe they won’t be able to articulate what they’re hearing. Maybe even knowledgeable listeners won’t quite be able to put their finger on it.

But they will notice. It makes a difference. Even if it’s a small difference, it’s this small difference that separates the great from the mediocre. It’s the difference between liking to make music and truly deeply caring about the music you make.

Laziness in composition

Laziness in composition manifests itself in a lack of variation, a lack of contour, a lack of movement and detail.

Sure, it’s ok to use loops. Loops are a great way of fleshing out the structure of a song – to get the length and pacing right once you’ve established the initial musical ideas, and to try out different arrangements or instrumentations.

But to leave the loops unmodified is laziness. You song wants to develop over time, to gain momentum, to move forward… so why are your loops static and unchanging? Even minor variations can make a difference. At the very least, include some variation leading into significant changes and transitions. Otherwise there’s no difference between what you’re doing and what the Garageband kids are doing.

It’s tedious. Sometimes it’s not much fun. But if you want to make the best music you can, don’t be lazy. Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and get stuck in. Start by setting aside an hour or two just for getting into the nitty gritty. Do it.

Laziness in production

Laziness in production tends to manifest itself as a lack of creativity. You’ll see this when a producer (such as yourself) makes the same choices for all the songs in an album – the same instrumentation, the same song structure, the same playing style, the same creative direction. Sure, there needs to be some significant unifying factor across the songs, but it needs to be balanced with a degree of exploration and creative freedom.

A lazy producer will also fail to push the artist and musicians to give their very best. An engaged producer will often record several takes, including individual sections and punch-ins, all the while providing specific guidance and coaching to the performer in between each take. A lazy producer will capture a couple of takes and say “it’s fine”. Mediocre.

If you are the producer in this situation, take a good hard look at yourself. And put some effort in. Do something interesting. Get engaged. You’re there to provide creative direction, to make creative decisions. So make them. Make decisions, and make them creatively. And follow through on your decisions. Don’t be satisfied with mediocre performances. Don’t stop when you hit ‘good enough’. Stop when you hit ‘the best we can get’. Take no prisoners.

If you’re the artist in this situation, pluck up the courage to tell your producer what your expectations are. Tell her/him that you’re expecting to be pushed, challenged, guided. By someone competent. Otherwise, you may as well produce yourself.

Laziness in engineering

Yes, we’ve all been there. Let me count the ways.

  • Using the same chain of processors, no matter what the sound source is.
  • Presets.
  • Making edits without crossfades or filling in gaps.
  • Automatic pitch correction without note-by-note tweaking.
  • Presets.
  • Speaking about ‘slapping’ on a processor, or ‘playing’ with the controls.
  • ‘It’s my favourite microphone, it sounds good on everything.’
  • Not backing up the session files at the end of every session.
  • Presets.

Stop cutting corners. Start caring.

Are you being lazy?

Ask yourself. Be honest. Think back to your last session – were you being lazy? Could you have pushed yourself, pushed the music to be even better? Did you settle for something less than what you could have achieved? Remember your thoughts and words when you were being lazy, and remember to catch yourself next time when you recognise those thoughts.

Now get back to work.

-Kim.

Advertisements
    • Ryan
    • June 28th, 2010

    So, so true. I am guilty, great post Kim.

    • Marti
    • June 28th, 2010

    Kim, I follow your posts often, very informative, and I feel like you’re speaking directly to me.

    My question is, a lot of Pop songs have a minimal sound, basic backbeat, not a lot of sounds going on at once, repetitve vocals, etc. How can I find a balance of this miminal, radio sound but still push it past the “garageband kids” or home produced sound that has been plaguing my tracks?

  1. Yep I totally agree with that laziness can result in a lack of creativity. I would advise every one who wants to be a better producer to just do it, it’s as simple as that “just do it” no matter the amount of work involved. The more you practice it is the more you will perfect your craft.

    Thanx This Is Really Inspirational!!!

  2. @Marti
    It’s certainly a balance you’ll have to explore. I suggestion trying to introduce subtle variations that support the contour of the song, but don’t interrupt the main beat (kick and snare). Look to the background parts (percussion, backing vocals, synths, etc) as a target for adding some more expression.

    Some producers and composers avoid the ‘Garageband kids’ comparison by being experimental and inventive with sound – by using creative sounds and grooves that are individual and characteristic. This can be good fun, but I recommend you don’t use this as an excuse to pay less attention to composition.

    -Kim.

    • Thomekk
    • July 4th, 2010

    Great article, enjoyed the reading. Thx a lot!

  3. Glad you enjoyed the post. It’s really so important to take care with your work!

    -Kim.

  4. I often found my “laziness” came out of a lack of confidence. I love writing, but I’m not great at mixing and terrible at mastering. So I’d say, “good enough” for a mix that needed better ears or more time, and I’d use a Wave’s preset to “master” a track.

    Now I pay other people to do the stuff I’m not good at. No more laziness, and it let’s me really concentrate on the writing, which I love.

  5. @Corey
    Good to hear – it’s really important to be aware of what aspects of music making you really enjoy. As you’ve found, it helps you to focus on those aspects, and find strategies for dealing with the aspects that you don’t enjoy as much.

  1. July 4th, 2010
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: