Understanding Practice

(With apologies to Joe, who’s actually a pretty cool guy)

Learn to smoothly and seamlessly practice your parts into that polished performance you’re looking for.

You work so hard on your songs – spending hours tracking, mixing and mastering your songs. What’s missing? PRACTICE.

Your mixes sound pretty good, but the timing just isn’t as tight as you wish it was. You’d like you fix some of these issues, but you’re not sure how.

Why would I want to practice my parts?

As a musician (or producer, if you’re directing musicians) you’re creating a performance. Your job is to make the performance sound as good as you possibly can.

As an engineer, you’re capturing a performance. Your job is to capture it as truthfully (and as flatteringly, har har) as you possibly can.

As a producer directing musicians, unrehearsed musicians play out of time occasionally. When that happens, you have three options:

  1. You can accept a mediocre performance.
  2. You can educate your musicians about the wonders and joys of learning to play their instruments.
  3. You can get better musicians.

Some people have a real issue with using practice to improve performances. They think it’s hard work. I agree. It’s really freakin’ hard. And that’s why it’ll set you apart from the thousands of mediocre musicians who resort to technology to make up for their weak performance skills.

I’m a musician as well (no, really, I am), and I’m not ashamed to say I’m actually a really good musician. Two decades of music will do that to you. That said, I regularly make mistakes when I don’t practice. Sometimes I can record a part over and over and over, and the timing is still a little off.

What do I do? I step away from the record button and actually practice the part. I focus on the difficult sections and train my fingers to work with precision and expression. Do I think it’s cheating? Absolutely. I’m making myself a better musician through hard work. Using technology to fix bad performances will still result in bad-sounding music. However, practising a part to eventually put on a good performance makes sense. I view practice as helping the tracks sound as I intended for them to sound.

Ok, seriously…

Practice is really important. More important than you think it is. And you think it’s pretty important. Well, it’s more important than that. I’ll go into more detail about how to practice effectively in a future blog post.


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