3 Things I Learned From Making Music

It started as a dream, then a hobby. Now it’s a passion. The road wasn’t clear when the journey started. The leaves of obstacle blocked the way. Making music was a lot harder than it looked. It’s easier to imagine making music, touring the world, performing in front of millions of fans… walking into that studio to drop fire. That was me two years ago, it was me a year ago. Till life gave me an opportunity and took my excuses away. When that happened, only one thing mattered… How badly did I want it?

Last year, a friend of mine gave me a usb microphone. He was a musician and he didn’t like the quality of the recordings it produced. He knew I rapped, for fun, and he figured I would appreciate the gift. I did. However, I ran into the same problems he did, and I had the same complaints too.

Research confirmed that, a usb microphone was not the right microphone to record music with. A podcast? Sure. Voice overs? Maybe. Music? Hell no. They not versatile enough to handle the demands of a musician, and I learned that first hand. On top of that, I knew nothing about mixing and mastering.

As music listeners, we’re incredibly spoiled. Almost everything we listen to has been composed by a professional. The standard of quality in music is so high, consumers expect high quality music, and the market always provides. Everything we listen to is either composed, written, recorded or mixed by a professional. In rare cases, one of these is an amateur. It happens, a beginner composes a song that people like.

However, a professional is always part of the process. This is usually, the mixing engineer. The mixing engineer takes the recording and turns it into a song. They manipulate sound to produce music. This part of the process is very deliberate. There isn’t much room for chance or luck. And every song we listen to, is mixed. A song isn’t music until its mixed.

As soon as I learned about mixing, I wanted to throw in the towel. Firstly, I had the wrong microphone. The right engineer could work with that. However, I didn’t have access or the money to pay for one. People went to college to become mixing engineers. They paid thousands and thousands of dollars in tuition, and even more in equipment. All I had was a usb microphone.

However, I knew I could learn. It wasn’t going to be glamorous and it wasn’t going to be easy. But it would be worth it. Over time, I would become better. It wouldn’t be good for my ego though. I would have to live with the fact that I made shit music. I would have to listen to people point out everything that I knew was wrong with my tracks. And I would have to listen to people give me advice on something they knew nothing about.

The fantasies I had of all the fire flame emoji’s I would drop in the studio, would have to die.

  1. I don’t know shit

As with everything new, we often face our limitations early on. I literally didn’t know shit about making music except writing. And that’s the easy part. Ironically, musicians are some of the most arrogant group of people on the planet. And for good reason. You have thousands of fans, and people who would buy the toilet paper you wiped your ass with. It’s quite easy to think your shit doesn’t smell.

However, the act of creating music requires you to leave your ego at the door. The only thing that matters is the quality of the music, not your ego. This means accepting criticism from listeners who really don’t know what they are talking about. Except, how they feel when they’re listening to it. Plus, you must take musical advice from an engineer, who usually has no musical ability, except a good ear and a knowledge of sound. You can’t do everything, and you can’t know everything too. To create music, you need to improve the things you can, and be humble enough to ask for help on the things you can’t.

  1. Collaboration is the fastest way to grow

I used to think it was the opposite. That when you work alone, you learn about yourself faster.  However, when you’re in a group, you learn about other people. You learn about their strengths, weaknesses, and how to manage different dynamics in search of a common goal. Unfortunately, this knowledge of others comes at the expense of the self.

Due to the dynamics of working with multiple people, you often learn things you would have never learned otherwise. I learned different ways of using my voice by watching a friend use theirs. I learned to sing by watching a friend sing. I learned how to mix different vocal types by having to mix different vocal types. If I was a solo artist, I would probably know more about myself. Which notes I can hit and which tones I can sing. But, I wouldn’t have the breadth of knowledge I have.

  1. Progress isn’t linear

When we started recording, our recordings were shit. We didn’t know what we were doing. The more we did it, the better we got, and the more we learned. At the end, we recorded a song that was decent, and people seemed to love it. The road seemed bright. Then, everything we produced after that sounded shit. And, we didn’t know why.

Great music is a result of small things coming together. At first, we didn’t know what those small things were. So, our results varied. I decided to learn what those small things were, and I realised the rooms we were recording in mattered a lot more than my mixing or my equipment. In fact, the room was the reason we made that decent song.

When this clicked, we achieved more consistency. Our songs got better, and our growth became more linear. No, exponential. No other activity has taught me the value of getting the little things right, like music has. Something as small as wear you place your microphone when you record, can make a world of difference. Nothing is too small to ignore, and nothing too big to conquer.

As a craftsman, it’s my duty to go over every detail, details that the public won’t know about. It’s my duty to create a work of art that’s so perfect, people don’t notice the flaws in it. And the challenge is to make it seem easy. So easy, that everybody thinks they can do it.

 

The song that people loved was Hustle, the intro in our mixtape.

Hustle