The Biggest Music Production Myths
The internet is an incredible place to learn new skills and get advice that will help you to move forward in music. It’s how I’ve learned a ton of what I know! However, it’s also full of bad advice from people who aren’t actually making music everyday and myths about the production process that could easily hamper your progress. You deserve better, so today I want to address a few of those common misconceptions that are spread throughout the music production world.
1. You need fancy gear to create a professional quality track
On social media, on YouTube and in the thousands of ads we're shown by gear companies, we are told that a new bit of kit is the answer to all of our problems and without it we’re destined to fail. It can easily lead us to compare our studios to other people’s and doubt whether what we have is sufficient. The truth is, your gear is not responsible for the quality of your work. Recording through that fancy analogue preamp isn’t going to make your song a number one. If your tracks aren’t hitting the quality level you think they should, the solution isn’t buying more gear, it’s getting better at recording.
The reality is your first recording won’t be “professional quality”, neither will your first five or even your first hundred and that's totally okay. There is always room to improve, grow and learn - it just takes time and practice. To truly master something you need to put in your 10,000 hours and even after that, you’re going to want to do something differently the second time around. The journey and learning process is what makes music production so rewarding, so embrace it and forget about buying new equipment that’s sold as a shortcut to success. My advice for anyone producing their own music would be to get the basics, learn them inside out and then invest in yourself before you invest in a load of expensive gear.
2. Home Recordings can only be demo material
I think this myth is largely starting to be dispelled now, especially with everything that’s happened in the past year, but there are still people out there who believe that home recordings can only be demos and once you’re ready, you should record your tracks in a professional studio or they won’t be professional quality. 15 years ago this might have been the case, but not anymore. I’ve worked on raw recordings from professional studios that have sounded worse than some home recordings. Like I’ve already said, it’s the ear not the gear. As long as you put time and care into your recordings, they don’t have to be demo material. The space and the equipment used is not important, the music and the actual sound itself is what matters. Is your songwriting on point? Is your production well arranged? Do you know how to use your equipment well? Is your mix properly balanced? These are the things that really make the difference.
3. You can’t mix and master on headphones
A lot of people say you shouldn’t mix and master on headphones, but in the home recording world, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, in headphones the stereo field sounds a bit unnatural, but that’s probably the only issue I find with them and even then, it’s something you can get used to or get a crossfeed plugin like Goodhertz Can Opener to overcome. If you’re working on budget monitors in a room that isn’t filled with thousands of pounds worth of acoustic treatment, I can almost guarantee that you’ll get a better result on headphones, especially when it comes to the lower frequencies. Furthermore, guess what 90% of your listeners are going to hear your music on… that’s right, headphones. “You can’t work on headphones” is just something some old school mixers have said and for some reason it’s stuck, despite the leaps and bounds we’ve had with technology over the years. You can mix on headphones and tons of pros are doing the same!
4. You must master your songs to -14 LUFS or you’ll get a penalty
If you master your own music, you’ve probably read a ton of information online saying you should master to -14LUFS because that’s the “target” for streaming and if you go beyond that, you’ll get a loudness penalty. This is not true. -14 is simply where Spotify sets the playback level to if normalisation is switched on, it’s not a penalty and it’s not something to be worried about. You can master your song to be as loud or as dynamic as you want, it’s all about doing what sounds best for the particular track and the end goal. Sometimes that means a lot of compression to get a really in-your-face sound and other times it means keeping the song quieter, but more alive dynamically so that the details shine through. Your meters are there just to let you know that you’re not wildly outside of the area you need to be in, you don’t need to give them anything more than a glance and certainly don’t need to aim for a particular number.
5. If it sounds good it is good
Okay so this is true to a point, when you’re producing or mixing you don’t want to waste time staring at meters and overthinking. You need to go with your gut and keep putting music out or you’re never going to improve. However, just because something sounds good to you, does not mean it is good. There are lots of factors against you. For example, your room acoustics, speakers or even your own ears could be skewing the sound. When you’re working on your music for hours on end, your ears adapt and get used to what they’re hearing. This means you could go blind to a massive problem in your room acoustics or get used to a harsh sounding element in your mix that other people would pick up on immediately. You can lose objectivity without even knowing. To fight this, take frequent breaks (or even come back the next day), reference professional mixes and productions, compare your mix on different speakers/headphones and get feedback from people you trust to be totally unbiased. Yes your track should sound good to you, but you need to be aware of these factors that are against you and the prevention methods you can take so that you can make an accurate judgement on the quality of your music.
I hope this blog post helps you to make better music and avoid misinformation. Ultimately the internet is an incredible place to learn about music production, you just need to be aware that not everything you hear will apply to your exact situation. Don’t dwell too much on the advice you hear online. The best way to progress is to put music out frequently, embrace the learning process and gather as much feedback as you can throughout your journey!