How to Succeed in Music Business (Part Three) – Don’t Quit

Let’s be honest. This business is tough. In fact, it may be the most brutal of them all. But there’s one thing that remains true: the last man (or woman) standing wins the prize.

Not everyone is cut out for a career in music. You must face constant rejection, play to empty rooms, learn to navigate the evolving business climate (moving from physical sales to digital to streaming, etc.) There is a whole lot of supply and not a ton of demand. Lots of people want to play, but most of them aren’t willing to put in the time and effort it takes to thrive in the music world.

Everyone wants to play music, especially these days, because they see people making beats on their laptop and decide they can do the same. This causes the market to be flooded with people who just want a quick trip to fame. So they invest little time in their craft and ultimately end up giving up when they face a little adversity, because they were in it for the wrong reasons from the get go.

If you’re like me and have 10 or 12 years invested in the music business, it’s can feel like beating a dead horse. It’s easy to wonder if you’re ever going to catch a break.

Here are a few bits of advice to keep you going. If you implement them, stay true to who you are and your specific path, I believe in the end you can accomplish your dreams of being successful in the music business.

Set small goals to keep you going. As you accomplish these, they can give you the strength to keep moving forward and the sense of accomplishment you need to hang on a little longer.

What feels overwhelming sometimes is the sense that you’ll NEVER get there. Sure, your end goal make take you years, maybe even most of a lifetime, but the small steps along the way are great accomplishments in themselves and deserve to be celebrated.

If you’re fairly new to a music career as a songwriter, set a goal of writing enough songs for an EP or album. Maybe you want to find a producer to help you craft your sound. Set a goal to raise enough money to work with this producer. Maybe you’ve been playing awhile and you want increase attendance. Set a goal to get 50 people out to your show.

These small milestones will help you feel like you’re headed somewhere. They are important steps in the career of an artist and deserve to be celebrated. Don’t overlook them by letting the lifetime goals overshadow the stepping stones it takes to get there.

Define where it is you want to go. Name and visualize what success looks like to you personally. This way you will know when you’ve arrived. Without a guidepost, it can feel like the end will never come and that you’re endlessly pursuing a white rabbit down an infinite hole.

Some people want to be famous. This may satisfy for awhile, but as you can see with the Kardashians, there is no end to the thirst for the limelight. If this is what you want, go for it, but I have a feeling it’ll leave you empty in the long run.

A better goal might be to reach the masses with your message. This pursuit of influence is based upon the message rather than the desire to be noticed or loved. Martin Luther King Jr. had something to say and he wasn’t going to stop until the message was heard. Yes he became famous in the process because the world needed to hear what he had to say. But if he had pursued fame over the message, it would have watered down the message and wouldn’t have lasted in the grand scheme of history.

By defining where you want to go, it’ll help you outline the steps to get there. Rather than wondering when you’re going to arrive at some ethereal destination that is constantly just out of reach, your dream becomes tangible and measurable.

Don’t quit. Whatever you do. If this is what you want, and you know deep down in your soul music is what makes you tick, don’t stop even if it seems like all hope is lost. Chances are breakthrough is right around the corner.

A great example is soul singer Charles Bradley. There is a great documentary about his story called Soul of America. He spent 60 years of his life in a James Brown cover band, working odd jobs, taking care of his mother, and drudging through life wondering when his break would come. Finally as a 60 something year old man, he caught a break with Daptone Records, put out an album and was named by Rolling Stone Magazine is one of the top albums of that year. Now he has three albums out and is a successful touring musician.

You never know what’s around the corner. Most people will quit. That leaves room for the ones who don’t. If you stick with it, believe in yourself, define where it is you want to go, set up goals and plans to get there, and most importantly NEVER QUIT, I believe it’s only a matter of time before you become successful in the music business.


Start at the beginning of this series: Part One



How to Write Song Lyrics (Part Three) – Metaphor & Simile

Aristotle said, “the ability to see one thing as another is the only truly creative human act.”

As a songwriter or any form of writer for that matter, you have the power to invent an entire world for your listener or reader. With a stroke of your pen you can scheme up wild images to give life to your story. One of your most powerful tools when writing song lyrics is the usage of metaphor and simile to create stories or experiences that the listener can taste, touch, feel, smell, and of course hear. Let’s take a closer look at what these are and how you can use them in writing song lyrics.

Metaphor – an object, activity, or idea that is used as a symbol of something else

Simile – a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g., as brave as a lion, crazy like a fox )

Although these sound the same, the implications of using them are very different as you can see in the examples below.

Examples of metaphor:

  • She was a hovering storm cloud
  • They drowned in a sea of grief
  • His mouth is a soft summer day
  • Happiness is warm gun
  • Fear is a shadow

These metaphors can flipped around and used in three ways which are known as expressed identity metaphors:

  • “x is y” (fear is a shadow)
  • “the y of x” (the shadow of fear)
  • “x’s y” (fear’s shadow)

There are also qualifying metaphors which use adjectives to qualify nouns and adverbs to qualify verbs.

For example:

  • tired eyes (adj, n)
  • swiftly moving (adv, v)

And there are verbal metaphors which are formed by conflict between the verb and its subject and/or object.

For example:

  • clouds sail
  • he tortured his clutch
  • frost gobbles summer down

The basic difference between metaphor and simile as you will see is the usage of the words “like” or “as” in simile:

  • She was LIKE a hovering storm cloud
  • The sea was AS grief and they drowned in it
  • His mouth was AS a soft summer day
  • Happiness is LIKE a warm gun

As you you’ll notice right away, saying the same thing using metaphor and simile adds a very different feeling to the imagery.

When using metaphor the listener or reader in their imagination is seeing the morphing intermingling of two objects.

In the first example of metaphor, she was a hovering storm cloud,  the mind wants to picture the girl as the storm cloud. You actually see her become the cloud, hovering above the situation and creating anxiety or depression.

In the similar example of simile, she was like a hovering storm cloud, there is a sense of distance between the girl and the cloud. She is like it, but she is not it. You are making a comparison between them to add weight to what you are saying, and in the mind of the listener there are two images: a girl and a storm cloud. Whereas in metaphor there is only one image, which is the merging of the girl and the storm cloud to create wild and exciting imagery for your story.

I doubt The Beatles would have had as much success with the song if the lyric was happiness is LIKE a warm gun. To me it doesn’t pack the same punch. Happiness becoming or morphing into the gun creates some great content for the imagination.

This is not to say that simile is a lesser tool. It can be equally effective. It just depends on what image you, the songwriter want to paint.

A great exercise I learned in Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison (I HIGHLY recommend this book by the way) is to come up with a bunch of nouns and assign each of them an arbitrary adjective that is different or weird or uncommon. You can do the same with verbs  It can really help you create some wild metaphors and images that can make your songs more exciting and dynamic.

For example (taken directly from the book):

  • smoky conversation
  • refried railroad
  • decaffeinated rainbow
  • hollow rainforest
  • understated eyebrows

Say More with Less

At the end of the day what we want to do when writing song lyrics is create compelling stories. Metaphor and simile allow us to do this creatively and keep from boring our listener.

Referring back to the examples above, if you were to say plainly, she was getting on my nerves and making me anxious and depressed, this may be true, but its not nearly as interesting OR as simple as saying, she was a hovering storm cloud.

You’ve now said WAY more with half the words you used in plain speak, and you’ve left room for the listener to imagine what that means as well. You know what it represents to you because you wrote it. It may mean the same thing for the listener, but it may mean something different, which is a great and exciting possibility.

If you find yourself looking at your song lyrics and wondering why they’re not exciting or interesting, try using metaphor or simile to say thing you’re already saying, but perhaps with a more vivid or interesting imagery.

Hopefully this helps you while learning how to write song lyrics and helps you become a better songwriter.

If you have any questions feel free to email me!

Read Part One of this How to Write Song Lyrics series.

For a more in depth look at songwriting, listen to my podcast.

Visit my website.

Follow me on snapchattwitter, instagram, and YouTube.


References: Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison






How to Write Song Lyrics (Part Two) – The Melody

If there’s one thing I believe to be true in songwriting, its that:


What do I mean by that?

The melody is the guiding force of the song. It is the main, lead part of the song that is sung and the part of the song that you remember.

I bet you can still remember the melody to songs you only heard once or twice. The melodies of songs you heard as a child are easily brought to mind and hummed whether or not you know the song lyrics. When you can’t get a song out of your head, more than likely its the melody that is haunting you.

Let the Melody be Your Guide

When setting out to write song lyrics, it is important to let the melodic flow of the song guide your lyrical structure. To me, this ensures that the song is singable, flows well and naturally, and allows the lyrics to breath and be understood.

If you play an instrument, try and find some chords that fit the range of your voice and are easily played. A combination of G / D / Em / C is an example and a good starting point for those just learning an instrument. Start by playing these chords and while thinking about the various sections of the song that you’d like to include (verse, chorus or hook, bridge, pre- or post- chorus, etc), gradually hum a melody that instinctually sounds good to you. If you don’t play an instrument you can just hum melody ideas that come to mind.

Imagine you already know the song and just let it come out of you.

Its a good idea to keep an audio recorder handy during this stage (handheld, smart phone, etc) to capture these raw first ideas before they get lost as you try different melodies. These first gut instincts are usually some of the best stuff.

Also don’t be afraid to use gibberish or freestyle over the melodies to let instinctual, sub-conscious lyrics surface (you can hear an example of me doing this on my podcast.)

Sometimes these are sub-conscious hints at what the song should be about. 

Some examples of general tendencies for melody on various song sections:

  • Verses – tends to be lower in pitch, gradually building and anticipating the hook (chorus), can be more rhythmic, bouncy, containing more movement than the other sections, room to breathe between sections, openness 
  • Hook (Chorus) – tends to be a leap in pitch, creates a jumping or soaring effect, has more energy than the verses, long open notes, strong and memorable, easily sung (sing-songy like a lullaby or nursery rhyme)
  • Bridge – usually a departure to a new and different section of the song, reinforces the hook, can often have a growing, climactic feeling as it moves towards the final chorus

Once you’ve decided on strong melodic sections for your song, start to formulate lyrics from the concept you’ve chosen (see part one of this series).

You’ve now laid the foundational structure and know exactly where your lyrics should fit and what your story is. Using a notepad or an app on your smart phone, begin to write song lyrics that tell your story and communicate your concept with the melodies you created in mind.

As you come up with song lyric lines that you like, don’t be a afraid to manipulate the melody a bit to make room for new ideas in the lyrics. Sometimes you will need to add pick up notes for the small words that help transition between the sections.

Repetition & Variation

A useful skill when creating melodies for your song lyrics is the implementation of repetition and variation.

Repetition can be useful in giving the listener a melody they become familiar with. When introducing the listener to a new idea (hearing the song for the first time) repetition helps them feel at home in the song.

Variations are small departures from the repetition that help keep the listener interested and not bored. These allow the listener to be introduced to new ideas then return to the repetition without feeling bombarded by new sections of the song. 

A great example of this is the song Blank Space on Taylor Swift’s Grammy winning album 1989.

I will associate the sections of the song with letter names (A, B, C, D, etc) to show the usage of repetition in the song.


A – Nice to meet you, where you been?
B – I could show you incredible things
A – Magic, madness, heaven, sin
B – Saw you there and I thought
C – Oh my God, look at that face
C – You look like my next mistake
C – Love’s a game, want to play?

The second verse uses the same structure so we’ll skip to the chorus


D – So it’s gonna be forever
E – Or it’s gonna go down in flames
D – You can tell me when it’s over
E – If the high was worth the pain
F – Got a long list of ex-lovers
G – They’ll tell you I’m insane
F – ‘Cause you know I love the players
H – And you love the game


Once again, the second part repeats this pattern so I’ll skip it to keep things brief.

So if you look at the different letters I’ve given to each of the song lyric lines in each section and listen to their melody, you can see that her usage of repetition and variation is much easier to hear and identify. If you sing the different lines to yourself you can see that the lines with the letters in common are almost identical in melody. This usage of repetition is what keeps you singing this song after its over. There’s really only a handful of melodies used in this song. They are staggered to keep it sing-songy and interesting, and used repetitiously to drive home a point.

You can do this with many of your favorite songs and more than likely identify similar patterns. This can help you while writing to be able to reference the music you like as a guide for your own songs.

When writing your song and deciding on your song lyrics, use this knowledge of melody, repetition and variation to make your songs interesting and catchy to listen to.

Keep in mind these are not rules. These are only guidelines to help you examine why the music you listen to keeps you listening, and how you can write song lyrics that accomplish this same goal.

Have questions or want to reach out? Email me.

Read part one of this series: How to Write Song Lyrics (Part One) – Choose a Concept

Subscribe to my podcast to go more in depth on this subject: Episode 3 // Songwriting & Poetry

Visit my website.

Follow me on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.


How to Write Song Lyrics (Part One) – Choose a Concept

Music has the power to change the world, and music is a universal language. So it makes sense that everyone would want to tap into this process in some way. But if you’ve never tried writing song lyrics you may wonder where to begin.

This multi-part series hopes to familiarize you with the process of lyric writing and give you an idea of how and where to start. I will explore some of the important aspects of writing song lyrics such as concept, melody, structure, repetition, variation, and of course the song lyrics themselves.

Choose a Concept

Before setting out on the endeavor of writing song lyrics, its important to identify your destination. Choosing a concept or a “hook” can help you know where the story of your song reaches its peak or climax. This concept will probably also be the main lyric of your “hook” or “chorus.”

A hook or chorus is the main part of the song that you remember and sing along to. This can be a lyric, a whole section of lyrics, or even a section of la-la-la’s or na-na-na’s, but ultimately it is the overarching theme, concept, and memorable part of the song. 

Keeping a notebook or notes in your phone or tablet where you can write down song lyric concepts is a great way to create great starting points for songs.

Some examples might be:

  • Wounded in Battle
  • Shot in the Dark
  • Last Chance
  • Waiting for Tomorrow

These concepts can help you define what story you want to tell in your song. It is important to tell a story and take your listeners on a journey. These stories can have a beginning and an end, they can go back and forward in time, and can even suspend time for a moment to dissect or place a moment under a microscope. Whatever method you choose, deciding what your message will be before hand will help you decide what song lyrics to use to tell that story.

To use one of the example concepts from above, if your song is called Wounded in Battle, you might say that this is a metaphor for a relationship gone bad. So in your song you now know that the lyrics need to tell the story of a bad relationship, but because of the title or concept you realize that it needs to be told through the lens of a war or battle scenario.

For example when starting your hook or chorus:

I was wounded in battle // Cut below the knees

I dodged the bombs for oh so long // But missed the bullet aimed at me

So here you’ve painted a picture for the listener. You’ve also given room for the imagination to interpret what bombs you were dodging and who was aiming at you. In the listener’s mind’s eye, they are probably envisioning a battle field, bombs exploding, bullets whizzing by from snipers taking aim. You have successfully pulled your listener into two worlds at once: a chaotic, terrifying battlefield and a relationship in turmoil, which can be equally as terrifying and chaotic. Using these powerful metaphors, you can really help the listener to feel and experience the emotions you’ve felt, and to experience theirs in their own way. This is ultimately the goal – engaging the listener. The more you can engage with someone, the more your message will come across clearly.

Another example from above might be:

I’m counting the seconds // As they fall down to the floor // Each one is a lifetime // Of waiting // Waiting for tomorrow

These are examples of ways you can identify a concept and execute a section of that song to resemble the theme and feeling of your story. The more cohesive your writing of these song lyrics in relation to your concept, the better your chances of communicating effectively and creating a great song.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I discuss Using Your Verses to Support the Hook.

Read my last blogThe Top 5 Qualities to Look for in a Music Producer.

Check out my podcast for a more detailed look at this lyric writing process.

Email me your questions or lyrics, I’d be happy to give feedback or advice.



Top 5 Qualities to Look for in a Music Producer

What is a music producer?

How does a person ‘produce’ music?

Does a music producer make a salary?

These are all questions that I’m sure many up and coming producers and artists have asked.

I think most people are unaware of what a music producer actually does, and why does a musician need one?

Or perhaps you’re a young musician trying to find his or her place in the music business, and you’re wondering if music production is something you might enjoy.

So…I’ve assembled a list of the TOP 5 qualities to look for in a Music Producer.

My goal is to educate you, and perhaps give a window into what a music producer does and why you may (or may not) need one to take your career to the next level.

1. Music producer excels at creating the ‘sound’ that you’re looking for.

Let’s face it. There are a ton of music producers in the world. How do you know which one is right for you?

The best way is to see who is producing the albums or songs you like to listen to.

If you’re a Taylor Swift fan, you should definitely know the name Max Martin. If you like Ke$ha, you should definitely know the name Dr. Luke. If you like Adele, you should know the name Greg Wells.

These are examples of A list producers. These guys are getting paid by the big record labels to crank out the next hit. They can make anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 for ONE SONG!

These A list music producers, may be way out of your financial means, but what about the producers that help create the music for independent musicians you listen to? This information is available as well by a simple google search, and these guys are much easier to get ahold of and much easier to afford. For a working producer at the B or C level, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1000 to $10,000 for a single song, depending on their experience and expertise.

Ultimately, you want to find a producer who excels in the type of music you want to make. Heck, it doesn’t hurt to reach out and see if a producer wants to collaborate on a song for a licensing deal (these can be lucrative for both parties). Which leads me to my next point…

2. Music Producer is willing to work with your budget

I’ll be honest, we’re all trying to survive and make money. So a music producer who does this full time as a career is definitely interested in being compensated for his time.

However, there are multiple ways for him to do this.

There are two aspects of a song/recording, and both of these has the potential to make money. There is the song, which is owned by the writer/publisher and the recording (master) which is owned by the producer (the creator of the master) until he or she is compensated for it (by the artist or record label).

If the producer is paid a rate that is satisfactory, he or she will then give ownership of the master to the artist or label and they stand to make a financial gain on the product they’ve hired the producer to create.

If the the artist or label only has $1000 and the producer wants $2000, the artist or label can offer retention of 50% (or a percentage they agree upon) ownership of the master or publishing. This benefits the producer because down the road, if the song gets licensed (chosen to be used for film or tv placement) the owners of the master or publishing both get paid a fee. So this may be lucrative for the producer if he or she feels like the song has great licensing potential.

The artists ability to write a great song, social media presence, or general charisma have the power to negotiate a deal that works for both the artist and the producer and can be lucrative for both parties.

3. Music Producer is willing to push you to new heights

Hopefully if you’re seeking out a music producer, you’ve recognized that you can only take your sound so far.

A willingness to allow the music producer the ability to push you beyond what you may believe you are capable, will help you take your music to new heights.

Sometimes as humans we don’t know our true capabilities. A coach or teacher or music producer can help identify and bring to the surface your best qualities. These could be vocal tone or delivery, guitar timing or approach, drum groove or dynamics.

A great producer has the ability to identify a strength and amplify it, so the world can enjoy the unique fingerprint of an artist.

If you are willing, a music producer can help take you AND your sound to the next level. Often a music producer is someone who has navigated the music industry for a while and has learned ways to accomplish artists’ musical goals. They can also help you avoid certain pitfalls and mistakes that other artists have made.

This is based on your willingness, and the producer’s trustworthiness.

4. Music Producer helps accomplish your goals NOT theirs.

Ultimately it is you, the artist (or the label), that is hiring the producer. You definitely should make sure you’re getting the sound you want.

If the producer thinks you should take a song in a certain direction, make sure that is the same direction you’re willing to go. If you get to the end, and decide you don’t like it, the music producer is going to want to be paid for his or her time whether you like the end result.

So it is important to make sure you are on the same page.

There is nothing wrong with trusting a producer to take your music in a direction that is more commercially viable or towards a different sound, as long as that direction is decided and agreed upon by both of you. Also, make sure you trust the ability of the producer to make those decisions based on his track record. If Max Martin or Greg Wells tells you to he thinks a song should lean in this direction or that, they probably are saying so for a reason. If Johnny-No-Name-Producer, thinks you should try rapping on a section and you’re a jazz singer, you should probably question their judgment.

At the end of the day the best producer-artist relationship is one that is mutual and in which both musical opinions are valued and welcomed, in order to create the best sounding recording or song.

5. Music Producer makes you feel safe and comfortable being vulnerable with him or her.

This should probably be number one in overall importance.

It is imperative that a producer makes you feel safe. Not only physically but intellectually and creatively. You must be free to try new ideas, reach for high notes, and pen lyrics that are out of the box if you want to grow. A producer who is overly negative or critical without aim to improve a song or make an artist better can be very detrimental to an artist’s creative space.

A producer’s job is not to shoot down ideas or hold his ideas as superior to yours. Rather a music producer should help steer your ideas towards their greatest potential. He or she should encourage an artist to reach outside of the comfort zone. That is where the gems of genius lie.

If you need help with songwriting, there is nothing wrong with letting an experienced music producer who is a great writer help you write the best version of YOUR song. If you don’t feel comfortable with the direction a song is going, speak up and retain you artistry.

A great producer will strive to be the mouthpiece for the artist. He or she should desire not to steer the ship, but to help the artist direct it towards the best course.


I hope these help give you an idea of what to look for in a music producer and what a great music producer is capable of doing for your career.

If you have questions you can post them in the comments below or email me at

You can also check out my podcast for interviews with working artists and music producers, that go into greater detail on this topic.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve learned a little better how to DIY!


3 Ways to Mix Big Fat Snare Drums

Like many of my producer peers, I am constantly on the hunt for MASSIVE sounding drums. Nothing makes your track hit harder and sound more mega than some big ole fat drums, especially the snare drum. I think this is a sure fire way of getting your track to sound more commercially viable. Here are 3 ways to mix big fatty-fat snare drums (or as my friend and former drummer Michael McGee used to say, a snare that “sounds like you’re hitting a 24oz steak!”). Note: these techniques also apply to kick, toms, etc.


A really quick and easy way to beef up your snare drum is with EQ boosts (or cuts). It’s usually best to find the resonant frequencies already inherent in the sample you’re using, but a good boost at around 60Hz will give you some serious bottom end, a boost around 200Hz or so will give you a nice low-mid “FWAPHH!”, and a boost in the upper mid-range (4-6kHz) will give you that snappy attack you’re looking for. The problems with this technique is there may be a lack of those frequencies in the sample you’re using and you might create some really wonky sounds. I personally prefer the second method.


This is BY FAR the best way I’ve found to mix big fat snare drums. I use Native Instruments Maschine, and I find that there are a plethora of great samples of all shapes and sizes to get you wherever you’re trying to go. What I usually like to do is scroll through and preview a few till I find one that sounds the way I want the overall snare sound to be. Then I’ll look for one with some nice bottom end to it (I too am all about that bass, Meghan Trainor), which usually ends up being a Prince 909 or linn drum sample). Then I’ll find one with some nice top end crack to it and trigger those all together using Maschine‘s grouping function. Usually 3 to 4 snare samples will get you right where you need to go. At this point, you may have to EQ some room out of each snare to make room for the bandwidth that each snare provides (roll off the high end of the snare that you’re using for the bottom, and mid and lows out of the snare that you’re using for the top, etc.).


This step you can use in addition to the other two or independently to achieve a big fat snare drum sound. Once you get your snare fwappin’ and crackin’ (one of many ways to describe a great snare timbre) like you want it, the next step is parallel compression. This technique can also be used for other drums independently or the entire drum mix, if you really want to beef it up. You first create an auxiliary track and create a bus from your snare drum track to this auxiliary track. On the auxiliary track insert one or multiple compressors (more compressors lighten the load of the amount of work each one has to do) and either lightly or heavily compress the “parallel” auxiliary track to your liking. Then you can move the fader up or down to blend this snare with your other snare till it sounds as you want in the mix.

There you go! Hope this helps! Enjoy and happy snare FWAPPING! 😉

Inside the Studio – The Distortion of Sound

In this ever evolving world of file compression, mp3’s, multi-colored earbud headphones there are companies that are focusing their energies to ensure that you are hearing music as it was created. Some would even argue that we’re only hearing 10% of the intended whole!


Chances are HARMAN and its innovative brands have already touched your life today. More than 80 percent of the world’s luxury cars are equipped with their premium audio and infotainment systems. Your favorite music, movie or television show was likely recorded or broadcast with their help. They share the stage with talented performing artists from every genre, and they fill the world’s premier sporting and entertainment venues with great sound and light.


If you download, stream or play music on a digital device, your music is digitally-compressed. Compression can remove up to 90% of the audio details originally recorded in your favorite songs – so you’re left listening to a reduced version of the real thing. Clari-Fi music restoration technology brings music back to life.

The Distortion of Sound

Check out this great documentary Harman created to help us become more aware of the de-evolution and degradation of sound quality as we listen to it today, and also give hope to what it can sound like as described by the people who create it! Even for non music tech folks it is a great look into the power of emotion in music.

How to – Mixing and Mastering

Jef Joslin sits down with Rob Beaton in his home studio to offer insight into the mixing and mastering process.

I had recently done some mixing on a track that I produced for an artist named Willett (the track should be releasing this week) and have been in the market for a solid mastering engineer. I was introduced to Rob Beaton through a talented producer/drummer friend of mine, Christian Hand. He mastered the track in a matter of days, it sounded fantastic, and I plan to use Rob from here on out!

Naturally, when thinking of someone to give young mixing and mastering engineers a look at what these fields are like, Rob was the perfect candidate.

I tried to ask Rob some questions that I felt would provide myself and others in the same field insight into his struggles and story into this career, and some of the tricks he now uses to sustain it, as well as some valuable lessons he learned along the way. Thankfully Rob gave me more than I needed!

Rob Beaton begins by talking about his journey from studio janitor to mixing and mastering engineer. He then dives into his creative workflow and gives young mixers insight into the mixing and mastering process by explaining some of his methods, as well as recommending a few pieces of mixing and mastering hardware and software. He closes with some great words of wisdom for anyone who is an aspiring mixing or mastering engineer.

Check out Rob’s website and hear some of his work:


Definition: Pocket

One of the most valuable things a musician can learn to do is play in time. I know, I know, self explanatory right? Not always.

You’d be surprised how many times you’ll hear musicians play and everything is extremely sloppy or extremely rushed, or just extremely extreme. You know the expression, “it’s better to learn to walk before you run?” I cannot emphasize this more than in music. When learning drums or any other instrument for that matter, what I’m talking about today is in your best interest to apply to the process.

Have you ever been to a concert and the beat the drummer is playing is SO groovy that you can’t help but nod your head? I’m not talking about groovy fills all over the place or fancy stick work. I’m talking about straight up groooooooove. There’s something really satisfying about it. A lot of times you don’t even know you’re hearing it, because everything is so in sync. On the other hand, you ALSO have been to a concert where, you’re not sure why, but you’re not nodding, tapping your foot, in fact, you’re not exactly sure what to do. Chances are there’s too much going on, or too much flash or too much flat-out mess. Allow me to introduce and define a musician’s best friend: POCKET.

Pocket: the act of playing directly ON and sometimes on the TAIL END of the beat.

Have you ever heard another musician or producer tell you, “lay it back?” This is referred to as playing “in the pocket.” This is an invaluable skill and more often than not can actually secure your spot in a band or on a gig, taking precedence over your ability to play more technically or flashy. There’s nothing better than a musician who can play in the pocket. I’ll take a drummer that can give me laid back simple 2’s and 4’s over someone that can play super fast fills but rushes the beat ALL DAY LONG.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with flash or technicality, but if EVERYTHING you play is flashy or fancy, then you leave no room for those moments where people go WOW!! Being able to play simply in the pocket opens up the window to really impress and excite people when those spotlight moments happen.

Do yourself a favor. Go grab a metronome or a run a solid loop and work on playing right on that groove or just a tad on the back end. See if it doesn’t satisfy your funky soul! I promise you that the guys you’re looking to play with, that are actually working musicians or session players want to hear you play in the pocket more than they want to hear you do really complex things out of time to try and impress them.

I don’t say all this cause I’m a pro at it. Growing up as a white guy playing soul music I heard my fair share of “whoa’s” and “eeeaaassyy’s” and “just lay it back Joslin!!” So from one former beat rusher to another, thank you for allowing me to impart these invaluable words. Play in that pocket and I guarantee you AND your bandmates will thank me later.

How to Succeed in Music Business – Part Two

Trying to succeed in music business is hard enough as it is, it can be even harder without this weeks subject matter: Originality.

The number one quote I’ve heard over and over again with regards to originality in music is a familiar verse in Ecclesiastes, written by the wise King Solomon, where he states, “there is nothing new under the sun…” Now, I agree with that on certain fronts. It is true that people have been writing songs about love, heartbreak, romance, troubles, and triumphs in many of the same ways for years and years. Even the famed Chris Martin of Coldplay described his band as “incredibly good plagiarists.” The revered painter Pablo Picasso was known to have said, “good artists copy but great artists steal.” Every great artist that has ever been has pulled influences from all those that came before him/her. While all this is true, and while all new music contains bits and pieces of the music that came before it, there is one thing that will forever remain unique, special and original: and that my friends, is YOU.

There has never been, and there will never be another YOU! You have a unique fingerprint that is unlike anyone else’s. You have an identity that is and will forever be the ‘x’ factor that makes you who you are. How do you apply this to music you ask? Well the beautiful thing is you don’t have to TRY to do ANYTHING. All you have to do is refrain from trying to be SOMEONE ELSE.

Two of my biggest influences growing up were John Mayer and Stevie Wonder. John Mayer came out a few years after I learned how to play guitar and between him and James Taylor, I pretty much taught myself a great deal of jazz, blues, and pop chord progression and musical theory from learning these guys songs. Stevie Wonder has always been my greatest vocal influence. If there’s anyone I could sing like, it would be him. Unfortunately, in my quest to become a better musician, I began to strive to play and sing JUST LIKE THEM. I’d often get comparisons (mostly contrasting opinions) of how I sounded like them, or fell short to sound like them. I remember playing a Stevie Wonder tune once at a Starbucks in Murfreesboro, TN and right in the middle of song I overheard someone standing right near me say, “yeah but he sings it WAY better than this guy!” I remember thinking, “that has to be the understatement of the century!” No one could ever do Stevie like Stevie does Stevie! Some years later I received some of the best advice in my career from a long time family friend. He told me, “the world doesn’t need another John Mayer. They already have one! What they need is YOU.” That was a profound thought to me and is something that has never left me.

The beautiful thing about being you is THERE IS NO COMPETITION. There is no other you. As long as you stay true to what you do and who you are, you’ll never go wrong and you’ll ALWAYS be original. Does that mean you don’t listen to other peoples music or have influences? Of course not. Look at Hendrix. You can hear traces of all those who came before him, but still in the midst of all that, he will always be Jimi Hendrix. Why? Because he didn’t try to be Robert Johnson or Buddy Holly or Muddy Waters. He soaked up all those influences and then just did Jimi.

I think the best way to sum this up with some practical advice is with this final thought: the WORST thing you can do is compare yourself to others. By comparing yourself to others you are then basing your path and your unique voice as an artist on someone else’s journey. There is nothing wrong with having a healthy ability to gauge your professionalism against the progress of your influences, but the moment you start envying or comparing, then you’ve lost YOU. The world doesn’t need another (insert well-known artist name). What it needs is YOU. And no one else can fill that space.

So perhaps that will help you rest a little easier and be a bit kinder to yourself wherever you are on your musical path. Feel free to fill your musical tool kit with all your favorite music and let that propel you into the artist you were meant to be, but at the end of the day don’t forget to just open up and allow those influences pour out of your God given ‘paint brush’ in whatever way you want. And by doing that, by just being YOU, you are doing something NO ONE has ever done.