As a producer, engineer, or mixer, it’s always important to listen to a lot of music. But sometimes we can forget to listen to a wide range of artists, genres, and even eras.
So I started listening to some Stevie Wonder recordings to broaden out my listening. And guess what? They were the most musical recordings I had heard all weekend.
I mean, I felt like I was hearing music for the first time in a long time. But why do so many releases today seem so…lifeless?
After picking apart some more Stevie Wonder, I moved on to Billy Joel. And I started to notice a trend. In all of these recordings, you can hear mistakes!
Ok, maybe “mistakes” isn’t the right word for it, but those performances would never pass by today’s standards! If a modern producer sat down with the tracks from “Superstition” or “Piano Man” and started cleaning them up, all of the “mistakes” would be gone. But what would be left?
This is the issue with so many recordings today – we feel that we must “fix” every little thing so that no one can hear our “mistakes.” But those “mistakes” might not always be a bad thing.
Of course, there will be times where the modern tools come in handy. And in some genres, like metal, it is necessary to perfectly pocket your drums, bass, guitars, etc. But if you’re wondering why your pop tune, soul track, or power ballad just doesn’t have the flare it should, you might want to consider leaving in some “mistakes.” Intentional mistakes.
Of course you wouldn’t really want to leave in a wrong note or out-of-tune bass guitar in your production, but if your keyboard pushes the beat a little and your hi-hat sits just behind the beat – you might be better off leaving it alone.
Leaving in your intentional mistakes can be very challenging to do, but can be extremely powerful when done correctly. The hardest part is deciding what to leave in and what to fix! So go through this checklist to determine if you should leave it be or edit it up!
- Does the mistake sound obvious to the average listener? Fix it up.
- After 24 hours of not hearing it, does it still bother you? Fix it up.
- Can you hear it in the other room with the door shut? If not, leave it be!
- Does it draw the ear away from the main focus of the song? If not, leave it be!
- Is it less than 30 ms off the grid? Leave it be!
Of course you’ll want to use your best judgement, but leaving in intentional mistakes is truly the key to a groovy, human-like production. Sometimes it’s best not to pocket everything perfectly – you’ll be surprised at how your productions come to life!