This is my first blog for the 74 Sound website, so I thought I would start by answering one of the questions I get asked most often by how do you make your recordings sound better?
There is a fallacy that you must have the best gear to make the best sounds, of course there is some truth in that (and we can talk gear another time) however the results that can be achieved by a simple home setup can be outstanding, imagine what some of our hero's and early producers and artists would have done with access to Garage Band, Protools or Reason. The key ingredient is you, your creativity and your ears.
Now this might seem obvious but the simplest way to answer the original question is referencing. Spend time listening and comparing your "sound" with that of other bands or albums in the genre you are aiming for, it doesn't matter what style your are working on, just keep comparing the sounds you are producing with your favourite albums and artists.
I'm constantly referencing to commercial material for all the albums and tracks I'm working on, I spend hours just listening to music in the studio (or car) so wether it's a rock, pop or country album (I'm currently listening to some early Micheal Jackson while writing this post). So whether I'm mixing or mastering, its such an essential skill to learn. (I'll cover referencing in mastering in more detail in another post and some of the tools I use to help).
While each room and set of speakers will have a different sound, once you are used to how your setup responds (and it's always worth trying to optimise your room and setup) you can essentially break down the mix by detailed listening and start to think and feel about what is going on with the mix, good quality headphones are also essential, there are times when your room may be messing up your stereo field, or you may be getting some frequency cancelling issues, due to the modes of your room so being able to isolate at times is essential.
So while listening, try to break down each component part, listen to the bass, kick, snare, lead instruments, vocals, where are the drums placed in the mix? There are some conventions, but also experiment with them. What about reverbs and delays what can you hear happening? When are individual parts higher in the mix or more prominent? In the same way as learning an instrument, it takes time, practice and lots of patience, but over time you will find your productions improve.
If you have any question or want to explore this further, drop me an email. email@example.com