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Published

7 February 2023

"The key to happiness and successful, blissful music production, is to finish a project before the excitement level falls under a certain threshold." - Jan 'Yarn' Muths

About the 

host

With over 2 decades of recording, mixing and music production experience, Muths interviews musicians, producers and engineers from the Australian East Coast and the world. Always curious about production workflows, gear, software, techniques, and strategies. The Production Talk podcast is a must-listen for anyone interested in music production from the Northern Rivers and far beyond.

The Production Talk Podcast - The modern way of producing music

In this episode:

  • 4 stories of EP/Album productions

  • Why some musicians struggle to complete projects

  • When projects take too long, and why excitement fades over time

  • How producing fast may be the solution

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Extra Content:

Contact the podcast host Jan 'Yarn' Muths at mixartist.com.au

Disclaimer: The Production Talk Podcast is independent of (and not related to) my teaching responsibilities at SAE.

Tags:

Jan 'Yarn' Muths or mixartist.com.au, in the studio

Transcript:

(auto-generated by a robot - please forgive the occasional error)

Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome to the Production Talk podcast with me, Yarn, of mixartists.com.au. In this podcast series, we celebrate the modern way of producing music. We want to talk about all things related to songwriting, recording at home and music production. So, if you produce your music at home, this is the place to be. Please subscribe and recommend this podcast to all your friends. This is the Production Talk Podcast episode 77. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome back to another episode of the Production Talk podcast at the beginning of this episode. As always, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the country that I'm recording this episode for you today, the Arakwal people of the Bundjalung Nation, and I would like to pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Tonight, I'm speaking to you from outside. I'm recording this interview on the deck. It's 10:00 PM at night. It's already quarter past and there are lots of cicadas outside. It's dark, the moon is out. So you might be able to hear some insects in the background. Yeah, and some nature sounds. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So if that pops up in the background, I think I'll leave it in just for the. So let's kick this episode off. Thank you to everybody who filled out the survey, which I announced in the last couple of episodes, basically since the beginning of this year in every episode. And there's been some responses. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Thank you very much. I know it was a relatively long survey. Shouldn't take more than five minutes, but anyway, compared to others, of course. So thank you very much to everybody who filled out the survey and shared their thoughts with me. I really, really appreciate this. I now have a much clearer vision for the future of this podcast. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: But for now, let's change the subject because I want to get back to the survey towards the end of the episode. When we wanna talk about yeah, what that means for us. But before we get there, let's just talk about music production and the bigger picture. That's what I really want to talk to you about today. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So I thought I'd just start with the story of an EP now, how a typical EP was produced so that the story goes as followed. It's a story of a band, and they were travelling in their van on the way to a gig. And as these things happen, everybody had a great time. Somebody started to just pull out a guitar and jam. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Somebody started to sing along, just improvising and so on. And before we know it, the entire band was singing and jamming along in the band van as it can happen on a long highway. And of course, somebody just pulled out a phone and just quickly recorded the jam as a voice memo. So this is a typical example of how quite a few songs were written by this band. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Later on the day when they arrived they actually got a few moments during soundcheck and started jamming and picked up some of these patterns and brought 'em up again and developed a beat and a baseline and yeah, a bit of a vibe. Got together not much, but at least there was a bit of a foundation. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And then after the show on the way home, some people were a little bit drunk possibly others were driving and I think one or two of the band members just sat together and went through it one more time. The ideas that they had on the way to the gig went through the arrangement, refined it a bit, came up with a couple of lyrics on the way home. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So when the band got back to the rehearsal room the week later so that's the second week of this story they started playing the songs in the rehearsal room and there was a good foundation there already, but of course it needed to be played several times, needed to be refined needed to be discussed and so on. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: They recorded it on their phones one more time, took it home and next rehearsal refined it some more. That's, I guess, a very typical way to do it. Then about four weeks in the drummer actually started recording at home just to click into in standard interface, using just a normal home studio gear laid down the drums and then handed the files over on a USB stick or. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Google Drive or Dropbox or something. And then the bass player late on the bass, the guitar player late on the guitars, there were some keyboards involved. Somebody sent some files to a friend for internet collaboration, for a bit of extra programming and so on. And then yeah, the vocals were recorded at home as well. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Backing vocals were added on, and the week after, the guitar player and the singer started to get into it edited everything cleaned it all up and started mixing and eventually mastering while at the same time the bass player created the artwork, passed that to the band, got some feedback, refined it some more. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And eventually on the same day, everything was ready. The masters were completed. The cover artwork was completed and everything was uploaded for publishing. You know the story, once it's uploaded, it still takes a couple of days a week or two depends on the provider until it's actually released. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So there was a little bit of time and the band used this to schedule promo videos. To go through the snippets they captured while touring. Some funny stuff from the band van, of course soundcheck snippets after show parties and so on. Little snippets that they used to promote the ep. Then they're scheduled a post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, you name it, all the social media platforms, and scheduled everything out over the next couple of weeks to promote the ap. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So, as you can imagine, the EP was a huge success. And let's get straight down to the more of the story. We're about six to seven weeks in, and this is actually not a real story. I just made all of this up. However, it's, I believe pretty much what the internet, what YouTube videos, what the entire wisdom of, of the world these days suggests how music needs to be produced. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: This is the story of. Done. Basically, I'm stereotyping the story of, of an EP production. The way we envision it, we think it should happen, but that is not true. Just be perfectly honest with yourself. Is this how your music comes together in about eight weeks from, you know, songwriting and then you release an EP eight weeks later? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Well, if this is you, if you actually can do that my respect you probably don't need my help, but I think we can all agree that this is, Fairly rare. It doesn't happen all too often. It is just not what happens in real life. Life is different and we constantly hit snacks and get stuck somewhere, and there's constantly some problems in music production and things drag out and it takes much, much longer. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It's really not the way it happens in reality. Just think about this for a moment. Let's just go through it. Think about the likelihood. What are the chances of sailing smoothly through so many different production steps? There's songwriting, there's composition, there's arranging, there's writing lyrics. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Let's not forget about practicing and learning to perform. Each song wants to be performed in a different way. We need to learn that. Of course, the recording process. Editing the mixing, the mastering, then publication distribution, marketing promotion. You probably want to throw in some videos probably. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You probably want to promote your, your music with the tour, so you need to book venues and all. There's management involved so many production steps. What are the odds that the band or a single musician doesn't matter? That one person or one band. Can go through all of these different phases and production steps smoothly and fast and effectively. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I think we all agree that just doesn't happen, at least not all too often. Most of the time, the story of an album and NEP takes more time and there are probably some difficulties along the way, and a few are a regular listener to the podcast, which I hope you. Then of course, you know plenty of examples of great music that have all kinds of problems along the way, and so many amazing musicians have shared their stories here. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: But it's really a perfect story the way I just try to illustrate with this made up story from the beginning. So the reality is different. Let's talk about some real examples. Reality can be hard because there is other things in life than just our music. There is jobs, there's career, there is family, of course, you know getting married kids and all, so many things that can interfere. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And now multiply this by 2, 3, 4, 5 band members and you're up for. A big insect landed on my computer, and I have no idea what this is, but I'm going to let it be. So let me just tell you a couple of real stories. These are real stories that I've witnessed from my perspective. However, I want to keep it relatively short and not share too many details of this. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: First and foremost, let me tell you about a, a friend of. Let's call him Steve. That's actually not the real name, who played in a band as the singer and guitar player. And he had formed a really solid band around him. They performed live occasionally and I felt like they were the up and coming band. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And around the time when this happened, we got together to record and mix and master, and I could give them a really fantastic deal. So we got an entire album record. And mixed and eventually mastered at an exceptional price that I couldn't possibly offer today anymore. Long story short, they got a ridiculously amazing product for for, for their money. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: The music was. Phenomenon, everybody. I played this music tour, loved it. I sometimes blasted the mixes in my car while I was driving through Byron Bay, and people turned their heads and yelled out how, and they, they, they found the song. So the music was actually very special. So where's this today? Well, I just had a look. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I can't find the band on Spotify. The hit is snack. Somehow after the music was released, a cover was drawn up and then nothing happened. I guess the entire album is still on Steve's hard drive somewhere. I hope so, and maybe one day it will be released, but I just try to find it on Google and it's definitely not out there. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So nothing has happened since. What the heck? Why is a fantastic album like this completed? But never released. So what that means is we actually got through all the production steps up till mastering, but from there it didn't continue. So something happened that stopped this album in its tracks. The production cycle wasn't completed. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: The music is not out. And I personally am a little bit sad about this because I put a. Love and effort into it, and I would just love to see the music out there because I, I really think those songs are fantastic, Steve. But anyway, this is not for me to decide, of course, this is your decision. I know that life happens and there were definitely a couple of challenges around that time, but that was about six years ago. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: and by my understanding, the music is still not out. So a big roadblock was hit after the mastering stage and it stopped the production cycle in its track. The cycle didn't turn around, it didn't get to the other side because everything up to the mastering stage basically is all the production. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's when we invest. We have no return yet. All of this is just going one way. Effort and we put effort and, and time and money and it keeps on going and going and going. But afterwards and after the distribution, that's when it's meant to flip around. It's the only time where we actually make a return from our music. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So we need to get it out there for to ever see any return. And that's. Unfortunately it didn't happen for Steves. Let me tell you another story about Amus. I would like to call Pete, and that's of course not the real name. Pete had a really awesome live band, a small one not many musicians, just a three piece, or was it a four piece band? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And Pete was renowned for lots of collaborations. So finally Pete. His own band After collaborating with really well regarded artists and on some big stages, so a very promising musician, four to five years ago, the band was needed for a workshop and Pete's band got the job. NEP was the outcome of, of a workshop session. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Basically drum space and guitars and guide rockets were all laid down for probably three to four songs and a fantastic outcome for the band. But then nothing happened since. So we've connected many times and the typical response I get is, yeah, yeah, it's in the making, you know, we'll, we'll get to it at some stage, but that was four to five years. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So again, they hit a snag somewhere and didn't get it any further. Sometimes this is meant to happen and in some ways this could be some kind of quality controller. You know, some records aren't just not meant to be out, but sometimes music is just not good enough and now projects are then abandoned. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: This is sad, but that's definitely part of learning. That's not the case for Steve and definitely not for Pete. Both of their recordings, albums and eps are actually really, really awesome music. So great stuff. So the question is, of course, why did they get stuck and why did it never go anywhere? That's a difficult one to answer. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Let me tell you about another vocalist I met. Let's call her Sylvia. And this is not her real name, of course. Sylvia contact me online. And we actually started chatting, I think through the contact form on my website. And she just inquired about some mixing hub. So the situation was that she had recorded an album at home, like pretty much everybody does these days and had passed the files onto a mix. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Who I actually knew remotely from a couple years ago. The situation was that they weren't really happy with that person's work. I guess the, the vision didn't quite align and the mix engineer just couldn't get the results they wanted. So that was a tricky situation to navigate through because obviously I didn't wanna steal business from a friend, but Sylvia was very committed to move on to somebody else and ask me for a quote. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: The quote was accepted. We started working together and. Project gained momentum again. So here we are now. Talk about a project that did hit a snag, got stuck, didn't go anywhere. Sylvia stopped it, changed the interaction, work with somebody else. In this case, me and the project gained a huge momentum again. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So that was fantastic to see. I could see a sparkle in her eyes when she listened to the music. The feedback I got was, you know, really exciting and they had great ideas of how to. Better and files were added to make it even more exciting. That felt good. That felt felt really good. I then helped out with a bit of assistance in mastering. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I got them connected to some good people who I felt were really appropriate for this project. And yeah, that was about one and a half years ago, maybe two years ago. That might be a little bit off. Again, the project stalled, and the last time I spoke to Sylvia, she was still looking for a cover and nothing has happened since. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So I just wanna see these little musical babies out there. I just want them to be released into the world because the, again, the music is phenomenal. I reckon the world needs to hear Sylvia's music. So what's going on? I. We have three examples here of very typical problems because most of the musicians I work with today are not full-time musicians. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: They all have other jobs. Many have families, many have kids. They all have other things on in life. And if you not take a band of three or four or five people and multiply the problems and distractions that you get. Course it's really hard to get so many people together and really focus on the music, so let's just face it, music production, finishing music is actually really, really difficult, and that is probably not what music production videos on YouTube will suggest. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: They always seem to make it so easy, and it might be, you know, with production techniques, what you can do in a computer, but that's just a small part. Big, big production cycle that starts from songwriting and ends only once it's out, once it's released and also promoted and advertised for, and, and, you know, supported. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Now. The work continues when the music is released. That's an important part of it. And only then is when the production cycle completes. And so many examples show us that people get stuck somewhere along. . And that's understandable because looking at all these different jobs, you know that we can't be really good at all of 'em. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You can't be good as songwriter and a recording engineer, a mastering engineer, and you can't be fantastic at promoting music all at the same time. The odds are not on your side here. That's probably not gonna happen. So in some ways, I can really feel for the musicians because I know that it's really hard. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So what can we do about that? What can we do about that? The big trap is time. Time is the real problem here because the longer a project takes, the harder it becomes, the harder it gets to finish. So visualize an XY graph in your mind. We have a time traveling from left to right. The other axis is excitement. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And with a typical project, you know, once you pick it up, once you start to love your songs, once you start to record them and they turn not to write, and they sound even better in mixing is excitement can go straight up there. But once it's laid down, From then on, excitement start to fade. So it ramps up really quickly and then over time it keeps on falling. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: The excitement and the motivation and the energy mu musicians have will fall no matter what. Sometimes really rapidly, sometimes slowly, but it always goes down. There may be a couple of moments when it picks up again, it bumps upwards, but eventually it falls and falls and falls, and falls and it's just the nature of it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: The key to happiness and successful and and blissful music production is to finish a project before the excitement level falls under a certain threshold. Let me repeat this one more time. The key to happiness, the key to successful music production and to a good workflow is to finish each project before your excitement level falls under a certain threshold. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's the key. I hope this makes sense to you, but I've seen this again and again and again. When a band comes into my studio for recording, everybody has a fantastic time. Everybody loves it. They listen back and say, wow, we sound phenomenal. If it doesn't get mixed in the next couple of weeks or month, or sometimes a year, sure enough, somebody will eventually say, ah, you know, I would play this differently these days. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You know, actually th this little pattern on the guitar, I can play this better. I wish I'd played this Nord in between or something like this. Or the drummer, wish he had played something else. That's will naturally happen, so eventually you will fall out of love with your project. This is going to happen in some ways. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: A recording is something like a still picture, like a photograph, like a snapshot of who the musicians were on the day of record. And that's then frozen into a sound file. However, from that moment on, the musicians change. We are human beings. We evolve, we change, we learn, we get new angles. We progress as a human being. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So if we look at the same picture a year later, the picture hasn't changed, but we have, and therefore we see it differently. And the same thing happens with recorded music. So if the. A recording happens over too long a time period, or there's too much time between recording and finishing. There is a disconnect between who the musicians were on the day of the recording and on the day of finishing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And this can feel really, hmm. Frustrating. I guess frustrating is the right word. It just never sounds as good as we think it should be. Aren't we always own own worst critics? So here's the reason. That's probably why. Okay, so this is some deep stuff today. I think what I just described is the actual real reason why I started the Production Talk podcast to help people to overcome these hurdles, these moments when now they run out of steam and when they get stuck somewhere. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: We've shared so much information over the last 77 episodes. And we heard from so many amazing musicians. Hopefully this will help you all to, to produce better and faster. So let's talk about the survey and what this means for the podcast. So first and foremost, it is time for me to really reflect and see what my listeners get out of these episodes and how to make it much, much better because I. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: There is potential. It needs to be better, it needs to be more valuable and it needs to help more people. So some of the feedback that I received from the survey is implemented already as of the beginning of this year. I went back to fortnightly delivery. That was some feedback that I received. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Some people just said, it's just in March. I just can't keep up with the episodes and I think that's a really important point. So sometimes too much information is counterproductive. So I also considered my situation with my studio and my family and all the work I'm doing and fortnightly delivery of the episodes is actually something that I think will help me to get better episodes out. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And that's a good. Episodes are fortnightly, so every 14 days. Another piece of feedback that I've received is to deliver shorter but punchier episodes. Some people said that they were just a bit too long, and this is definitely something that I should take to my heart and make something out of it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And most importantly, I want the episodes to feel like they're more to the point, like they're going right down to, to the most important information. Without too much waffling and so on. So less wordy was the feedback that I received there, . So, and I think this is a good thought. I want to definitely implement this into future episodes. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And another piece of feedback that I've received so far and I'm very humbled and surprised, but also grateful for that is that the suggestion was to Few interviews and more knowledge from me. This is really not what I expected. I thought the interviews were where the money is for all the listeners, but of course I will definitely consider this if you were the person who wrote this. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Thank you very much. I will not give up on interviews , if that was the intention of at all. No. I will continue interviews, but I will probably do more episodes similar to this. We're at to share my thoughts all up. The podcast needs a general overhaul. I probably want to change the format a little bit maybe even change the intro music. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I'm starting to get a little bit over it, so I am, I feel like it could use sort of a fresh coat of paint. And for that I would like. To announce that I'm going on a little break, you could call it a hiatus for the podcast for probably a couple of weeks with the intention to let it all sink in to read through the feedback in more details. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Sort of take time. To reinvent this podcast and come back in a couple of weeks time with a better, punchier, more valuable product for you. Something that helps you with the problems that you face in music production. Something that is actually valuable and something that I guess every musician needs to know, or. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Or learn about. So that's what I'm taking out of it. Lots of food for thought for me, and I need to digest all of this and make sense out of it. Start drawing up new ideas and come up with a bigger, better, probably also shorter podcast. For you. That's the plan for the future. Okay, good. Yeah. This brings us to the end of this episode. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Just before we finish here let me just say thank you to all the amazing people who I've interviewed in on the podcast. It's been an absolute honor for me and I can wait to continue more interviews with amazing people. However, this will have to wait until after a little hiers. And break that I wanna use to reinvent this podcast series for you for a better product. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: If you miss the Production Talk podcast, why don't you just scroll through the backlog of episodes. We have about 77 episodes out now, and some were absolutely phenomenal. There were a couple of highlights. You can't find them. Of course, on Apple Podcasts on my website, of course, on Spotify pretty much everywhere. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And go through them. I'm leaving the survey open for about another week and a half from now on. So if you still wanna have yours say it is a mix artist.com.au/survey. One more time. That was mix artist.com au. Survey. So if you still wanna have your say spent a couple of minutes and fill it out, I would really appreciate this. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: If you want to reach out to me directly, you can of course do so via my email. That's Yarn Y A R N A, mix artist.com au. Of course my website is there for you as well. We offer high end studio recording services on the east coast of Australia, and of course we also offer online mixed down services worldwide for anybody who needs a little bit of help. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Good. This is all for today. I hope you got something valuable out for yourself today, and I'll be back in a couple of weeks. Thank you for listening. I really appreciate you lending me your time. Bye for now
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