A good friend and colleague of mine recently talked about the realization of not letting others in on some of his projects. He expressed how limiting it was to try and do everything by himself. Limiting to his passion and creativity on the project. Limiting to his approach. Limiting to the overall scope and impact of the project. This really struck a chord with me as I’ve recently pushed to do more collaborating in my own projects. In an industry that is so often one audio guy in front of a computer, bringing in people with differing, new approaches is not only freeing, it’s refreshing.
If you’ve composed for any amount of time, you’ve noticed that you develop ruts in the grass. I know I have. Same chord progressions. Same melodic patterns. Same approaches to composing a piece of music. Bringing in new people to help branch out exposes your work to new avenues. New opportunities. So, on your next project I’d challenge you to ask yourself – am I letting others in? Even to just evalute the mix and overall structure of the piece? To review the melody and offering up suggestions? I’ve been so pleasantly surprised and encouraged by sharing my work with others during the production process. It’s made me a better composer, better engineer and stronger musician.
In an industry where so many of us tend to hide away in our dark studios and crank away on our masteripieces, maybe we should do a bit more sharing? When it’s appropriate and not guarded by NDA, of course! So reach out to your friends and peers. Folks that play actual instruments (gasp!) and see how they can breathe life into your pieces. Make suggestions as to how your piece can be stronger. More emotional. For example, I’d written out a flute ostinato that worked well for the song but was very challenging for a live player to perform. My VST could handle it all day… but my VST also doesn’t have to breathe. We made it work in a recording studio environment but if I ever wanted to have that piece performed live, I’d need to rethink that part some.
Using live musicians or collaborating can also be more inspiring and much more affordable than you might first think! Consult with folks who are talented and knowledgible at production and mixing. Because even the best song can suck with terrible production. I completely realize you cannot, and most likely WILL NOT, collaborate on every piece you do. But challenging yourself with new approaches and ideas is always a good thing. Maybe you’ll use them or maybe you’ll confirm that your own approach is the best for a particular song. Either way, you’ll come out ahead for having passed your piece across some people you admire and respect.
My point? Music composition and production is a life long path. No one person can know everything. This industry is actually much smaller than first impressions and folks are willing to help out! Buy them a beer, coffee or do an exchange of services. When possible throw cash. Or just ask and show gratitude! It’s definitely worked for me and I think it would work for you as well. The more well versed you are, the better. It will never hurt you.