If you’ve ever recorded in a studio, either solo or a band you probably know that you get to know every nook, cranny and mistakes of your own recordings better than anyone else.
It’s the audio version of when people look in the mirror and see every fault, pimple, and anything that looks different from a Hollywood actor. Some of the most beautiful men and women in the world always feel like they are falling short – looks wise…crazy, huh?
A very close friend of mine who is a fine painter told me once that she’d see aspiring artists in the Sistine Chapel in Rome doing painting studies of Michaelangelo’s works…and missing the point. They’d have an angel’s pinky finger perfectly copied, but miss the fullness of the body of the angel, and miss the entire composition that the angel was part of – the Sistine Chapel!
So attention to detail is very important…but it has to be met and balanced with attention to the big picture…in visual art maybe it’s stepping away from the canvas (or ceiling) and looking at the whole. As a jazz player it’s about forgetting the cool licks and lines and listening for sound and groove (music)…and as a studio musician and producer – it’s about NOT listening to your recording 24 hours a day so that you can actually hear it with fresh ears!!!
The other night a good friend, Joel Martin (genius pianist & composer IMHO) came over and I played him the Michael Jackson solo guitar tribute CD I have been working on. I had not listened for a few weeks, in order to give my ears a rest.
Magically – everything that sounded like a “blemish” or imperfection to me when I listened to it over and over in the studio – vanished and what was “front and center” was melody, groove and tone. With fresh ears, I got to enjoy the big picture. What’s really nice, is that if I like it, I have confidence that others will too!
During the recording process, I had my trusted team listening to my MJ takes – 3 musicians and 2 engineers. All of them have great ears and recording experience, giving me their input on which takes grooved best, which takes had “life” and even advised on the order of the songs. They helped see the big picture in case I was focused on details like quieting clicks and scrapes!
If you are recording yourself, or even preparing for a show – find someone whose opinion you truly trust, and let them give you input on how to improve. They may give you some very interesting advice. You may be looking at the detail of the “pinky finger “, and they’ll gently remind you of the big picture – “the Sistine Chapel.”