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"Hindsight is always 20/20" - Dave Mustaine
One thing I have learned in over a decade working with music is that a song is never truly finished. You can spend three days or three months recording and mixing it and there will always be something that jumps out at you when you listen back later. It could be a clumsy lyric that you later learned was losing its linguistics and language in limitless, ludicrous layers of liberal alliteration, a line that you could have sung better, a synth pad that got lost behind a wall of guitars, a snare drum that could have used a boost or cut to certain frequencies, an effect on a solo that didn't quite do what you thought it was doing ... there are endless potential flaws in a mix and endless definitions of "flaw."
I use a lot of layers in my songs (usually between 50 and 80 layers, or "tracks") but mixing is a little like making a painting; if you put too many colors in there on top of each other it just becomes a muddy, brown blur. It's about giving everything its own space to shine and be noticed, without sounding too cluttered or too sparse. You must excite the listener's ears but avoid overloading them with too much clutter.
In a way I am quite lucky to have a direct and open channel for feedback to my songs here in the comments section. You guys keep me on my toes and stop me getting complacent or arrogant. I can always tell when a song has done a good story justice by the reactions in the comments. Of course, learning which criticism and advice to ignore is as valuable as learning which to listen to, but I have generally found my audience to be very constructive and thoughtful with its criticisms.
I also get asked a lot of questions here, on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube - sometimes too many to answer. So I came up with the idea of doing this column once a month as a way for me to:
1. Answer some frequently asked questions.
2. Tell you a little about the writing, producing and mixing process of the songs.
3. Respond to some criticisms.
I enjoy interacting with my listeners and fans and this will be another way to do that. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it and as usual I will be listening to the response!
I figured I would start off with the most common questions I get asked:
Can you make a song about 'X' game?
Yes, if it's reasonably popular and I've played it/ have access to it. I always listen to requests and if certain games/movies/whatever get a lot of them, I will do it.
Can you read music/ can you make guitar tabs for these?
Nope, I cannot read or write music or guitar tabs. I taught myself by ear. If anyone wants to make tabs for the songs that's cool with me, just don't sell them - share them for free.
Can you make a song about me/my YouTube channel/my Halo clan/that one time I got a double-fakey 360 no-scope collateral multikilll on Nuketown?
No. I spend more time on some of these songs than most people will spend on Skyrim. I don't have the time, motivation or inspiration to make songs for people/things I know nothing about. I have to be selfish sometimes and I will only make intro songs/ themes for people if I think it will advance my career and it's for someone I know and respect. And no, offering me money will not change my mind on this - art must come from a true, honest place or it will be garbage.
My YouTube inbox/Twitter feed is spammed with literally hundreds of these requests. I may direct them to this page in future!