I am working on my own personal music project. My aim is to get an EP finished, 6 tracks or so. I work full time - non music related job - and this is something I chip away at during my free time in my home studio. I have some good tracks, some well developed ideas. I could start release some tracks now, but I feel I could improve the sound of the tracks futher.
I have started replacing all my programmed drums tracks (BFD) with real recorded drums to good results. This is all taking more and more time though. Some of the tracks I have been working on have been with me for 2 years or more.
It is starting to play on my mind that I have all these tracks which are almost finished and I want to do more to them eg add real drums.
This is making them sound better sonically, but how do you know when to stop? The versions with the programmed drums aren't bad per se, but the real drumming does add a better element (especially since I am not a drummer).
Do I keep going until I feel completely happy with the sound? or is almost perfect good enough? - allowing me to move on to newer stuff.
I guess these are questions about the creative process and everyone will have different views. But I am after some feedback from others who may have found them selves in similar situations.
The question you asked cant be answered. I been recording for 40 years and done
thousands of recordings and I've never been completely satisfied with my work.
If I ever was it would be like saying I cant ever do better and I may as well hand the guitar up and retire.
If these are your first six professional attempts, I'd say you havent even begun to know what you're capible of producing.
You should be looking at it as a matter of goals and platteaus you achieve over time. Once you obtain one goal you set another thats
either higher or at least different. You cant always get better but you can always do things differently.
You will grow musically learning different styles and expressing different performance talents and you will grow with your ability to capture what you play.
You will also learn that musical arrangement is a huge part of recording and a great performance will cut though a poorly recorded mix.
You can take a great song and put it on a cheezy cassette or compress the format down below even MP3 grade and the ears still lock into hearing the
player perform and realize the player is putting in a great performance.
You got to remember, Recording quality doesnt make a musician play better. It only allows you to hear that performance unubstructed by noise or other
instruments in the arrangement. Keeping things moving in a musical arrangement so they occure before the listener gets board.
If your music doesnt have the ability to hook the listeners attentionn you'll never take them on a jorney. This is key to all great music from the greatest classics
to the newest pop. Songwriting skills rule all before you ever record a note. If you got great songs to record, and can perform them with at least mediocher
skill you at least have something worth listening too.
Tracking, mixing, and mastering are all built upon the performance. If the performance doesnt move you, no mixing will.
I realize much of this doesnt answer your questions.
My suggestion is if you seem to be getting nowhere, stop and put the work aside.
Your Ears and what those ears are connected to get tired and burned out hearing the same thing over and over.
Let your current work sit for a month or two. Start something new, then come back to it as though you've never hear it before
and never played it yourself. You should have your critical ear back and be able to use an unbiased ear mixing.
Thats the big key to mixing. You have to learn to forget who played the parts and detatch from its emotion from the mix.
They'll be time to savor the work latere. it isnt going any place till you're done. If you're hung up on making you're lead guitar sound great
you'll likely step all over the other parts mixing to achieve that making the whoe mix sound bad.
Taking on the role of an audio engineer can take decades to develop. Its a skill that takes just as much time to learn as playing does.
So many musicians thinks its simple because they play well. Theres nothing further from the truth as many quickly discover.
Theres only a small part of a musicians skills that can be transfered to the engineering of a recording. The rest has to be learned the hard way
through experimentation, trial and error, copying others works and learning all the techniques you can by reading.
This is why many musicians who want the best recording possible may track their own parts but have them professionally mixed.
It removes the self bias from influencing the results and the skilled engineer can apply all his tricks to making it sound professional.
You can get samples from many studios of their work if you do decide the mixing isnt up to professional levels yet.
Even if its only one song, you could be at the studio while its being mixed and learn more in an hour than it would
take you years to learn on your own.
Because this is a personal project you're doing in your spare time I say wrap it up and move on.
Sounds like you've made some good progress and learnings from it - maybe you'll start with real drums on the next one for example. Point is, your next project is going to be better with less effort due to less rework. Now that's something to get excited about!