The 5 Mistakes of Music Production – Avoid These For More Clarity!

Mistakes of music production

Before you learn the foolproof process of what works, I want to first tell you about what things you should avoid. Knowing the mistakes of music production that others (me included) have made will further streamline your thought processes and stop you from wasting time, energy, money and gear.

By knowing what not to do, it will become much clearer what to do instead.

This article is an excerpt from my new book COMPLETE CREATIVE CONTROL – The Art Of Recording Music Unveiled.

The #1 Mistake of Music Production

We’ve all seen the pictures – a drum kit set up totally inundated by mics, stands and cables. Above, below, around, and in every drum. There’s a mic in front of the kit as well, two for the room, and one out in the hall. There’s even a boundary mic on the far wall to pick up that deep, deep bass from the standing wave.

Or how about miking up a guitar amp with 6 mics? One for each speaker of the 4×12, one for the room and one at the back?

There seems to be a consensus among budding audio engineers that the more tracks you have in your DAW, the more control and clarity you can achieve during the mixing stage.

Alas, my friends, I regret to inform you that this is very rarely the case.

The #1 mistake most make when recording music is using too many microphones.

With every extra microphone you place in front of a given sound source, you are actually deteriorating the clarity of the final sound.

Due to the slight delay between sound waves arriving at the different microphones -unless you are extremely careful – the signals tend to cancel each other out rather than complement each other. This is called phase cancellation. The more mics you add, the worse this gets.

So you get mush instead of clarity. “Phut” instead of punch.

Did you know most of Led Zeppelin’s records were tracked using only 3 mics on the drums? Sure they’re old school recordings but they still pack a punch!

Especially when starting out, you should concentrate on getting a great sound from as few mics possible.

The more time you spend focusing on getting the sound perfect with the few mics you have, the less time you will spend fighting phase cancellation and mush at the mixing stage.

Sometimes less is more – and in music production, this is definitely the case!

The #2 Mistake of Music Production

Half the room is full of gear, the other half full of musicians.

Everyone is setting up, plugging in cables, testing gear, practicing a lick or two.

You’re setting up mic stands, screwing on mics, connecting cables and laying them neatly towards your interface making sure you don’t trip anyone up or confuse yourself by patching into the wrong channels.

Half an hour goes by and the musicians are ready to go.

You start to soundcheck the drums and suddenly realise your plan isn’t working. You’re not getting the sound you wanted from the mics or method you selected.

You get uneasy. Everyone is waiting for you to hit record.

I’ve been there. It kept happening even once I was sure I knew exactly how to get the sound I wanted from every single instrument every time. It still happens. Sometimes you have a plan in your head that doesn’t work in the real world.

It has nothing to do with your talents as a recording engineer. It has everything to do with your ability to work under pressure. The thing to know is that no one will remember how long it took you to set up for recording once you have produced a killer drum sound, a thundering bass and screaming guitars.

They will be uplifted by the warmth, the depth and the clarity of your recording and will thank you for taking the time you needed to get everything lined up perfectly before hitting record.

They will thank you for telling them to shut up and go and take a break while you tweak the mic positions you weren’t happy with. They were compromising the quality of the recording with their impatience and you kicked them out. They will be grateful in the end.

The #2 mistake to avoid when recording music is to not take enough time to set up before hitting record.

You have to be truly ready when you start tracking. Because anything you record cannot be changed once you tear the session down and head home.

Sure, you can try to fix it in the mix. But you’re trying to form gold out of the crap you recorded or worse still, pasting samples over it to cover up for your sloppiness.

You can hear it when someone has cranked the EQ to make up for poorly recorded instruments. It sounds distorted and unnatural.

Take the time to dial in the right tone for every instrument – even if that means your band mates have to wait an hour or so longer before you finally get down to recording. They will thank you later.

You can either have your band leave the session with their heads down, hoping the tracks will sound better after mixing, or you can have them high fiving you because they can hear that the recording sounds phenomenal already.

Relax, take your time. Tweak each mic until you are happy with the sound and don’t be afraid to change a position, mic or recording method if you’re not getting what you wanted.

The #3 Mistake of Music Production

You know why musicians drool over instruments, amps and effects pedals?

You know why audio engineers love to spend hours comparing mics and thousands of dollars decking out their studios with high end gear?

Because it’s easier to buy a new guitar, amp or effects pedal than to practice for an hour every day for a year and become a virtuoso.

It takes a lot less time to buy an expensive mic than to learn how to use it effectively.

We humans are lazy. We try to find shortcuts in everything. We replace the inner work with external gadgets that make up for our lack of motivation, skills or experience.

We buy expensive gear to shield us from our insecurity.

And so most of us approach recording music backwards. We focus on the recording instead of the music.

The punchline: It’s not about the microphones!

There is such an abundance of decent gear at low prices these days, we are so blessed to have such an opportunity to record music at home and in our band rooms.

The difference between a $300 mic and a $3000 mic are negligible when you really think about it. We’re talking about sonic gains of less than 10%.

You can get a lot more done with a set of eight mics for a total of $1500 than with one mic for $1500.

So stop worrying about whether the mics you have are good enough and worry about the performance and the state of the instrument.

Because I think we’d all rather record amazing musicians playing beautiful instruments with mid-priced mics than record a band that is all over the place with high end mics that we had to get a loan to pay for.

The #3 mistake of music production is to forget about the music and put too much focus on the gear.

But we’re not playing music for the sake of recording it, we’re recording in order to capture our artform. If it’s about the music, we have to focus on the music first and foremost. The song, the arrangement, the performance and the instrument – in that order.

Only then do we worry about what gear to use.


I have a brand new recording handbook available that will teach you EVERYTHING you need to know about how to record your own music professionally with inexpensive microphones and gear.

I want to get you in the position where you can remove the recording obstacles and release the flow of music out into the world.

I want you to take control of your music’s trajectory by acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to record music yourself on demand.

If you’re really serious about your music and want to overcome the massive recording hurdle plaguing the majority of artists today, download a FREE 5-CHAPTER SAMPLE now and take the first step towards transforming yourself from a hobby musician into an affluent recording artist!

The #4 Mistake of Music Production

I remember the first ever drum recording I attempted in a proper studio setting during my time at SAE (School of Audio Engineering) in Melbourne. I say attempted because I failed – I ended up just going with acoustic guitar and bass on that track. I deleted the drums. There was no point.

I was frustrated. I had put the mics up over the drums, one on the snare, one on the kick – why didn’t it sound like a drum kit should?

Well, there are two answers to this question. One is I didn’t really take care with my mic placement. But we’re going to get into that later on.

The other answer is so bleeding obvious it should be first and foremost on any musician’s mind, but sadly its not. And it’s a bombshell.

Your recording will sound like the instrument you record.

If your drums are dull and battered, your drum recording will sound dull and battered. If your guitar strings sound flat and lifeless because you haven’t changed them in months, your recording will sound flat and lifeless.

The #4 mistake of music production is recording instruments that sound like crap.

So next time you sit down at your drum kit, or are in the band room while your drummer is having a bash, ask yourself – is this the way I want my drum kit to sound on my record?

Is the snare crisp and clear or dull and flat? Are the toms ringing clear with one rich, full tone or is it a mess of dissonance and overtones?

Does the kick sound punchy and thick or is it flat and dead?

If you are more underwhelmed than overwhelmed, chances are you need to give that drum kit some love.

It might be that the snare head has been battered for 24 months and the coating is worn through.

Your toms might have so many dents in them that they are simply unable to ring true no matter how long you spend trying to tune them.

You might have stuffed a big old blanket in that kick because, well, that’s what everyone seems to be doing.

So do yourself and your drum kit a favour and buy some new drum heads, tune them up and get them booming like the armada they are supposed to sound like.

The same goes for guitars, bass, piano and strings. Whatever instrument you record should be in pristine condition – because if it isn’t, everyone will hear it on your album. And there is no amount of processing that can fix a dull and lifeless instrument.

Not sure where to start? Read on and I will enlighten you!

The #5 Mistake of Music Production

Mistake #5 is pretty much the reason I am writing this book. It’s the thing beginners, intermediates and seasoned audio engineers forget or neglect time and time again. It can cause sleepless nights, uneasy conversations, tantrums, walk-outs.

It can cause a recording session to get thrown in the bin and restarted from scratch.

Before I had gathered all the components of the methods in this book, I used to wing it pretty much every time. I was an audio engineer. I identified with the label, I talked the talk and walked the walk.

I knew lots of techniques and immersed myself in educating myself further, reading books, articles and trying new methods with every new recording session. I was confident that I would get high-quality results every time and felt I could always rely on myself to do so.

And then one day I hit a glass ceiling. It shook me to the core. Suddenly I wasn’t so confident in my abilities any more. I had been engineering a recording session that didn’t go quite as planned. I didn’t really have a plan back then and hadn’t learned the lesson that I really needed one.

I wasn’t having a great day internally and was feeling a bit off. It was the end of November and the winter blues were creeping in. We were recording in a basement rehearsal room with no heating and pretty poor acoustics despite the mattresses we had brought to tame the reflections bouncing of the walls.

Once I set up the drum mics and listened back to the first recordings, I wasn’t satisfied. The whole drum sound was off. It sounded kind of like the kit in the room, but it had no punch, no real clarity. I had set up every mic at once without taking the time to dial in each sound before moving to the next, and that was the beginning of the end.

Instead of halting right there and then, I took on an attitude that came back to bite me in the bum weeks later.

I thought to myself: “Screw it, I’ll fix it in the mix”.

This is the WORST mistake you can make during a recording session! It will postpone your problems to a later date at which you are in much less of a position to fix them!

My failure to go back to the drawing board, readjust the mics and rethink my miking techniques culminated in hours upon hours of wasted time tweaking EQ, adding and removing plugins – compression, saturation, reverb- and feeling utterly frustrated and forlorn while mixing. On a 5-track EP!

I didn’t regret not fixing the drum sound once, but five times over!

The foundation of the tracks sounded flat, dull and lifeless. All because I had failed to fix the problem at the point in time when it presented itself.

The #5 mistake of music production is to take on the attitude of “I’ll fix it in the mix”.

There’s even a song about it: Kevin Mahogany – Fix It In The Mix. Check it out, it’s on YouTube!

I think I’ve made myself clear. Don’t ever think, say or do this. Moving right ahead.

The #6 Mistake of Music Production

Number 6?! I thought you said 5? Yeah, well I almost finished the book without mentioning one of the most important pieces of information. Taking action.

We humans spend a lot of time ruminating. We like to stay in control, so we spend a lot of time trying to control the future. Only to watch as everything turns out different to how we expected anyway.

We worry the way we try to do something will backfire on us. We worry someone will see through us and point and say, “look at them, they have no clue”.

So often it’s easier to eternally plan for something rather than accomplish it.

When it comes to recording music, you can get bogged down in the complexity. There are so many options, so many variables, so many methods and routes to take.

You need the perfectly tuned room that has been painstakingly designed by acoustic engineers and installed by expert artisans.

You need the perfect mic for every instrument you intend to record, and every time you find the perfect mic, you learn there is another perfect mic for the same instrument.

You look at the laptop you’ve got, the interface you’ve got and you know, deep down in your heart, that this is not a professional setup.

But I’m here to tell you, it’s all in your head.

The more time you spend worrying about whether or not your room, gear or skills are good enough, the less time you spend creating music.

The #6 Mistake of recording music is searching endlessly for the perfect room, microphones or interface – just get to work!

The less time you spend doing, trying, making mistakes, learning, and honing your craft, the slower you move towards mastering your craft. With experience comes wisdom, and given enough time and patience, you will become a master. You will begin to hear the nuances between microphones, the results of fine tweaks in mic positions, all the while producing your art and unleashing it on the world.

So lead with intention, and continue moving onwards, no matter how small your steps, no matter where you are in your journey as a recording musician.

Know that with every project you will learn a great deal about sound, acoustics, instruments and the equipment we use to record them. Every project will be a launch pad to the next.

Know where you are, where you want to go and take action. Even mistakes are experiences for learning. As long as you are in movement, the only way is forwards.


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