Posted on 13-03-2012
Filed Under (commentary) by Jon Stinson

What’s the difference between someone who is regarded as a creative, artistic person, versus a person who is generally regarded as non-creative?

In my mind the difference is simply a person who actively pursues creativity, and works on their art every day.

Making art is hard work. There are a million forces to fight in any given moment before an idea can be shipped:

  • laziness
  • fear
  • lack of inspiration
  • lack of time
  • lack of money
  • confidence
  • priorities
  • countless other forces

I believe that people often think they are not capable of being artistic, so they never try to be. The funny thing is, applying this logic even people who are successful artists are not artistic.

People who are regarded as artistic by others, are generally perceived as such because they are willing to take the risk of openly creating bad art, in order to ultimately create something that will inspire others. In other words, they most likely get it right 1 out of 10 (or 20 or 100) times. But it’s this one time that they get it right that causes people to compliment them with the “creative” or “artistic” perception.

Pretty much a year ago, my friend Austin wrote a book about overcoming inertia and meeting creative goals, which he published on his website for free. As a creative person willing to do the hard work of pursuing creativity, you owe it to yourself to download and read the short book (it’s 59 pages).

Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 28-04-2010
Filed Under (inspiration) by Jon Stinson

This comes via the Dreamboat Records blog: []

Wow! I’m really into the band Bear In Heaven right now. Very creative band, both musically and tactically. They recently had issues being stranded in Madrid because of the volcanic eruptions in Iceland, and in their spare time at the Madrid Airport they created this genius video by placing their camera on the baggage claim, and setting it to their song Dust Cloud. What happened turned out to be brilliant, getting the attention of Pitchfork: []

A nice moment during the dust cloud from Bear In Heaven on Vimeo.

The track Dust Cloud is from the Bear In Heaven release Beast Rest Forth Mouth, and is available in vinyl+mp3 and CD formats direct from the Dreamboat Records shop, and at local record stores.

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Posted on 05-02-2010
Filed Under (art and creativity) by Jon Stinson

Having knowledge of the tools-understanding them-is an important part of your artistic process.

The results and character of what you get with pen and paper is certainly different from what you get with keyboards and electrons.

Recording to tape using a collection of vintage tube mics is not going to make your art any more or less compelling. But there is a specific inspiration you get from recording to tape, and another specific inspiration you get from recording to a DAW. And neither one of these is “better” than the other-they’re just different.

Make sure you understand the tools. Don’t ignore one thing because it’s too “new” and another because it’s too “old.”

Utilize a collection of tools throughout all your creative processes, whether recording, writing, taking photos, or anything else creative. You will be pleased with the way it changes your style and character, and the different nuances within the results you get.

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Posted on 08-07-2009
Filed Under (producing and engineering) by Jon Stinson

Piano Recital

Do you know where the front of the piano is? It apparently turns out that too many engineers don’t. And it turns out that I was one of them.

The other day, I opened up an email I got from Stumble Upon to peruse some new links, and came across this gem on Daniel Farris’s blog: Piano Recording: The Dumbest Popular Wisdom in Modern Record Making

Now I have not actually done any research on the piano to fact check Daniel’s post, so take all this with a grain of salt (I have some questions, too. Like what about the upright piano? Where’s the front of this instrument?).

The reason I felt inspired to share this idea with you, is because reading Daniel’s post caused me to have some epiphanies about the general understanding of capturing recordings in stereo, which I hope to further dissect and discuss. Whether or not Daniel’s post originates from knowledge that actually does reside in the history books, the ideas shared in his post are still valid in the field of creative recording, and illuminates a technique worth significant study, practice, and use. Not to mention that whenever you attend a piano recital, the instrument is positioned as Daniel has described.

For now I simply wanted to share this learning experience. Here’s the link to Daniel’s blog post: []

Photo by woodleywonderworks. Licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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Posted on 01-07-2009
Filed Under (producing and engineering) by Jon Stinson

Microphone Close Up

After publishing my post a couple weeks ago, Record-Making Purgatory, I got to thinking about some examples of overdubbing ideas that may help spark creativity. If you’re currently stuck in a “purgatory predicament,” perhaps these suggestions will snap you out of it.

1) Overdub a second snare
Try putting an additional snare track over or under the original snare. Use a different snare/tuning/timber, and have the drummer (or anyone, really) perform this the entire length of the track. You may need to slightly edit the timing of the track later to line it up closer to the original. In the mix there are a lot of different options-wild EQ and compression settings, huge reverb, small reverb, gated, expanded, wild delay settings, or leave it totally natural. Do whatever you feel, but get creative.

2) Overdub a floor tom
Try this in sections of the song. Maybe there is a breakdown that it would fit nicely into. Maybe you simply reinforce the drum fills. If you go with the latter choice, and you know you are going to do this on the tracking day, you can plan ahead by yanking some direct mics off the drum kit to use elsewhere. Again, in the mixing phase your options are wide open to your complete creativity.

3) Overdub another part on bass
Usually when people think up parts to add to an arrangement, they never think to see what this may sound like on bass guitar. Don’t overlook this option. We did this on a project I was involved in a while back, and it was a brilliant idea.

4) Double the bass guitar with a synth bass
This can add a sub-harmonic, distorted texture under the bass. In the mix tuck it just under the original bass to make it all blend in, sounding as one part. The combined tracks can sound like the most unique bass guitar anyone has ever heard.

5) Reamp vocals
Kind of like using a synth to add a sub-harmonic texture to the bass, try adding a somewhat subliminal timber to the vocal. It will require you to obtain possession of a reamp box of some sort. I’m pleased with this one: In the mix, blend this new track under the original vocal, add a little EQ magic to the top end, and you will get a nice touch of added presence to the lead vocal (or backgrounds if you’d rather).

Hope these five ideas inspire your creative vision to help you escape the dreaded record-making purgatory. I may actually take my own advice, and try some of these ideas out on a project I’m currently working on.

I would love to know how this turns out for you. If you end up trying some of these ideas out, post links to your recordings in the comments for all of us to hear. And if you have any other creative overdub ideas that you would like share, please leave those in the comments as well.

Twitter: @stsn

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Posted on 17-06-2009
Filed Under (producing and engineering) by Jon Stinson

Purgatory Beach

Tracking day is the big day. You just committed a lot of money to the studio to make a record, and there’s no turning back now. It’s possibly the most exciting part of a project, because you’re still anticipating everything-imagining how glorious the end result will sound-yet simultaneously the project has come to fruition, because the basic tracks are being recorded right now.

Your overdubs are different. Now you’re off the big studio’s clock. The excitement from the tracking day has had time to settle, and now you’re simply putting in “another day at the office.”

This middle phase of has the potential to become record-making purgatory, where everyone is stuck with their own form of writer’s block. The artist can become unsure of themselves, bouncing from one extreme idea to another looking for direction. The A&R guy can become nervous, wondering if his project is losing competence. This can end up putting immense pressure on you to save the project.

So use the overdubs for what they are: a place take liberties. Do things that stretch the limits. Use unfamiliar gear and techniques. Employ methods that promote creative thinking; techniques that challenge writer’s block.

Overdubs are the pivital moment. They can make or break a record. It can be that one stroke of red amongst a canvas of gray. Don’t miss the opportunity to make a statement by introducing the sonic character which becomes the standard for the genre, or the hook that takes the song from average to platinum-selling hit.

Worst case scenario is that you end up with a track or two that don’t get used. You can always trim the fat, but you can’t add what’s not there.

The studio is the recordist’s instrument. It’s your moment to really dive into your creative outlet. You got into this line of work because it’s supposed to be fun. This is definitely one of your chances to make good on that.

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Posted on 21-01-2008
Filed Under (inspiration) by Jon Stinson

My experience working through Getting Things Done has been a success. I’m more organized, feel more in control, feel less stressed out about keeping up with all my commitments, and feel more productive. David Allen’s method of GTD is exactly what I need to help me develop good organizational skills. I recommend the book to anyone and everyone in the music business. A good method of organization is key to freeing your mind, allowing you to become more creative and productive. As someone in the music business, I know that it is very hard to stay organized in this field. GTD will simplify this problem, freeing you up to be more creative (and the music business is all about being creative, isn’t it?).

I am not going to go into full detail of my experience with GTD just yet. I plan on doing that in a future post. I will also offer some of my own advice on what I found to be helpful when getting set up. At the moment I have my hands full promoting a couple of shows in Nashville. Two bands I represent are putting on shows this week. The Street Corner Champs are playing tonight at The 5 Spot, and Wes Sp8 is playing Wednesday at The End. In the meantime I’m going to link to a couple of articles that are inspiring to me. I hope they inspire you…
Read the whole page, but when you get to the bottom pay particular attention to the paragraph under the heading A Currency for Financing Your Dreams
This article spoke to me both because it’s about someone who left a more secure job to build their own company, and because it’s about a company that is a part of the creative industry. Those two elements describe what my life is like right now with Radical Notion (independent media).

*Note* GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of David Allen & Co. Although I have spent quite a bit of time lately talking about GTD®, I am in no way affiliated with that company. I am simply inspired by what they do.

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