When you first start out in any audio field, especially Radio Imaging, it can feel like you have daunting amount of information to learn in order to do your job. That’s good at first because every lesson is big and so you see a lot of progress from these early learnings. But what happens when you’ve been doing the job a few years and you feel your progress is starting to slow down?
You’ve got your head around EQ, compression, signal flow, good recording techniques and how to use your DAW. A lot of time in the early days were spent mastering the key concepts of these things. Sure, you always improve at all of them gradually over time those ‘Eureka!’ moments seem to hit you less often.
Why? It’s all in the subtlety, and it stacks.
This subtlety in itself explains your gradually improvement of long held skills. You never truly master anything. The more you do something, the better you become. You can never be perfect at it. So just because you mastered the key concepts of something in the early days, you’re always improving year to year because of your continued use of those skills. You may not notice your improvement each week, but your learning stacks up over time and makes you even better at what you do.
Subtlety Stacks. Just like interest on your bank savings account where over time your money grows, subtle learnings stack and make you more and more proficient at what you do. Don’t forget the incredible power of this stacking over time.
Stop and look (listen) back.
If you want to see the power of subtlety stacking over time listen to your very first promo, then find your most recent one. Notice the wild differences in your work. Now, take a promo you did just last year and listen to them. You’ll still notice differences, albeit not huge, which show the amount you have improved in a year. You probably didn’t think you improved all that much in that time, but you did. You’ll be able to hear it.
Of course, if you can’t hear any improvement that doesn’t mean you’ve nailed it. Take a step back and really think – have you been continuing to use your skills to improve, or have you fallen into a Bad Habit Cycle?
The Bad Habit Cycle can destroy Subtlety Stacking.
Be honest with yourself. Have you been regularly practicing the skills you should have improved on? If not, then Subtlety won’t Stack.
What’s a warning sign you’re not practicing enough? The reliance on a Template as the only way to work.
A Template is a powerful thing, but it should only ever be a starting point to creating work to help save you time in stressful moments. It should not become the box within which you work. Templates are for tweaking, redeveloping and breaking apart to create new things. Think of a Template like a bunch of lego bricks. Yes they are all uniform to some degree, but they fit together in so many different ways that you can create many different shapes. A Template can be reconfigured to create all manner of sounds, don’t keep yourself stuck in a Bad Habit Cycle by treating the Template as a box to constrain you.
I personally like to have a Template to base a lot of my work on, but I don’t rely on it’s settings to keep me constrained. I use them as a starting point to build something fresh every time. I’m forever tweaking EQ settings, compression settings, the order of plug-in’s and even removing them if they’re not necessary for the work I’m creating. Using a template speeds up my workflow, it doesn’t restrict it.
Subtlety Stacking work elsewhere too.
Just like the idea of subtlety stacking over time gradually improving your skills, it can also stack within a DAW session for your latest piece of Radio Imaging.
Think about it. If you have layers of your voice over all throughout your session not trimmed up tightly to the vocal takes you’re using you’ve got a lot of potential lip smacks, saliva clicks and breaths just taking up space in your mix. Similarly with Sound Design; if you’ve got a few layers of impact noises where the transients aren’t quite lined up you’re going to have a weak hit point and/or if your whooshes all crash over each other without decent fade points to help them blend together nicely then you mix is cluttered up by more unless stuff.
You’d be surprised how many times I’ve advised people to try tidying these things up. By doing so the Subtlety Stacks and the work instantly sounds better than it did before. Don’t believe me? Try it!
So here are some of my tips to get Subtlety Stacking:
- Practice using your old skills every day…
- …by using a Template as a starting point, not as a constraining box (try this one to help you out).
- Tidy up your vocal takes.
- Trim errant noise off Sound Design, fade where necessary to smoothen out sounds that cross over.
- Line up transient points so they hit more accurately together, thus building a better impact.
- Regularly listen back to your old work to hear your improvements and keep your motivation for practicing Subtlety Stacking.
I’d love to hear how you get on…