Here are 5 things you can do right now to improve your recording and mixing skills:

Stop worrying that you don’t have a major label sound: You also lack the mics, preamps, converters, and tracking rooms of a major label band. But that shouldn’t hold you back. Remember: listeners want to hear songs, not production; And Myspace proves you don’t need a big budget to reach fans.

Update your reference CDs: It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture while you tweak a mix, so you should periodically check your progress against commercial CDs you enjoy. And as your tastes and skills evolve, so should the list of CDs you reference. Make sure your collection is up to date.

Listen critically to a song you’ve never heard: Analyzing a mix is like getting a free mixing lesson from the song’s producer. But your ears adapt to the sound of a song after a few listens, so the tracks you know (and love) best are also the hardest to critique. Instead, choose a track by an unknown artist (you’ll easily find something new on The Hype Machine,) and listen with fresh ears to the mix. Ignore the lyrics and music, and focus instead on the levels, panning, EQ, and dynamics. Ask yourself why the producer set these things just so. Reproduce the best parts in your own mixes.

Solicit feedback: The Internet has communities of musicians and recording enthusiasts happy to critique your talents. The MP3 Clinic, and the Gearslutz Show and Tell forum are great places to start. (They’re also a source of mixes to test your listening skills, per the tip above.) Or try Garageband, and its patented review process which guarantess you useful feedback in exchange for your feedback on other artists’ tracks. Or, post one of your finished tracks to Somesongs (and remember LightningMP3 if you have nowhere to host an mp3.)

Finally, and most importantly:
Go record something! It’s a truism for good reason: “Practice makes perfect.”

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