3 on Thursday – 2/16/23

Read time: 3 min

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I hope you’ve been having a good week. Here’s this week’s 3 on Thursday, where I share

  1. Live performance of “Tilt-A-Whirl”
  2. AMA: “Do you do your own mixing/mastering?”
  3. On Songwriting: How I Write Melodies

All right, here we go…

1 of 3

“Tilt-A-Whirl” Live Performance & Lyric Video

Here’s a little performance video. Hope you enjoy! If so, please click the like button or leave a comment so I know I should do more in the future.  

2 of 3

“Hi Aaron, do you do your own mixing? Do you do your own mastering? Or do you hire others to do it for you? (If so, who? And what kind of budget do you have for mixing and/or mastering?)” – Brian

(Read Below or Watch the Youtube Version)

Great question. My general rule is, the more tracks in the song, the more likely I’ll have someone else mix it. 

If I have a budget, I almost always use a few of my go-to mix engineers (email me for recommendations). They’re way better at it than I am. Plus they have more objectivity. I usually produce my own songs, so I’m too zoomed in. I’ve been listening to the music over and over again, so I don’t trust myself to hear sonic elements that might need to be changed.  

The mix engineers I’ve used charge anywhere from free, or we’ll barter, to $750/song. The most I’ve paid for one song to be mixed is $1100. I think for indie music a good ballpark price you can expect to pay per track is around $250-$350. Maybe more or less depending on how many songs you want mixed. Many engineers will give a discount the more songs you have.  

Mastering is a whole different ball game. Anything I’ve mastered in the past I would call pseudo mastered because I don’t feel confident to say I’ve actually mastered it. I just get it good enough to where it sounds good to me, and I test in in a few different places: studio speakers, car speakers, a mono speaker, iPhone speaker, and iPhone earbuds. Then I call it good.

Like mixing, if I have the budget I’ll hire my go-to’s. Again, email for recommendations. In my experience, mastering has cost between $1k-3k/album.

Hope that’s helpful, Brian. Thanks for the question!  

3 of 3

On Songwriting: How I Write Melodies

(Read Below or Watch the Youtube Version)

I have this recurring dream. I’m on stage performing in front of a crowd, but I forget the words and melody.

I start making up gibberish. Gibberish words over gibberish melodies while I strum my guitar. It’s like I’m scatting, but it’s not supposed to sound improvised. It’s supposed to sound like completed lyrics and melodies. Good ones, too. The kind people pay money to come and listen to.

My goal in the dream is to get close enough to actual sounding lyrics so I can blame the sound person for any listener complaints. I do this for a fairly long time until I wake up.

I’ve talked to enough songwriters who have the same recurring dream to know it’s a “thing.” Maybe you’ve experienced it, too. I bring it up because my approach to writing melodies in the dream is pretty similar to my approach in real life (minus the cold sweats).

It’s making stuff up in the moment, seeing what feels good. You’re kind of just scatting with words, vowel sounds, melodic shapes until the pieces start to fit like a puzzle.  

Imagine someone said, “Start whistling a made up tune right now.” Do you know what you’d do? You’d start by whistling one note until you moved onto another and another.  

I’ll be honest, writing melody is difficult to describe because, for me, it’s mostly intuition. I don’t write anything down. I don’t know what notes I’m singing. I improvise until eventually I keep singing the same thing in the same places.

If I’m writing with other people, one of us is improvising while the other is listening and writing.

“Oh, I love that melody,” I’ll say, then sing it back to them. We might record that clip so we don’t forget it. This goes on and on until we have all our melodic “shapes.” One for the verses, one for the chorus, one for the bridge, and maybe some ad lib stuff, here and there.

But it’s all just going for it and having fun. Not worrying whether you’re copying somebody else or whether anybody’s watching.

You’re just trying to feel it out until your melodies are complimenting your lyrics and vice versa.

Side note: If you want to geek out on writing melodies, I highly recommend the book Tunesmith by Jimmy Webb. He goes into great technical depth on the subject. 

Ok, that’s it for this week. Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to reach out to me for any reason.


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