Bret Alexander

THE REAL GIG: How making music and cooking are related – going back to the source

THE REAL GIG: How making music and cooking are related – going back to the source
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Since my wife is a baker (and a damn good chef, too) and I’m a musician, inevitably there are many late-night discussions in our house about the similarities between music and baking (or cooking in general).

This brings up the essential truth about both disciplines – if something ain’t right, go back to the source. Either the ingredients are bad (i.e. the instrument), the chef doesn’t know what he is doing (the musician), or the recipe sucks (the song or part). Fix things at the source and you will have good results.

Now, nothing makes me angrier than when I am recording a musician who knows more about his computer than his instrument. Well, maybe when the person sends a text message between every take… that makes me pretty violent. But anyway…

Too many musicians rush through the recording process because of the mindset that what they are hearing can be edited later. The culinary equivalent would be saying, “Hell, I’m not worried that this tastes like shit now because I’m going to just melt cheese over it later.”

That makes no sense to me.

Now, you can go to Walmart, buy yourself a box of Little Debbie Snack Cakes, bring them home, put them on a fancy plate, and call yourself a pastry chef. You can do that, but it’s not the same thing as getting it from a master.

(Side note: Of course, if the bakery business worked like the music business, Walmart would just deliver the snack cakes to your house and give them to you for free, but that’s another story for another day.)

I will spend hours reworking a song with a band before I will spend 10 minutes editing it after the fact. That’s just the way I like to do it. I think the results are better. It’s a time-honored tradition that I respect.

That’s not to put down the Dr. Dre’s or Skrillex’s of the world; what they do is fabulous. All I am saying is that if you are a musician in the traditional sense, put away the damn electronics and sweat the details at the source.

I can’t tell you how many projects I have witnessed where the artist or engineer is spending days and days editing a project when he should have manned up and fired the damn drummer. The first process takes days, the second about 10 minutes.

That may be harsh, but to quote Tom Hanks in “A League of Their Own:” “It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great.”

Not everyone is qualified for the gig.

We live in a world of instant gratification. Just about anything can be made to look like something it isn’t – at least on the surface.

But I believe there is still room in the world for the master – the master chef, the master musician, the master producer, carpenter, etc, etc.

And you don’t become a master by leaning on the same things everyone else is leaning on.

So turn down the noise and take a good, hard look at the source of things. It won’t make you rich quick, but you will be part of a long line of badasses.

And the world sure needs more of those.

The Real Gig is a weekly column collecting the stories, observations, opinions, and advice of NEPA songwriter, engineer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Bret Alexander. Look for it every Friday on NEPA Scene.