The biggest enemy to art is fear. Fear causes artists to curb their vision, to play it safe, and to operate in a manner that is expected of them. In the recording studio fear manifests itself in many different ways. One can be afraid to try a new microphone or use a familiar one for a different purpose. An engineer can be afraid of upsetting an artist with an unusual sound. A producer may be afraid to let a group pursue a "new" direction. Record labels want you to do "what worked last time" or to "use 'so-and-so' because they had a hit with 'what's-his- name'." People are afraid of change and what lies outside the accepted norm. Fear will lead you down the safe and simple path, never pushing ahead, never bucking the norm and never breaking through to new sounds, songs and creativity.

Make sure to look for the new and unusual. Try the "wrong" mics. Talk to artists about their wildest ideas. Try to do things even if you think they might not work. Record in the "wrong" room. Play songs too fast or too slow. Change tape speeds. Put effects pedals on drums.

Nobody will admit they are afraid. Perhaps they don't even know. It's your job to make sure you never are.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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