I had a decent week. And I think I made an important discovery about discipline and effective planning, at least as far as it concerns me.

The reason I procrastinate so much is because I put a lot of pressure on myself. You might call it perfectionism, except that I don’t tend to care about perfection. I do have standards though, and it feels like the end of the world when I don’t meet them. So… maybe that’s all perfectionism is, because there’s no such thing as perfect for most things. Anyway, this video really hit home for me:

So how does this relate to discipline? I had success sticking to a morning routine. Get up at a certain time, do a few things. If I don’t feel like it, I do it anyway. No problem. But there is perhaps a fundamental difference between something like “get out of bed at 6:30AM” and “design an algorithm to solve this complex problem.” One is something that I’m capable of doing, basically no matter what. The other? How do I force myself to think creatively, to hold many details in my head at the same time, to just plain have good ideas? I don’t think that I can. So how can I have discipline when it comes to work, if I can’t actually force myself to work?

Here’s the solution I’ve come up with for now. I plan ahead of time when I’m going to work, and what I’m going to work on. And on my schedule it says:

  • Work, or sit at your desk and do nothing.

This is useful for two reasons. First is the matter of pressure, because there’s way less pressure involved in the goal of working for the next hour vs. accomplishing a certain task. And second is the matter of discipline, because in the same way that I can get out of bed at 6:30AM, I can sit at my desk and do nothing. So in the extreme case, I might sit at my desk and do nothing all day long, but of course I won’t do that. In practice, I don’t even do it for a minute.

This feels like a good solution for me, and I will forge ahead and see how it goes with more time.

Photo of the Week

This week, Jessica pointed her camera at my Eleven Rack. What you see here is just a portion of the bottom of it. I think it turned out awesome, and I especially like the added texture of the vertical lines. Almost like it’s raining on something that should never be rained on, haha.

What I’m Working On

Like I said last week, I’m taking time to work on my mixing skills. I did a few things this week relating to that.

First, I dug through some multi-tracks (from a website called Dueling Mixes) that I have saved on my computer, and picked a song to practice mixing on. I tried out some things I had learned in an EQ tutorial, but that’s about as far as I got with that.

Second, I bought a one-month pro membership to SoundGym. It’s a cool website that has these games you can use to train your ears to hear things like EQ changes, compression settings and more. I’m not sure that all of the games are directly useful, but that the overall skill of being able to listen closely is essential. It’s been fun in any case! I actually have an idea for a mixing tutorial type web app. I hope to work on it with Jessica in the coming months.

And last but not least, I bought a couple of (used) books by Mike Senior. His book on mixing is highly regarded as far as I can tell. I’m about 100 pages in and have learned a lot. And I plan to refer to it often as I continue to practice.

What I’m Listening To

I spent some time this week listening closely for tracks to use as “reference tracks.” Reference tracks are a mixing tool used to help ground our ears. You know how if you’re in a busy place, you might stop hearing the traffic noise? Our brains will quickly acclimate to whatever we’re listening to until it sounds rather normal. So it’s important to have references of things that actually sound good, so that when we’re in the middle of mixing we can check to see that we’re still in the right ballpark. That’s one of the ideas anyway.

I know I want a Ben Howard song on my list. Something from his latest album. To me, these songs are so well mixed. Here’s the one I’m thinking of using at the moment.

And I’ll just keep listening critically to music, figuring out what they do well from a mixing perspective, and building up my list of reference tracks. Ha, it’s gotten to the point where I can’t listen to music while I’m working because I’ll sit there and analyze it, and before I know it I’m down a rabbit hole! 😀

Next Week

I’m somewhat optimistic. Spring is nearly here. (Or supposed to be anyway…) I’m wrapping my mind around discipline and how I can use it to make my life better. I’m really, really enjoying this exploration into mixing. You know what a sort of motto of mine has been lately? “If I put in a lot of effort over a number of years, wouldn’t it be weird if I don’t succeed?” So I’m just going to keep working on my weaknesses until I’m making music that is of commercial quality. What else is there to do?

Until next week!