Life Lessons Through Mixing

by Jason on June 23, 2009 · 3 comments

in Recording, Thoughts

I’m in the process of mixing my new CD with the Jason Parker Quartet. It’s been an intense and introspective time and I’ve learned so many things about myself, both as a musician and as a human being. In a way it’s been like therapy only cheaper (at $45/hr. for the studio vs. $120/hr. most therapists charge these days!).

Listening to myself over and over and over has had many different effects on me. At first all I heard were the cracked notes and ideas I wish I had executed better. I found that I was focusing in on me and only me. It was my fiance who reminded me that there’s a whole band on the CD! And she was absolutely right. It’s not about me. It’s about the band, and how the band sounds. And when I started to listen to the tracks with that in mind everything changed. I started hearing the interplay between the bass and drums, how the Josh, the piano player, and I instinctively play in and around each other, and how damn good the band sounds, cracked notes and all. That’s one of the beautiful things about jazz music – the imperfections are part of it, and sometimes turn out to be the best part of it. I don’t remember who said it, but one of my favorite quotes goes something like “If you’re not making mistakes you’re not trying hard enough.”

I’ve also realized that if I let myself, I could do a new mix every day. There are an infinite number of ways to treat the music and every day I hear it a little differently. The lesson here is that while each new mix is different, there’s no better or worse. There’s only the way I hear it. In the end I had to accept the new mix and move on or else risk being paralyzed by the infinite options.

And such is life, right? Many of us spend way too much time focused on ourselves and not the richness that is all around us, or getting bogged down in the details and not seeing the big picture, or getting paralyzed by the choices we have instead of just making a decision and moving on to the next inevitable choice. These are all lessons in how to live a richer life, not just lessons on how to make a good record.

It’s amazing when music and life intersect like that and I’m reminded that it’s all one journey. Me, I’m taking the next step!


If you’d like a preview of the forthcoming album, head over to my Bandcamp page to hear our version of Nick Drake’s “Three Hours”.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John Dover June 23, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Your stuff is always a nice read man. I am anticipating your final mix:)

John

Andrew Durkin June 24, 2009 at 10:17 am

Nice! I look forward to hearing the finished product!

I can totally relate to the “infinite options” problem. I think I’m probably guilty of getting way too immersed in the arcane practices of minute studio tweaking, making mix alternations that most people probably never even hear, at least consciously.

Which reminds me of another aspect of this: trying to anticipate how other people will be listening to your music! (I.e., should you mix for headphones? For the car? For a boom-box? For the audiophile? There are so many possibilities!)

But you’re right that at some point you just have to let it go. Making an album is a great exercise in that skill (i.e., knowing *when* to let it go) — which of course can be applied to other areas of life. And the nice thing about making records nowadays is that it is so affordable — so it is maybe easier to set aside the notion that your album has to be the one definitive document of your entire career (since you can always make another). I think that leads to a healthier approach: making the best album you can for that particular moment!

Good luck!

Jason
Twitter: 1WorkinMusician
June 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm

“set aside the notion that your album has to be the one definitive document of your entire career”

That’s it in a nutshell. Thanks for the reminder, Andrew.

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