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"When music production takes way too long, what we capture is no longer a sharp picture of this musician at that moment in time, but instead it's as if the shutter time was way too long and what we get now is a blurry image where the mind has moved on and is already in a new state. And that is not a blissful state." - Jan 'Yarn' Muths

In this episode

  • What happens to us if we're juggling too many balls in the air, and what to do about it.

  • Fun things we can do to increase our productivity.

  • Things we need to have a break from if we want to be more productive.

  • What state of mind most of my good ideas come from.

  • Why working harder may not be the solution for producing better music.

  • The painful process of producing a project for too long, and when it's time to call it done.

  • Which workflows to cut out when your music production takes too long.

  • Where to find help when you're lost in tedious, repetitive workflows.


About the 


With over 2 decades of recording, mixing and music production experience, Muths interviews musicians, producers and engineers from the Australian East Coast and the world. Always curious about production workflows, gear, software, techniques, and strategies. The Production Talk podcast is a must-listen for anyone interested in music production from the Northern Rivers and far beyond.


The Production Talk Podcast - The modern way of producing music



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Disclaimer: The Production Talk Podcast is independent of (and not related to) my teaching responsibilities at SAE.



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Welcome to the Production Talk podcast with me Yarn of In this podcast series. We celebrate the modern way of producing music. We want to talk about all things related to songwriting. Recording at home and music production. So if you produce your music at home. This is the place to be please subscribe and recommend this podcast to all your friends. Um. This is the production talk podcast episode seventeen today I've got a special episode that took its idea from a conversation that I recently had with my dear friend Matt. And also from my experience over the last couple of days when I took my family on a weekend getaway I just wanted to explain to you? What's been going on in my life and. Think there's a few things that I learned about myself. So I thought I'd share with you and because all of this has to do with my productivity and the the way I operate so I thought this might be useful to share. We finally got out of lockdown. We're now in a transition period at the moment where we don't have all the free movement back yet. However, we were able to finally get away for a weekend and so I took my family to the beach and but then on Friday it was really difficult for for me to actually. Get ready and and to to get on the road because there were just so many things in my mind I was still dealing with some business cases I was dealing with or interacting with a prospective new client which was quite important. I was dealing with revisions on older mixes that are still ongoing and need finishing and of course you know things about my podcast and all kinds of things were on my mind and it was really difficult for me to step out of this and take a break and get away for the weekend and. But I already knew that if I would it. It will be worth it and of course it was so here I am now back from from a weekend. Ah, and I just noticed how many things have changed inside myself in my take on life in my in the way I deal with people. Because ah, in all honesty by the end of last week I was a little bit. Well I don't want to say it burned out but I was stretched to the max and I was really busy and my mind was just constantly occupied I was keeping too many balls in the air juggling life and I guess I was really ready for for a vacation. But I didn't notice that I I didn't realize this about myself until I actually did it and so I guess what I'm trying to say is that now that I'm back from from a long weekend I see so much clearer I already had 1 productive mourning I knocked out so many jobs already. It's now Monday about Midday and ah the first couple of hours of of today were more productive than in an entire day. Usually if I'm stretched to the Max. So what I'm saying is I think it. It was really worthwhile because I now feel like I'm a better version of myself I see clearer ah think clearer I'm more switched on and that's exactly what I owe my clients and I think that's a good attitude towards life that if I want to give my best to my clients I first need to to look after myself really well because if I'm if I'm exhausted if I'm burned out i'm. Just not the best version of myself and therefore my clients wouldn't get the very best result from me. So this is just ah, a little observation about myself that I thought I share with you because I believe that having those breaks makes me a more creative profession. It makes me I think better I'm so more switched on and I'm definitely a lot more productive so I get a lot more work done in a lot less time and I think this is something that some of you could be struggling with as well. And just want to share with you. How much of a difference this weekend getaway made for me. So what exactly is it about this weekend that that recharge my batteries. Obviously you know a change of scenery is is beneficial all the time. But. I think a key element was that we had next to no mobile phone reception terrible internet and I spent very little time on my phone and on the internet instead I played with my kids we hang out with friends. We drank a couple of beers on the deck we played guitar we went to the beach. Lots of fresh air and went for a swim and all of those activities are basically activities that engage your your brain in a different way and I noticed that while I was just you know getting up early walking my dogs my dog in the morning at the beach. You know my mind was just completely empty. There was just nothing occupying my mind I was just enjoying being here in the moment and soon enough the good ideas suddenly popped out of nowhere and while I was walking my dog. Certainly ideas came to me about how I want to progress with a podcast and I had a couple of epiphany moments about things in my business that I'm not doing the best way yet and where I need to let's say update my terms and conditions to make my life easier for myself and also for my clients. And you know a couple of ideas about my website that when I'm so busy in my day daily treadmill. Usually I wouldn't have those ideas and they just came ah came out of nowhere and I found this quite amazing how the human mind works that if you really manage to get your mind off. It. Certainly the best ideas come and that was just my observation again this weekend and yeah I hope that this is something that you resonate with so what I'm trying to say here is that if you. Sometimes feel like you're stretched to the max and you're exhausted and life's just getting too much then it is time to look out for oneself and I think we should all keep ah, an eye on each other as well and remind ourselves that every once in while we need a break. And every time I go on a break. It's a really really good investment because I don't lose time I actually win time and because I'm so much better afterwards. So unfortunately I can't go on ah on a weekend get away all too often. It's just not possible or too often. So. I was thinking about a few other things that are just a bit more practical in in day-to-day life think about other things that can give you the same um relaxation. So or that can give you the same benefit that could be just maybe going for morning run or a yoga session. And or meditation. Maybe it's just a walk. Maybe you can go for a swim see what's possible. But I think the activities that our brain needs to to operate better are all ah related around physical activity. Lots of fresh air a certain absent-minded state where. You know all the busy things in life are just not present with you and that's best experience in nature in in my opinion and you know what now that I think about it I believe that I hope I remember correctly. But I believe that about a year ago I was walking ah the the bush with my kids. On a quest to explore every waterfall in the local area and on 1 of those walks the idea of running this podcast came to me because I just wanted to give back to the community and and all the amazing musicians and actually add some value to to your life. And that's my take on it and I think this came this idea came to me when I wasn't thinking about work at all, but just enjoy nature. Yeah, ok so let me just also draw the opposite. So. Things or activities that that will prevent these moments of clarity are usually anything that's related to computers screens phones you know where you get fat content that's been cooked up by somebody else where somebody else sort of writes your agenda. I think that when you when you steer at screens and when you're occupied with technology certain elements of our brains are just tied in and that is good. Sometimes it's exactly what we need to do in our professional lives these days but it can't happen all the time. And when there's free time I think that's just the time when we need to switch those devices off to allow our minds to be at their very best and yeah, that's my story that I want to share with you about productivity and and clarity. Um, okay so I think I really have to bring it back to music production so it was a little detour into the mindset of productivity and what I learned from myself by just observing myself. But I think this has to do a lot with music production because. Think all good music comes from a happy place and that's usually not a place of stress of trying super hard of fighting uphill battles and that leads me to a conversation that I had with my friend Matt the other day. Just ah, walked up and down the streets and Matt and I met in front of a local music store and started chatting haven't seen each other for a while and for whatever reason the conversation moved towards projects and how sometimes projects take very long while other projects are really quick and what. Difference what difference this can make and immediately some albums came to my mind that I know had been recorded and mixed in a very quick turnover time in you know a day or 2 and some of those albums are actually among the most influential and and most well-regarded albums of all times and ah. Yeah, that led us to a little discussion about the time it takes to produce and what that does to us as humans and we both basically agreed that the longer a production takes the more painful it starts to become and that's definitely not a blessful. Stay to be in. It can get very tiring. It can't get very exhausting to keep the excitement up to to stay engaged and you know stay excited with the music and and we both said that there's certain a certain kind of sweet spot. You know if if it takes. If you were too fast then maybe it wasn't ready for release yet. Maybe it was not good enough. But if you take too long. It also leads to to overthinking and you can get out of this blissful state and from there very rare good music comes in my opinion. Let me share a story. Of 1 of my other friends with you. We met I guess 8 to 10 years ago it could be 6 I couldn't even put my finger on the exact year but it feels at least like 6 to 8 years and at that time and my friend wanted to move out of his job. And do something else. He wanted to work on his album and spend more time on producing his own music because he had greater years. Definitely a very talented promising musician and then we didn't meet for quite some time and lost contact and you know things happen sometimes in life. And then not too long ago. We met again because my my mate is working in a local shop and I just walked into him and we started shedding about life and everything so eventually I ask how his albums coming along and his answer was wow. Well I'm I'm still working on it I'll get it out later this year look actually I think that was last year when we spoke but it's still not out so we've met a couple of times and yeah, this must be really hard to work on an album for such a long time and I'm wondering actually if what he's working on today is still the same album. That we left off with maybe not maybe he's thrown all the songs in the bin and started from scratch again and maybe he's done this several times already and my suspicion is that this is not a good mental state to be in That's definitely not a place of happiness to me this sounds like a place of frustration. And ah, possibly fighting an uphill battle. So where is that coming from why why is this album not out. Can you think about somebody you know who might be in a similar boat when I chatted to Matt we immediately came up with a couple of of names of of other musicians and sometimes ourselves where we could. Think about situations where we workeded on something for too long and it's it's a weird phenomenon when when you start when people start a music production. Usually it starts with a great idea and then you start laying some ideas down and performing and hit him record and what you basically do is you you take a snapshot It's like a still image like a photograph of the musician that you are at that point in time or you know the the band that you were at this point of time in recording. However, as human beings we move on we evolve we get better. Ah, we change we change our angles. We learn new music. We get better at playing. We get better at producing. So if you open up a recording that you did let's say 5 years ago or a little bit earlier. What might have been super exciting to you at that time may not be exciting to you anymore and that's because you've moved on and I think that when a music production takes for way too long what we capture is no longer a sharp picture of this musician at that. Moment in time but instead it's a long image. It's as if it was overexposed as as if the shutter time was way too long and what we get now is a blurry image where you know some things are at a certain state but the mind has moved on and is already in a new state. And that in my opinion is is not a blissful state to be in and not a good place to record in so I hope you can relate to this. Um, so what? basically happens is that at the beginning you get excited and the ideas you know. They come out of you and when you listen back, you know you might go wow that's phenomenal. You know you're stunned but trust me this excitement is going to fade and it will fade for every 1 of us and I think what I'm trying to say here is and that's why I started the episode off with productivity. Is that our job is to be a fast enough producer to get the project to the finish line before we run out of excitement I think that's the real job of a producer whether you produce yourself or somebody else. And this is in stark contrast to to the typical pursuit of perfection music production and in an early episode. We came across the saying that goes along the lines of perfection is the opposite of done and there is some truth to it. So in other words. The sweet spot at which it's time to finish a project is probably a moment when there are still some minor rough edges but it's time to call it a day and move on and and that is a difficult balance to get and I guess you know everybody has a different perception here. But. What can help with the entire process is is to make yourself aware when you start to overcook things and to maintain a really positive mindset towards your music all the time. So. That's important because if you don't feel really positive about your music. How is the listener supposed to feel positive about your music I sometimes think we producers need to be 5 times as as excited so that the listeners actually get the excitement as well. And if you've ever spent a couple of days on the computer or let's say editing and doing tasks like this. How excited. Are you at the end of it. My suspicion is is not very so there are certain parts in music production that lead us down. Ah, very repetitive slow workflow I've been in those situations as well and and now what it feels like to do let's say in timing correction using b detective for you know somewhat sloppy drum performance. And if you don't need to do this for an entire album. You're looking at days and days and days of choping and that can be really frustrating. It takes a lot of strength to to soldier on and get through it and get good results in in timely fashion and. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we all need to look at our music production workflows very carefully with with a thought in mind that we shouldn't drag it out for too long. We need to identify moments when we waste time and 1 of those moments could be that I don't know. You get caught into a certain production routine. Let me just come up with an example, let's say editing Tom so you figured out that the noise gates start to misbehave so you take the editing tools and you'd chop all the. Spill away so that only the toms remain and then you go into the fading and then after compressing them the fatedes sound a bit awkward so you need to go in again and wow this is a really lengthy process. This can feel like an uphi battle like something that really choose your time and you don't get much done. So. This is the moment when we need to stop for a moment when we need to take a pause and this is 1 of those moments when we need to feed our brain some of that well recreational activity that we spoke about at the beginning of the episode when it's time to put the mouse down shut the computer down. And get out for a moment. Go for a walk go for a run at the beach if you can do something like that and then come back and ask yourself okay is it really worth fighting to cut through this big mountain of work or is there an easier way around what if a. Don't edit the termss. What other optionstions are there. Why did my noise gate misbehave. Maybe I need to try a different 1 do they need gating at all what other methods are there and if you need ideas maybe just speak to your friends and your fellow music producers and just ask what everybody else is doing. Because once you identify these time-wasting activities that are just so draining you get more work done with the things that really count because in all honesty if you look at the end result of of a song are the toms going to make a huge difference. Well I guess it's it's important to mix a good Tom sound but it shouldn't be an Apple battle. It shouldn't be time consuming. It shouldn't feel like like you're wasting your time here and if you do then think about your workflows and think about what other things you can do to steer yourself. Back onto track where you get a lot of work done quickly so that you finish this project while you're still excited about it while you're still fresh about it and before it fades into the later time of the production where things can get the drag. Um, ok, and and please don't forget about our production talk podcast community on Facebook which is also a fantastic place to ask questions and let everybody know if you get stuck somewhere and ask for suggestions of how to overcome these things. You can of course also reach out to me directly when it comes to production workflows and I've pretty much tried everything that I could possibly think up and many of those workflows I've abandoned because I've found better ways. So in many ways. I may be able to suggest faster quicker routines and workflows if you get stuck somewhere so please don't hesitate to reach out to me directly as well. That's of course always welcome I'm always happy to hear from you guys. So while we're on the subject of dragging projects on for too long. Possibly too long. Hopefully not let's think about how we get better and I came across a little story on the internet and I had to do a little bit of research to find it again. It turns out, it's a parable from the book art and fear. And I just try to phrase it in my own words, but it's effectively a teacher I think they teach pottery or ceramics who divides a class into 2 groups just by random chance a quantity group and a quality group and tasks 1 group with making the perfect. Piece of pottery. Ah, while the other group is tasked with producing as much pottery as possible and well let's cut straight to the Chase. There's a good chance. You've heard this story before when the time was up interestingly the group who produced quantity produced also the better quality. In other words. By finishing up projects quickly quickly quickly and always starting new projects. They automatically got better effortlessly. Although they didn't even try to be better. They tried to produce more and the same story has then been translated later. Photography where the same principle seems to apply and I think this story also applies very well to songwriting to music performance to live shows being good at live shows to music production to mixing probably even to mastering. And what we can take from this story is that it's really not about getting your debut album to sound as fantastic as as the most influential records in the world if you find yourself being caught in this pursuit of perfection workflow that. Makes it hard to finish projects. Let me make a suggestion to you find the most influential artist that you really love and the records that you really really appreciate There's a very good chance. Those are the later works of of their career. Now rewind and go back to the very very earliest Release. You can find it could be the first album but see maybe there is a demo floating around from rehearsal times from earlier and listen to those you will find quite a different artist. They've all started somewhere. Nobody has released that fantastic record with their very first debut album. That's usually very unlikely might have happened once or twice but I don't think this is a common thing and let me give you some examples for that. So. 1 of my autum favorite artists is Bob marley and I think his album confrontation which was his last album contains some of the best songs such as buffalo soldier or black man redemption I think in my opinion Regulargan music doesn't get much better than that. But at the same time if you then. Look back at his early days and look at songs like 1 cup of coffee or judgenot then you'll hear very different bob marley and obviously it was a different time in his career and at this stage nobody could have possibly foreseen just how far he would get another great example is miles davis. Who just put out records like crazy I think over the course of his career. He released probably over sixty records and I mean full albums and not every single 1 was fantastic, but among those records was kind of blue. Which in my personal opinion is probably the best jazz album ever released again, a lot of quantity and with that came quality to sum all of this up. I guess what I'm trying to say is that when it comes to finishing up music to releasing music producing music. You will find thousands of people who are very happy to start projects people who start projects are a dime a dozen. However, people who are good at finishing projects. They are hard to find. And this is what I suggest you focus on be the person be the person who is known to get projects to the finish line fast effective high-quality and again and again and again, that's where the money is. And now that these words resonate through my mind I just came to realize that I guess the reason why my clients my mixing clients come back to me might not even be the quality of my mixing itself and it might even be that I'm just guiding them to the finish line and sometimes help and push a little bit when it needs to be. And help them to make decisions. So maybe that's what it's all about getting projects to the finish line. So everybody is on a learning curve and the people who get to the very top. They just keep going. They just keep going. They just don't give up they finish an album. And work on the next 1 and finish it and work on the next 1 and that's how you eventually become really good and also effective and fast at producing. Really good music. It is not a workflow that you can achieve in 1 step over a long period with lots and lots and lots of of hard work and effort. That's not the way to do it. It's just too hard on yourself. Um I think this is a good moment to to call it a day for this episode. It's a short 1 I hope that's okay with you because. I think there was so much valuable information in this for myself and I hope for some of you as well that I think we should just leave it just as it is so I hope to speak to you again in a week's time in the meantime, please visit me at and in our Facebook Production Talk Podcast Community find us there please join the link in the show notes and thank you very much for listening. Speak to you in a week.
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