2013-03-12

Pitfalls Of Self-Producing

I am wrapping up the recording of my aforementioned contribution to a DFW-area artist showcase CD. Overall, I am mostly pleased with the results of my efforts. Nonetheless, the mixing process has been excruciating, thanks to the psychological difficulties of hearing the sound of my own voice and my own instruments.

If you don't play music, then you may have noticed something similar in regard to, say, re-reading a letter, a postcard, or an email you previously sent to someone else. If you re-read what you've written with close attention to detail, you find the sound of your own voice creeping into your thoughts. Not only are you reading what you've written, but in a way, you sort of "hear" yourself the way you intended the message to be written.

For this reason, you may fail to see spelling and grammatical errors. Your mind is taking shortcuts as you read. You know what you were saying, you know what you meant. Your brain simply skips over anything that isn't perfectly clear, because it's filling in the holes.

...And, of crosue, mnay of us are aawre of the biran's alibtiy to atuo-crorcet wrods and pharses as lnog as the frsit and lsat lteters of ecah wrod are the smae...

Similarly, when recording and mixing one's own music, the mind attempts to take similar shortcuts, gloss over imperfections, and make excuses for things that, to an objective third party, would not sound particularly okay.

But in my case, there is one additional mental hang-up that is particularly difficult to overcome: When I hear my singing voice or the sound of my own guitar playing, my mind starts to sort of "tug" on the sound, trying to push it into the place it's supposed to be. I think this is because my brain knows both how things are supposed to sound, and how they actually sound.

Well, nobody's perfect, and it would be a mistake to follow the quest for perfection into a bottomless rat hole. Sometimes we record something that sounds great, but still falls short of perfection, and due to time and other constraints, we have to make due with "great" instead of "perfect." Ordinarily, this would be fine. But, I find that as I try to mix and produce the track, and small diversion from perfection captivates my whole attention, drawing important cognitive resources away from being able to focus on how, for example, a vocal melody sits in the mix, and instead focusing on the fact that in a perfect world I would have hit a particular vowel sound with a bit more grit.

I think this kind of obsessive thinking is a one-way ticket to the funny farm, and I am utterly certain that this is why even the very best recording artists hire producers, professional third parties, to help them record and mix.

However, until such time as I can make music professionally (ha ha ha...) I will have to content myself with tackling my mental hangups and artistic objectivity head-on. The better I get at overcoming such things, the better my music gets.