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Regaining The Passion For Music

Similar to "can't see the forest for the trees," sometimes we don't hear the music for the mix...

By M. Erik Matlock June 3, 2016

Image courtesy of Scan80

In November of 1997, I ruined my wife’s life. Well, maybe not her life… But definitely the way she listens to music.

After explaining the mixing process and how we listen to specific sounds and their relationship to other sounds, she began listening differently. She began to point out reverb tails. She noticed variations to drum tones and the amount of distortion on guitars. She even picked up on loops versus recorded instruments occasionally.

During a road trip, we were listening to one of her favorite albums. At the end of one song, she turned the music down and sarcastically told me thanks. “We just went through that whole song and all I could hear was the snare.”

Ah, yes. Another music lover turned into a critical listener.

It’s worse with us, as engineers. Most of us got involved in the technical side after years of being passionate about music. We went from playing the music or just enjoying it, to capturing and critiquing it. In some ways, we may have even taken all the fun out of it.

Growing up in the seventies and eighties, it was not uncommon to gather the gang and spend an evening listening to albums straight through. Not as background noise while we played games or used the phone. Listening to music was the goal. Immersing ourselves in a classic album or two was the entire plan.

This all came back to me since my daughter picked up a record player a few weeks ago. We have begun the search for those magnificent recordings that influenced me and developed my passion for music.

She has no idea what kind of Pandora’s box she just opened. (Insert maniacal laughter.)

Recently, I have been sitting down with some choice selections and attempting to accomplish absolutely nothing, except to regain that passion. I just want to step back into a time when I wasn’t overwhelmed with schedules, the barrage of text and email messages, 24/7 distractions and interruptions… Just to relax and enjoy the creative work that helped shape who I am and what I do.

We have all been guilty of not seeing the forest for the trees at various times. It’s easy to get bogged down on microscopic details as we mix and manage the details of the industry. But, if you’re honest, the music is what drew us in.

My wife has gradually returned to normal life, listening to her music just because she enjoys it. I may never be able to clear my head enough to abandon the distraction of a squeaky kick pedal or poorly timed delay, but I am learning to appreciate the mix as a whole all over again.

So if you will excuse me, Dark Side of the Moon is calling to me again…

Senior editor .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years in live, install, and recording. Read more of his random rants and tirades here.

About M. Erik

M. Erik Matlock
M. Erik Matlock

Senior Editor, ProSoundWeb
Erik worked in a wide range of roles in pro audio for more than 20 years in a dynamic career that encompasses system design and engineering in the live, install and recording markets. He also spent several years as a production staff member and team leader for the largest non-denominational church in central Georgia, and served as an author for several leading industry publications before joining the PSW team.


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