What musicians hate the most

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I recently helped a recording artist on a new project during mixing. The mixing process involves a lot of listening as the artist and engineer work together to tweak tiny things that will make the music more impactful.

When she listened to the final mix, the artist panicked a bit. She told me she was not going to release the project because she did not think it was any good. All she could hear were mistakes and problems and she was mortified.

I could sense what was going on because I knew exactly what was happening. There always seems to be a day or two during the mixing process where you decide the sky is falling. All you can hear is a mess of problems and you decide there is no way possible that the project is salvageable.

It happens to me on every project. I remember the day I called the engineer and told him that Reflections on a Journey was a lost cause. Now, six years later, that CD has outsold anything else I have released by a wide margin. That is partly because it has been around longer than the others, but it is also because it was not in as bad of shape as I thought.

Over time, I have learned that this phenomenon is largely psychological. Listening to yourself critically is just brutal and it takes a toll. When the crash happens, you have to recognize it as such. Probably the best thing to do is to just put aside the project for a day or two.

That is not to say that all problems are imaginary though. Every project has real problems and no one will know that better than the artist. How you deal with those problems is what is important.

My best advice is to get the project to production and then stop listening to it. Don’t put yourself through that misery. Accept that there are problems and accept the fact that you will probably never enjoy listening to that project.

Yes, that is the truth though a lot of people do not understand it. Very often, I will be somewhere and someone will put my music on as dinner music or prelude music. Their intention is to honor me and they consider it a compliment, but what they don’t realize is I am doing everything possible to ignore it. My music playing in the background is like nails on a chalkboard.

So feel free to stop listening as soon as you can.  But there is something very important you need to do next.  You need to start working on another project with the resolve to do better. You can’t fix the last project but you can avoid the same problems on the next one.

Recording music is a educational journey.  Forget about perfect music because it doesn’t exist. You will never truly be happy with the music you record if you record for 80 years.

And that is exactly how it should be.