How Taking Breaks Can Improve Your Music

Theres a certain stigma when it comes to someone who takes breaks often throughout the work day, but in some cases, like making music, it can be quite beneficial. These are a few basic tips to help improve your music writing and recording experience, no matter what genre you’re working in.

Keeping Ideas Fresh

When you’re writing music, whether it be with a full band or by yourself, its imperative to keep the ideas fresh yet consistent. Its easy to fall into a trap of playing for hours on end only to lose focus on what ideas work, and what ideas you should scrap. Recording your writing/practice sessions can be a huge help, and will put you in a better position to make crucial arrangement decisions.

The key is to record your session up front, and it doesn’t have to be an extensive setup, just something simple to capture ideas. Once you have everything down, stop what you’re doing and take the rest of the day off. Don’t play anymore music, and let the ideas marinate for a while.

The following day you can listen back to what you recorded, and have a fresh set of ears make the call on whether or not the content is good or bad. What originally sounded great during a practice session, might sound like garbage the next day when you’re ears are separated from that environment.

Avoiding Ear Fatigue

Recording and mixing your own music can be a slippery slope thats easy to lose focus on. Often you’ll find with beginners that their overexertion leads to a dull mix with little to no individuality between instruments. This problem stems from spending too much time in one sitting, but much like the tip mentioned above, its an easy issue to fix.

You know that irritating ringing in your ears that happens after a concert? Thats exactly what you want to avoid when working in any recording environment, and its more commonly referred to as ear fatigue. When you expose your ears to loud noise for extended periods of time, they lose their ability to decipher subtle details a song is trying to express.

There are two solutions to this problem, and each depends on the manner in which you’re listening. If you prefer to listen at moderate to high volumes, you need to take frequent breaks at least every half hour. This gives your ears a chance to recalibrate so to speak, and prevents them from sonic over saturation.

Another method is to listen at low levels, and prevent having to take so many breaks. If you can hold a conversation over the audio without raising your voice, this is the optimal level to shoot for. The theory behind this method, is that if you can make a song sound huge at low levels it will sound even bigger when its finished, and the volume is cranked up.

The On Stage Volume Knob Disorder

Its a huge problem for bands that play frequent live shows, and its basically just a natural reaction on their part. They lose the ability to hear their own instrument, so the first solution is reaching for the volume knob and pushing it to eleven. It usually starts with small increments here and there throughout the show, but by the end of the set you’ve given the sound mixer an aneurism trying to compensate for the imbalance.

Ear fatigue is an issue while in a recording environment, but it can actually be dangerous in live settings with volume levels beyond what we are normally used to. Not only will it completely destroy your ears over time, but it will make your band sound like crap. Word will spread across music fans everywhere that your band always sounds bad in a live environment, thus giving you a horrible reputation as a live act.

Now obviously taking a long break isn’t the best idea when performing a live show, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have short moments in-between songs to not only rest your ears for a few seconds, but to interact with the audience as well. Ear plugs and in-ear monitors are a huge help in this department, but in the end it comes down to trusting your own abilities, and trusting the live sound mixer.

By no means does this all mean you should be listening to music like you’re ninety years old. These are just a few tips to help maintain a consistent sound thats not clouded by overexertion and ear fatigue.

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