For some people, happiness is a tiny dot in a perfect storm. For me, it’s a choice that I make every day, both at work and in my personal life. I love my job, but I also love my life outside the studio.
Because I want to cram a universe worth of experiences into a finite number of years, I’ve devised a number of timesavers that make me highly efficient and productive in the recording studio. Some are elaborate and expensive, costing tens of thousands of dollars, while others are as simple as $49 utility apps and home brewed mix templates that don’t cost a dime.
Before I share some of these efficiency tips with you, let’s talk about why this concept is so important to me. We could discuss last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, but instead let’s keep it local because it is easier to relate to something that could happen to you, me or our loved ones.
Mark Scott is a USA National Champion bicycle racer who is the icon of health and fitness. He has taken such good care of his body that I could imagine cold and flu bugs being too scared to make his acquaintance. He is the opposite of feeble: he is Thor, and his bicycle is his hammer.
Apparently cancer did not get the memo. It arrived uninvited, like so many other surprises in our lives. Mark is now fighting for his life, trying to beat leukemia. He has a positive attitude, but he desperately needs a compatible bone marrow donor. I sincerely hope that he recovers and lives a long happy life, but the reality is that any day could be his last.
If I were Mark, I would not want to waste a single minute. Things like being stuck in traffic, waiting for a slowly loading Internet page, or fixing auto correct typos on an iPhone would drive me crazy. Even being blessed with exceptionally good health, I’m well aware that I am nearly three quarters of the way through my four score. That’s why being efficient in the studio, especially with respect to technical, noncreative tasks, it is so important to me. I want to experience as much self-realized “outside” life as possible. Every minute truly does count.
Creating custom recording and mixing templates for yourself is a great way to speed up your workflow and get better results. In the digital domain, you can save templates inside the DAW. They should contain your routing, effects, preferences, etc. In the analog domain, you can configure your patchbay to always accommodate the lead vocal on a particular console channel, the bass DI and amp on another two faders, the drums on a particular set, and so on. Ideally you would have your favorite compressors and EQs ready to go on the appropriate channels. Templates can save you literally hours of work every day. Plus they help you to get into a creative headspace more quickly.
Utility apps can also be a huge timesavers. One of my favorites is StereoMonoizer by Soundizers. It quickly and effortlessly deals with one of my pet peeves: analyzing stereo audio files to determine if they are in fact mono. Think about it… Sometimes clients will send me 120 audio tracks, all apparently stereo as a result of the export process. It can take hours to meticulously listen to every one in order to determine that 90% of the files are really mono. StereoMonoizer does this for me, and makes the conversion to mono where appropriate, in a matter of minutes. The $49 price tag bought me not just a cool tool, but also more free time to do other things I love with people I love. Hats off to Blake Eiseman for giving me a better quality of life!
Taken to the extreme, it’s easy to spend $30,000 in one lump sum to save a few hours a day, every day. That’s what I did after I discovered that I had more fun while working twice as fast, mixing in the analog domain. That hefty chunk of change bought me 64 channels of analog to digital and digital to analog converters, as well as analog summing mixers to euphoniously add up all the musical elements. It also bought me more time to spend hiking and cycling with my wife. I cannot overstate the fact that it is so easy to live an unbalanced life when you work in the record business. At my level, $30K was a small price to pay for facilitating balance in a fast paced, high pressure, high performance lifestyle.
Circling back to Thor, I mean Mark Scott, I can’t help but think about the power of purpose. Just as we audio professionals devoted countless hours to developing our craft, Mark powered his way across hundreds of thousands of miles to develop his. Create a good game plan, execute it, and reap the rewards. Excellence takes time, which is perhaps the scarcest commodity we possess. It is far too valuable to be wasted.
As an upbeat tangentially related thought, I’ll tell you a little bit about one of the guys in the photo below. Mark is obviously the cyclist winning the race, but the guy to the right of the photo is his teammate David Worthington, who also is a member of the rock band Dos Gatos. David is remarkable on many levels (poet, musician, geologist), but the attribute that I most admire is the fact that he is a fiercely loyal and devoted friend. Because of the inherent power connected to his sense of purpose, he was able to rally the entire Southern California cycling community to help Mark raise much needed medical funds. He’s been a spiritual teammate throughout the cancer battle, and he’s focusing on a positive instead of negative outcome.
David is the opposite of a fair weather friend: he’s a committed team player. If I should ever have the misfortune of being thrown in jail, Dave would be on the short list of folks I would call to bail me out— even though I rarely visit with him. I say this because of my experience mixing the Dos Gatos album with Dave. I noticed that he always made sure that everyone involved was comfortable and truly appreciated. That “empowerment” quality is extremely valuable to anyone who wants to succeed in the record biz. A rising tide makes all boats float higher.
Talk about dedication and commitment, Dave and his writing partner Eric Depperschmidt stuck together against all odds for 15 years to realize their dream of making an artistically pure album without any commercial considerations. They made the album they wished they could have bought from some other artist many years ago, but nobody ever made it—so they wrote and recorded it themselves. Now they can listen to it whenever they want. It’s not easily categorized Pop, but it’s really cool, especially for those who enjoy discovering new, under the radar, independent music. I’m especially fond of a song titled “Lupe.” Anyway, despite the long strange trip, Dave and Eric ticked another box on the Bucket List, and not a moment too soon. After all, every precious minute counts.