There’s an epidemic among us. And by us, I mean musicians, engineers, and producers.
We completely forget to do this simple task every day.
And the more days we don’t do this, the worse we get as musicians, engineers, and producers.
We need to listen to music every day. But we need to listen for enjoyment. Here’s three reasons why:
1. If we never listen for enjoyment, we can’t get inspired.
If we are only listening to the sound of the snare drum, the compression on the BGVs, and the low end of the bass, we are completely missing out on the point of the recording. Yes, those elements can make it cool to listen to, but it isn’t why we enjoy music. We enjoy music because of the way it makes us feel. We need to remember that feeling so that we can recreate in the studio.
You may feel “inspired” by a sound, but there is almost always more to it than that. It’s usually a much bigger picture, like the way the sound fits the rest of the production or song. To get real inspiration, listen to the bigger picture and try recreating that feeling in your own way.
2. Listening for enjoyment allows us to rest our creative and technical minds.
You’ve heard of the “Eureka effect”? It’s where you think extremely deeply about something, then completely rest your mind and think about something else. The answer to your original thoughts will appear as if out of thin air.
That can happen in music as well. If you’re working on getting better drums sounds, you’ll be thinking really hard and working to make them better. But when you rest your mind and listen to music for enjoyment, you might have your own Eureka moment and think of just the thing to make your drums that much better.
3. Listening for enjoyment can help you relate to artists that don’t know all the technical stuff.
If you only know technical speak in the studio, you won’t be super valuable to an artist who doesn’t know a channel strip from a XLR cable. You need to bridge the gap.
When you listen to music for enjoyment, you’ll pick up on things like the overall feeling of a recording and the musicianship of the artist. When an artist says they love the guitar work of their favorite artist, you should be able to relate to that as a musician/fan and from a technical standpoint.
So start listening to your favorite record now. And don’t analyze the mix or recording. I know it’s hard, but you’ll be a better engineer for it.