Set a deadline

I've notice on several occasions that it seems like I do my best work when I'm on a tight deadline.  If a client wants their stuff done in no time flat, the pressures on, and I have to deliver.  More often than not, things come out better than I could have hoped for.

And I've been noticing this for years.  This used to happen all the time in my computer business.  And it's basically every time I end up doing live sound somewhere.  It has to work and it has to work now.

Sometime stress frees you from the problems choices make.

Okay, that seems like an insane comment.  How can choices make problems?  Easy, having too many choices produces indecision, indecision makes you second guess everything you do, which then ends up snowballing into a potentially bad (or at least a "could have been better") mix.  Really, knuckling down and going all out with a decision usually makes for better results.

So how does stress free you from these problems?  If you're under pressure you don't have time to pick and choose.  This means that you'll likely go with what you're most comfortable and most familiar with.  This means that you'll get a better sound, faster, and that'll give you more time to work on the problem areas.

Set a deadline.

This seems like a business thing, and it kind of is.  Even if you only mix your own material, you should still run your stuff like a business.  And that means that you need to set goals and deadlines.  If you don't, you'll never finish the mix you're working on.  Trust me, it can always sound "better."  But it might not be so much better, per se, rather different.  One of the best things you can do for your mix, is to set a deadline for the finished product.

Lets say your mixing your own 5 song EP.  You just finished recording it, and you'd like for it to be released in 3 months.  Well, there's your goal...3 months for release.  But you need to leave room for production work, ie mastering, cd printing, merch, and so on.  So you really only have maybe 2 months to finish mixing it.  If that's the case, set a deadline of 45 days for mixing.  That gives you a month and a half to mix 5 songs...which is a TON of time, if you mix all the time that is.  If you only ever work on your own stuff, you might only have a few hours a week to mix, so that may be really tight.

So now you have your deadline.  Make sure that it's feasible but still something you have to work to reach.  Now what do you do?  Work like there's nothing past that deadline.  You have to have it done by that day.  And guess what, you'll make it happen.  Then, when that day is done, the mix you have is the mix you have.  Move on with your life and your music.

What if the mix sucks by the deadline?

Then you've hit a fork in the road.  At this point you need to be honest with yourself.  Was the deadline unreasonable, or were you in over your head?  Either one is fine, but you need to be honest with yourself.  If you just simply didn't give yourself enough time, then make a new deadline and push even harder.  If you're in over your head, it might be time to ask for help or to send it off to a pro.  If you're doing a demo EP, and you're over your head - think about setting a second deadline, working hard towards it, and just release it when it's done anyway.  A demo is a demo...you're not looking for airplay with it.  Do your best and move on.

This is really part of the learning process.  Just like when you first picked up a guitar, you weren't able to play Stairway to Heaven the first time.  It took practice.  Every mix you do helps to hone your skill.  But your skill will never improve if you never mix and you never finish a mix.  Sometimes it's best to just finish it, put it out, and move on to the next.

I hope this little practical tip of setting a deadline and letting the stress help you out helps.  Work hard, have fun, do your best.  Go and make something you love.

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