Keeping Creativity Alive In Engineering (Part 1) – From An Engineer’s Journal – How Coffee Helps You Mix.

As an engineer/producer life is full of deadlines, scheduling, mix revisions, invoices, and details. These are all incredibly important things but getting “tied up” in them can lead to losing sight of why we started engineering in the first place. I’ve had many conversations about this topic with other professional engineers. So I thought I would take a couple blog posts to share some of the ways I, and other engineers, keep from getting bogged down by the details and remain creative and passionate about engineering and producing.

Take Short Frequent Breaks:

When I’m in the midst of a rather long process, whether it’s mixing, tuning, and even tracking, I make sure to work in regular short breaks. When mixing, editing, or tuning, my ears and mind need to be at their best to do their best work as efficiently as possible. And after hours upon hours of listening, to eventually reach the “point of diminishing returns.” This is the point at which actions are no longer making a big enough difference to justify taking them, largely because of fatigue. Reaching this point is exhausting and kills creativity. So take meaningful breaks, leave the room, get some fresh air outside, play a video game on a couch for 10 minutes, grab another cup of tea [or coffee if you must ;-)]. The idea is to take a break where you’re not thinking about the task you’re breaking from. And not listening to music helps as well. Just hit the reset button on your ears and brain so when you walk back in the room, you are ready to rock!

Try something new in each song/project you work on:

Many times I get so consumed with the task at hand I forget to try new things. It’s easy to just use your usual workflow and become complacent when it comes to trying new things. This is why I make a point to insert my creativity by trying something new each project, or song I mix. This can be a different reverb technique, a delay, some fun automation that you’ve never used before(or not for a long time), a filter effect. The possibilities are really endless. The idea is to make sure you spend some time being creative with the tools at hand. I like to set aside a specific amount of time for this about two thirds of the way through a mix. I’ll say, “for 30 minutes I’m working on . . .” and when the time is up, if I don’t like where my creativity is headed, or think doing it right will take more time than I want, I “save as” and move on. Some things I’ve done before are: Crazy delay’s, multiple reverbs(one for attack, another for decay), recording a vocal through a distorted guitar amp, building loops, distorting synths/strings, to name a few. So get your creative hats on and try something special on every project you work on!

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