Updated: Feb 20, 2020
Prioritize your time when you sit down to “research”
One of my oldest and closest friends and music partners and I were hanging out in the studio a while back having a cup of coffee and shooting the shit. We’ve been friends for a long time. So long , in fact, that I distinctly remember demonstrating to him the wonderland of DAWs in my own house and later dialing into to my AOL account with a modem to show him the Fantasia which is the internet.
As we do, our conversation turned to the kids these days and how much better they have it, with their YouTube, DAWs, plugins, amp sims, virtual instruments, etc. Did I mention that we’re old?
Generally, these chats usually center around how amazed we both are at just how much information that used to be hard to find is immediately available by simply “googling that shit.” He mentioned a guitar tone that he admired from a particular record from the 80s and I told him that I bet if we googled it we’d find some dude on the internet that would know the exact signal chain used on that date. So, clickety-clackety, bleep-blop-bloop, and a couple of clicks... Boom! We found ourselves on a Gearpage thread where the actual player from that date posted about the gear he used in the sort of granular detail that only guitar players and analog synth nerds can manage.
As some of you fellow old farts will remember, for gear related stuff, it was a combination of magazine surfing, hanging out in instrument shops, talking to other players, going to shows and making friends with guitar techs, etc. Of course, the studio engineering thing was a whole other ball of wax. Once I was bitten by the B3 bug I spent a lot of time in church south of the 10 Freeway in South LA, going to any live show in small joints so that I could to get close enough to try to see what the player was doing with his feet, or what registrations he was using, yaddah yaddah.
Now? I can google that shit and a minute later I’m watching a video on whatever it is I’m trying to figure out. Every time this internet-based musical learning happens, I’m as tickled as the first time.
All that glitters
I’ve never been one of those guys that walled off my studio computer from the web. A big part of that was workflow related and too boring to explain here. But, that doesn’t mean I’m using the studio machine to surf Estonian Napster nodes looking for Muppet snuff flicks. So, generally, if I’m sitting at “the desk” something music-related is about to go down. But, every now and again, I’ll take a break and wander into the interwebs with the intention of clearing my head and catching up on the industry, reading up on new gear, watch a cool industry YouTube vid... I’ll take note of the time and give myself a soft 15 minutes to “catch up” and refocus.
Sometimes I may find myself confronted with an engineering problem I can’t figure out or have a guitar tone in my head and need to find a reference. Again, the interwebs can provide a quick answer and is crazy helpful.
Everything was great, until... <movie announcer vox>
Where the whole internet thing gets unhelpful at the speed of light is when I’m momentarily bored or uninspired and open up the web browser without purpose. It's so easy to fall into this trap specifically because there is so much great music and production information available to us on the web that our brain tricks into thinking that every web foray is basically work related".
It can easily turn into a deep dive down the forum rabbit hole, GAS sprees and untold manner and numbers of ways that you can find that you've wasted what liitle time that you had put aside to work in the studio.
But, regardless... It's wasting time. And wasting it in my own studio that I’ve always dreamed of, built with my own hands, stocked with tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear that I’ve collected over thirty plus years... and I’m treating this space like it’s a man cave rather than a studio of learned doctors.
Now, this may sound a bit harsh, but, that’s the point. And it’s not the studio or the amount of gear that you own that matters in this scenario. It’s the idea of respecting the time that you’re able to spend making music. Put yourself on the clock. If you need to cut into that time to research something, do it. But, otherwise, chop chop.
Not everyone works the same way and that’s a good thing! But, take a moment and imagine the most productive day that you’ve ever had. I suspect that a good bit of discipline and structure is at the core of it. When you don't, you lose the one thing you cannot get back: Time.
Guard it with your life.