Blog: How Many Summers Have You Got Left?

How to use your time effectively in the studio      31/07/13

Tactic 4: Be kind to yourself

It's easy to become overly critical, especially of yourself. You play your music back and it doesn't match up to your favourite tracks in terms of sound quality, playing, feel. The temptation is to become depressed and think... why bother?

But as Diego Stocco said in a recent Sonic State podcast (321) - none of us start from a point of excellence. Learning is an end in itself - 'You can start from zero and build up... The process of learning is beautiful, because when you learn [recording techniques] they become yours. And something that becomes yours is much more powerful that something you use out of necessity.'

So my fourth tactic is to try and lower my expectations and be kinder to myself. This is not an easy trick to pull off, but when I do manage it, I find that I enjoy the time I spend making music, rather than worrying about the end result. I want to write a song, but does it have to win a Grammy? It would be nice to have a hit, of course, but your music can still have value even if you are the only person to ever listen to it - especially if you enjoyed making it. Everything after that is a bonus.

By successfully deploying Tactics 1-4 I find that I'm learning to enjoy making music, and making more of the time I have. But what if it still doesn't feel like enough? Please, sir, I want some more. Perhaps Tactic 5 is a genuine possibility...

Tactic 5: Give up work

There can be no doubt that work is time-consuming and often bothersome. If you would like to spend more time making music and find your job getting in the way why not give up your job? Or cut down your hours? Of course you probably have bills to pay, a mortgage.

But if you do your sums, you might find you could live with far less than you think you need. Let's face it, all we really have to do is work enough hours to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. Beyond that, it's up to us how we spend our time.

I recently went down to three days a week, thanks to an understanding partner and my employer's flexible working policy. I now have the freedom to spend two days a week doing what I want - writing music, working on a novel, exploring alternative ways to earn a living.

Now I'm the first to admit that my music still isn't swinging all that much, the novel is going nowhere and I won't be settling back by my new pool any time soon but... and here's the thing... I'm happier. 


When you've got as few summers left as I have, being happy counts for quite a lot.


Matthew Tanner is a copywriter and amateur musician. He played his first gig when he was 13, carrying his drum kit to the gig in a shopping trolley. He has been into home recording since he bought a Tascam 144 Portastudio in 1979.


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7 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Al    Said...

Good post. Here's one tip I can add:

A while back I experimented with getting up early - like 5am early. Weirdly, I found it's actually quite easy to wake up that early (somehow giving yourself more time in bed makes you sleepier when you get up, ironically).

The benefit is I ended up with at least two peaceful, responsibility-free hours with nobody else up - so you have time to make music, write, whatever.

It's like the kind of time you have late at night, but without the danger of overdoing it, staying up till 2am, and ending up very tired the next day.

You then go to work with stuff already achieved before the very day is begun, using time you were just sleeping through before.

Recommended! This post has reminded me to try it again.

31-Jul-13 05:35 AM

Mattsynth    Said...

True statement and a very interesting solution. How about the times when you have an idea in your mind and when you go to record it you cannot get the sound or mix just the way it was in your head. Music today is so buried in technology, computers, DAW & plugins I don't not know which thing to adjust first. Guitar tracks have always been difficult for me and I waste a lot of time trying to get then just right.

31-Jul-13 12:44 PM

Connor    Said...

When I want to make music, I usually plug my synth into my computer's external audio input, turn on a DAW, and start with what it is that the track needs, so I might say, "ok, I need a percussion track first" and then start programming that and then getting a good bpm to work with. The rest is a cluttered mess of adding bass and leads and rhythms and vocals, but hey, it works for me. Nonetheless, the article definitely had some good tips and I plan on implementing some, if not all, of them into my music sessions.

31-Jul-13 01:06 PM

Ted    Said...

Profound advice!

I rarely come up with anything worth a fig if I sit down at my DAW and just expect lightning.

A decent idea or hummed riff is probably worth 10 hours of random noodling.

31-Jul-13 07:55 PM

Matthew Tanner    Said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Hi Al, I've also tried getting up early - I wrote a (very bad) novel after getting up at 4:30 every morning for six months. Ended up pretty tired though, which is why I decided to go down to three days a week.

Hi Matt, thanks - I'm not too bad with guitars and bass, but struggle getting a rhythm track to swing with any genuine sense of conviction. Maybe we should team up!

Hi Connor - good luck trying out my tactics - hope they work for you.

Hi Ted - totally agree with you - the idea has to come first.

And I wanted to write about steering clear of loops - they're one of the biggest time wasters in my book. We're musicians - we should make loops, not assemble them. They're as evil as presets in my opinion - and every bit as tempting...

01-Aug-13 10:48 AM

5SN    Said...

Good article. It's something I've been thinking about a lot. I think one of the problems is that electronic music (which I make) can be expected to be polished to perfection. Also, DAWs allow endless tinkering of incredibly fine details. And then, there's that little voice that says, "I just need to do this, that or the other to make the track better". I definitely think it's a good tip to keep writing and recording, mixing and mastering, all separate. My two cents.

01-Aug-13 11:26 AM

Dan    Said...

Great advice. Unfortunately, in the US if you stop working or go part time you lose health care (if you had it in the first place). Complicates the decision.

02-Aug-13 02:58 PM

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