I’ve been working on a project lately that has become far more intricate and complicated than I ever expected it to be. When it began a couple of months ago I truly felt that we would be farther along. And as the level of complication of these tracks with their stacks of plugins continues to rise I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated and even bored. So what to do in such a funk? For me, I need to change gears for a while.
One of the other activities I love besides performing and producing music is cooking. In particular, I love to bake bread. There’s something about the methodology of baking that calms me and allows my frustration to fade to the back burner. Maybe it’s the act of being so closely in contact with my food. Maybe it’s the smell of the bread starter. Maybe it’s just the whole process. Whatever the case, I find that baking lets me reset.
Now one of the things I like about the particular type of bread that I make is that it’s very simple yet still interesting. And of course, it’s delicious. What makes it interesting is that I use a variety of types of grains. Bread flour, whole wheat, spelt, semolina, rye; it’s all in there. It’s a recipe that I’ve been building and tweaking for years. All of which was derived from a starter that I captured from the air while living in the Blue Ridge Mountains plus a simple, yet classic, French bread recipe. What makes it simple is the purity of the ingredients, the grains I named above, spring water and salt. That’s it. What also makes it simple is the way it’s made. Mix it all together, knead it some, let it rise, then bake. It’s not rocket science, and it always yields an amazing loaf of homemade sourdough. What could be more satisfying?
Well, what was more satisfying for me today is realizing that music mixing can be the same way; simple yet interesting. I think I’m going about this mix all wrong. I’m more concerned with the intricacies of every note and every beat instead of being interested in the big picture stuff. I should be more reliant on the quality of the performance instead of the utility of my plugins. Do I really need this many compressors? Do I really need this many effects? Can I not get a great mix from the ingredients I already have? And that’s the real question. Can I take the simple high-quality ingredients of tracks that I have and use simple, tried and true mixing techniques to get a great mix? I think I can. I know I can! I don’t need that many compressors or effects; some well-placed EQ, some subtle compression, maybe a pinch of delay – just dead simple. Maybe I’ll knead it for a while then let it bake for a bit, but that’s it. Simple, interesting, delicious, just like music, and food should be. Lesson learned.