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Losing Perspective on Your Music Virtual Instrument Plugins
Old 28th February 2014
  #1
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Losing Perspective on Your Music

I wanted to see if anyone else has this 'issue' when working on pieces and how they overcome it.

Sometimes I'll be working on a track, and after a week or two, I suddenly don't even know if it's working or what it needs anymore. This only happens with orchestral tracks for me, but I seem to lose myself in it and no longer have a point of view regarding the actual effectiveness of the track. Does anyone else get this? I've gotten over it before by taking a break then coming back to it, but I can't always just take a break from it, because of deadlines.

Something I hate, is that I'll be working on a track for a week and think it's going really great - I'll take a week off from it, then come back, only to discover that the track is hilariously bad. It's like that week off allowed me to enter it again with a different mindset.

I just finished a short cue that's really string heavy, a bitch to write and arrange and I like the sound of it, but because I've been working on it for a while, I've sort of lost perspective. I'm dreading to hear it in a few days and do this ---->

Am I crazy, just not that talented, or do others get this?
Old 28th February 2014
  #2
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I think this is a pretty normal process. Your brain subconsciously evaluates the track you have been working on during this break and steadily compares it with tracks you consider as a reference.
The more you do it the easier it gets and the more confidence will emerge.
One way to deal with this issue - at least for me - is to show the music to someone whom I trust and whose musical opinion I truly value. Often people who really enjoy and appreciate music but are not necessarily that deep into the process/active musicians can be of a great help.
Old 28th February 2014
  #3
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I get this as well. I'm used to working on stuff with fairly short deadlines so I don't get chance to really evaluate it over time, but I've been working on a couple of things over the last 3 weeks with no fixed deadline and I'm going crazy deciding if the mix is okay, too much low end, not enough low end, adjusting levels, then listening and preferring old mixes, then I question if it's even good and get to a point where I'm dreading loading up Logic to listen with fresh ears in the morning.

I think we know if something is good, but whether it is great or close to perfect is really up to the person listening. I thought Korn were fantastic 13 years ago, not so much now.

Good to have another persons perspective.

Email me an MP3 if you want to check out.
Old 28th February 2014
  #4
mixmixmix
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Yes it happens to me. If I take a break and if the track does not sound good anymore, I will redo all the parts that sound weak. I do it everytime I find a fault. Works really well . Don't be afraid to redo things. Good luck.

Last edited by mixmixmix; 28th February 2014 at 04:48 PM.. Reason: grammar
Old 28th February 2014
  #5
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Hi. First off, this doesn't happen to me. Not now, anyway. It did, before I knew how to properly compose and orchestrate for a full orchestra. I thought I knew how at one point, but one day I came to the realization that after working on cues for a while, I would suddenly not know if the cue was working, nor what they needed. That taught me that maybe I didn't know as much as I thought I did. I am not a know-it-all now, and I am still learning, but am at the point where I am pretty confident in my abilities, and feel that I know what I am doing. At least to a larger degree.

Might I humbly suggest that you are in the same boat I was once in? I don't know this, but your issue is probably more orchestration related, than related to actual composing. Assuming that's the case, what I would do if I were you, is hire an orchestrator for a few of your cues. Send him/her what you have, and let them add and make corrections as need be. You will of course pay them for their time, but the lesson(s) you get will be invaluable.

Cheers.
Old 28th February 2014
  #6
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Cool to hear I'm not the only one. Thanks for the tips.

"Don't be afraid to redo things" is so true, actually. I've started being a bit more fearless in terms of re-writing parts. But then I start thinking, 'does it need re-writing? I wrote it this way first for a reason, surely?.' Horrible cycle!

Amber, this is the cue I just finished yesterday. I quite like it today, but this feeling may wear off by next week. Can you tell me what you think of these strings? It's been quite a challenge to arrange these vst's to sound as authentic as possible:

It's a bit Elfman/James Horner-ish.

https://soundcloud.com/sclunie/one-last-wish
Old 28th February 2014
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
Might I humbly suggest that you are in the same boat I was once in? I don't know this, but your issue is probably more orchestration related, than related to actual composing. Assuming that's the case, what I would do if I were you, is hire an orchestrator for a few of your cues. Send him/her what you have, and let them add and make corrections as need be. You will of course pay them for their time, but the lesson(s) you get will be invaluable.
Jeff, you've probably nailed it, here. I never thought it was most probably due to my orchestration skills or lack there of. An orchestrator is an amazing idea to help me learn more about this. Thanks for the insight.
Old 28th February 2014
  #8
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None of our all-time favourite music would withstand repeated listens constantly over x-hours (I dare anyone to listent to their favourite short track 5 times in a row without starting to feel the magic slip away). I'm always trying to tell myself that the perspective that matters is the first listen, followed by a small number of subsequent listens. THe question of whether your track remains interesting after the 8th hour in a row is completely irrelevent.

Accordingly I trust my judgements less and less once I've heard a track x hundred times, your brain will no longer be capacble of imagining what it sounds like to those who matter, i.e. first-listeners.

So for me at least it's a massive issue for workflow, pointing to switching between a group of tracks to try and keep perspective fresh as much as possible. I almost have to switch off my critical mind if i'm forced to listen for ages an ages, particuarly the bit of the mind that says "I'm sure this was exciting, but it's sort of plain now, it just needs a littttttle something more" - that's the road to hell in my expierience!

My 2c
Old 28th February 2014
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazz4 View Post
Cool to hear I'm not the only one. Thanks for the tips.

"Don't be afraid to redo things" is so true, actually. I've started being a bit more fearless in terms of re-writing parts.

Amber, this is the cue I just finished yesterday. I quite like it today, but this feeling may wear off by next week. Can you tell me what you think of these strings? It's been quite a challenge to arrange these vst's to sound as authentic as possible:

It's a bit Elfman/James Horner-ish.

https://soundcloud.com/sclunie/one-last-wish
Sam, I'm not good enough with this style of music to have a valid opinion from a producing/composing point of view, but as someone who grew up watching films with scores likes this as I've mentioned to you, here are a few comments if I was to compare.

Great writing. Lots of nostalgia and reminds me of the sort of films I'll always love from my childhood. I think you could have more high end on the strings. Maybe you're cutting something out because your mind is playing tricks on you and you're wanting to hear less of what you think might be a problem?

Do you have a reverb over the whole mix? If so I think I'd make it a tad less wet.

In busier sections like 0.10-0.18 , I think the strings could swell up and down more abruptly.

At 0.40 - 0.42 the melody line that leads you into the next section I think you could take out so there is more of a dynamic into this section.

0.48 Could come in a bit bigger here I think.

Overall I think the composition is great (and for a mock up it sounds great as well). I just think making the swells more dynamic would make it tell more of a story if that makes sense. I think the melody lines are strong enough to stand out more to have a bit more conviction and wonder. Listening to it, I want the melody to pop out more and make those goosebumps pop out.
Old 28th February 2014
  #10
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Amber's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by GJ999x View Post
None of our all-time favourite music would withstand repeated listens constantly over x-hours (I dare anyone to listent to their favourite short track 5 times in a row without starting to feel the magic slip away). I'm always trying to tell myself that the perspective that matters is the first listen, followed by a small number of subsequent listens. THe question of whether your track remains interesting after the 8th hour in a row is completely irrelevent.

Accordingly I trust my judgements less and less once I've heard a track x hundred times, your brain will no longer be capacble of imagining what it sounds like to those who matter, i.e. first-listeners.

So for me at least it's a massive issue for workflow, pointing to switching between a group of tracks to try and keep perspective fresh as much as possible. I almost have to switch off my critical mind if i'm forced to listen for ages an ages, particuarly the bit of the mind that says "I'm sure this was exciting, but it's sort of plain now, it just needs a littttttle something more" - that's the road to hell in my expierience!

My 2c
Needed to read this today. Really sums up the mind games I've been experiencing on the pieces of music I've been working on lately.

I'm trying to have more of a create then edit workflow and separate the two tasks. I'm close to always trusting my gut with my ideas in the creative part and knowing whether they're worth carrying on with. But I do get that part of my brain telling me the track might not be as special as I thought it was when I first heard it. I need to learn to ignore that and trust the side of my brain that created it in the first place and liked it enough to put it in the hands of the editing side of my brain.
Old 28th February 2014
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
Sam, I'm not good enough with this style of music to have a valid opinion from a producing/composing point of view, but as someone who grew up watching films with scores likes this as I've mentioned to you, here are a few comments if I was to compare.

Great writing. Lots of nostalgia and reminds me of the sort of films I'll always love from my childhood. I think you could have more high end on the strings. Maybe you're cutting something out because your mind is playing tricks on you and you're wanting to hear less of what you think might be a problem?

Do you have a reverb over the whole mix? If so I think I'd make it a tad less wet.

In busier sections like 0.10-0.18 , I think the strings could swell up and down more abruptly.

At 0.40 - 0.42 the melody line that leads you into the next section I think you could take out so there is more of a dynamic into this section.

0.48 Could come in a bit bigger here I think.

Overall I think the composition is great (and for a mock up it sounds great as well). I just think making the swells more dynamic would make it tell more of a story if that makes sense. I think the melody lines are strong enough to stand out more to have a bit more conviction and wonder. Listening to it, I want the melody to pop out more and make those goosebumps pop out.
Wow, perfect, thanks Amber. Jesus, I knew 0.48 had to be bigger! I like the melody, too. I will need to go back and make it pop out more like you mentioned. Finally, an outside opinion. Cheers!
Old 28th February 2014
  #12
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drBill's Avatar
This is a perspective problem, not a talent problem. Your connundrum does not happen to me anymore. Or to be fair, it is very, very rare when it does. And ultimately, when it does, there are dozens of other pieces to work on or things to do, and coming back to it will illuminate the realities of the piece. What really helps is FINISHING the piece, observing the problems/beauties and moving on to the next piece(s) using what you learned to grow.

As a professional, our job is to write music - not to judge it. Of course we strive for coolness, creativity, originality, etc., but it does not have to be the best, or even better than the last piece we wrote. If you have the perspective of "it has to be great, it has to be better than the last piece" it will destine you for failure and writers burnout. When I realized that my "great works of art" were seldom used, and that dumb pieces I would have thrown away - were they not commissioned and directed by others - were getting lots of useage, it changed my perspective permanently. I am NOT a good judge of what will get used in the marketplace, because there are so many different perspectives than mine.

Artists create. They do not judge. It is their job to rely on instinct, skill and experience to create "art". What is great art? It is different to every single person, which is why so many hate one form of music/art while others embrace it with everything their soul can muster. Whether a piece of music/art is "good, great or crap" is the job of others to determine - not the composers. When you gain and embrace that perspective, it will loose the spirit of creativity and "writers block" will be something you look back on as a distant roadblock. Add to that experience, growth, and the perspective shift, and it will break the chains that shackle you - allowing you to write exponentially better music, which in turn will help you with the next piece, and on an on. It creates a vortex of artistic growth that cannot be achieved by myopic and judgmental introspection.

At least that;s how it works for me. heh
Old 28th February 2014
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazz4 View Post
Wow, perfect, thanks Amber. Jesus, I knew 0.48 had to be bigger! I like the melody, too. I will need to go back and make it pop out more like you mentioned. Finally, an outside opinion. Cheers!
No worries, feel free to email anytime for some feedback. I could often do with help with feedback etc myself so might be good to get each others opinions sometimes.
Old 28th February 2014
  #14
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Amber's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
When I realized that my "great works of art" were seldom used, and that dumb pieces I would have thrown away - were they not commissioned and directed by others - were getting lots of useage, it changed my perspective permanently.
This. I have a track that I put together in literally an hour for a gig where I was getting frustrated and felt underpaid and under valued. I was just tired of trying hard and felt like they'd had enough from me for the amount I was being paid. So whatever I produced then on was just a business decision and nothing else.

It's probably one of the two tracks I license the most
Old 28th February 2014
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
If you have the perspective of "it has to be great, it has to be better than the last piece" it will destine you for failure and writers burnout. When I realized that my "great works of art" were seldom used, and that dumb pieces I would have thrown away - were they not commissioned and directed by others - were getting lots of useage, it changed my perspective permanently.
This is unfortunately me. I DO always try and top myself and after I finish a job I'm completely burnt out from it. Even though my 'crappy' pieces get way more useages than the ones I try really hard on, I still haven't quite learned that, yet. Thanks for imparting this info - spelling it out like that has made think a lot more about how I work.
Old 28th February 2014
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
No worries, feel free to email anytime for some feedback. I could often do with help with feedback etc myself so might be good to get each others opinions sometimes.
Absolutely, I'm always happy to be another pair of ears, too.
Old 28th February 2014
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
This. I have a track that I put together in literally an hour for a gig where I was getting frustrated and felt underpaid and under valued. I was just tired of trying hard and felt like they'd had enough from me for the amount I was being paid. So whatever I produced then on was just a business decision and nothing else.

It's probably one of the two tracks I license the most
The closing theme for WKRP in Cincinatti - I've read the band/singer were asked to just jam out a rough sample of what they had in mind - there weren't even lyrics yet, so the singer just made up mostly unintelligible lyrics and belted something out. Turned out so perfect they kept that take as the theme music we all know and love. Decades later people are still asking for the lyrics to that tune.
Old 28th February 2014
  #18
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazz4 View Post
This is unfortunately me. I DO always try and top myself and after I finish a job I'm completely burnt out from it. Even though my 'crappy' pieces get way more useages than the ones I try really hard on, I still haven't quite learned that, yet. Thanks for imparting this info - spelling it out like that has made think a lot more about how I work.

Sorry to hear that, but glad you are thinking thru things. Being a composer - especially these days - is about OUTPUT, not one-upping yourself. Don't get me wrong, I ALWAYS strive for something better and more useable that will hopefully stand the test of time, but once the muse / idea presents itself, I just FINISH it and move on, knowing that it's impossible to always go one notch up the ladder with EVERY piece I write. And worse -- that even if I believe it's a notch higher, someone else will view it as a failure.

We can NOT judge our own work - all we can do it FINISH it and move on to another, learning lessons, and hoping that someone else will judge our talent as useable. Ultimately, that is the truth that many would be writers cannot live with - they rely on their own emotions and personal attachment to what they write to judge worthiness.

I always have to chuckle when people tell me that they are really good and write great music. I always tell them that the guy down the street will be the judge of that.
Old 28th February 2014
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post

We can NOT judge our own work - all we can do it FINISH it and move on to another, learning lessons, and hoping that someone else will judge our talent as useable. Ultimately, that is the truth that many would be writers cannot live with - they rely on their own emotions and personal attachment to what they write to judge worthiness.

I always have to chuckle when people tell me that they are really good and write great music. I always tell them that the guy down the street will be the judge of that.
Sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree on this one. Sure is a creator of something able to judge it. Objectivity does not exist within music, but we are subjectively able to tell if we created total rubbish or something fairly good, imo. I mean we all have listened to thousands of hours of music in our lives, we are socialised with criteria/opinions/values - good and bad ones - since our early childhood. These influences have been forming our taste and they will continue to do so - if we want it or not - till our last breath.


In fact, I feel that every single decision during an act of creation - whether it is "art" or not - is a form of judgment.


On the other hand I agree that an exaggerated form of perfectionism and over thinking is one of the main reasons for writers block and I also agree that one of the best methods to overcome these obstacles is to finish something and let the guy down the street be the "final" judge. But don't pick one who suffers from amusia.
Old 28th February 2014
  #20
Ever since I got heavy into making music, I stopped worrying about things so much. I only have three stages to making a track: stage 1 is creation, stage 2 is edits, and stage 3 is mix. After that, I export the file as a wav and put the session files in a completed folder.

I cannot tell you how fast I got at creating music after that. I can never go back to the days where it took me a week just to demo drums or create a melody. Working fast for me is beneficial because I focus on getting things right the first time.

Try it out.
Old 28th February 2014
  #21
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by color View Post
Sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree on this one. Sure is a creator of something able to judge it. Objectivity does not exist within music, but we are subjectively able to tell if we created total rubbish or something fairly good, imo. I mean we all have listened to thousands of hours of music in our lives, we are socialised with criteria/opinions/values - good and bad ones - since our early childhood. These influences have been forming our taste and they will continue to do so - if we want it or not - till our last breath.


In fact, I feel that every single decision during an act of creation - whether it is "art" or not - is a form of judgment.


On the other hand I agree that an exaggerated form of perfectionism and over thinking is one of the main reasons for writers block and I also agree that one of the best methods to overcome these obstacles is to finish something and let the guy down the street be the "final" judge. But don't pick one who suffers from amusia.
I get your point, and it's well taken. But I'd also like to point out that generally, none of us set out to write music that we think is "bad" or "substandard", it's the hesitation of not being sure of our muse, or of needing to "best ourselves" that causes a fracture in the creative process. And personally, I find that fractured position a horrible juncture to end up at - creatively, financially and growth wise. I personally eliminate those issues with my own way of thinking about the creative process, but it's not the ONLY way to do it. I'm sure there are other methods that work for people as well.

As for "judging" our own work......for a professional composer in the business of creating, producing and selling music - the only judge that matters is the person who buys / commissions or licenses your work. Your (the composers) creative vision of how good it is or whether it works well really doesn't matter. That was the HARDEST thing for me to learn. It took probably a decade of frustration for me to completely bypass those feelings.
Old 1st March 2014
  #22
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bsteeve@ozemail's Avatar
 

Interesting discussing Sam

I agree with a lot of what DrBill said and personally, the way I'm dealing with it it is by compartmentalising my emotions through out the process and managing my own expectations.

I had to switch off the judge button while writing... really bad for the soul!
I also had to let go of the "I'm only has good as my last track" mentality which was fuelled mostly by my own fear of failure and the fear of being judge.
and I also had to accept the fact that you never finish a track, you let it go
Old 11th March 2014
  #23
Gear Nut
 

I rarely ever come back to a track and think it's bad, but I do suffer from "chasing the dragon," musically. At first, the track gets me really excited, and then, I hear it over and over again as I'm working on it, and it loses some of that novelty and spark. So, I start coming up new parts to add to it to push that emotion again. But this can make a mix to thick and busy. It can also make for a really intense, epic track. Knowing my habits, I try to put a leash on myself. I also try to mute as much as I can while I'm working on other parts, so I'm not losing that magic by wearing it out.

Almost always, I come back to a track after a few days or a week, and I'm really excited about it, so, I think I'm doing something right. Or I'm just stupid and don't know any better.
Old 28th August 2014
  #24
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I may have posted above but there's a guy with answers to a lot of these problems... Every music producer I know has been there. - Mike Monday

Lots of great material on how to finish tracks.
Old 6th September 2014
  #25
Sam, if you're not sure about some of the stuff you write, I may as well quit. IMO, your orchestral pieces (and I hate to sound like a fanboy) are the most mature, musical, tasteful cues I've heard from someone I know is using a bit orchestra. It's always good to underestimate your stuff than to overestimate it, but I have a feeling that your idea of "laughably bad," well, probably isn't all that bad.

In any case, yes, I've dealt with this problem numerous times; you spend so long on a piece that any awkward parts kind of start to "make sense" to you. Then you go back and listen the next day and, well, it doesn't make as much sense. That's why I like to spend half a day composing one piece, then take the other half to compose another. Then the next day I come back to the first piece, finish it, then I come back to the second piece and finish it. Two cues in two days, but with the work split up.

And hey man, at the end of the day, if you're happy with it, people are buying it, and/or the client likes it, mission accomplished. Of course, I've never put out something that I'm 100% happy with, but I seriously doubt that day will ever come.
Old 6th September 2014
  #26
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That's very kind of you to say about my stuff. Perfection, I guess is like a horizon you can never reach. I'm always aware that I can do better and it bugs me!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Philososaxter View Post
...That's why I like to spend half a day composing one piece, then take the other half to compose another. Then the next day I come back to the first piece, finish it, then I come back to the second piece and finish it. Two cues in two days, but with the work split up.
This is a very good method and not one I do enough. Sometimes I'm afraid inspiration will go back to that place it came from so I try and stay with it, but working on something different and coming back to it is sound advice. A fresh perspective makes all the difference - will try this more.
Old 10th September 2014
  #27
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dariva's Avatar
For me this has to be the most helpful and meaningful discussion on this board since I've been here - that's what.....6-7 years now. Thank you for all the insights and forwardness!
I feel I have been suffering from over thinking and overworking on all of my projects since I started doing this thing and this has been slowing my progress in these years, but somehow I haven't been able to change my ways.....Thanks again! I will sure read through this thread time and time again in the following days...

Cheers!
Old 11th September 2014
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GJ999x View Post
I may have posted above but there's a guy with answers to a lot of these problems... Every music producer I know has been there. - Mike Monday

Lots of great material on how to finish tracks.

His Steps to mapping out a midi timeline similar to an existing work can be made even better. Take a few seconds to figure out the tempo. Then change your DAW tempo and once again import the sample track. Your map should now be close to the sections of the song. Seems obvious, but thought it might help someone.
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