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Perfectionism in Music
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Perfectionism in Music

Hello everyone. I've never used Gearslutz, except to find answers to a few questions I had while learning a couple things. The reason I'm here today is to ask about a phenomenon that I'm stuck inside of.
Basically, the issue is perfectionism. For context, I'm going to dive rather deep though.

I'm 21 years old. I started producing/writing music in mid-2013, which makes it about 6 full years since I've started. Upon starting, I was absolutely amazed and overwhelmed with all the possibilities, but I loved it all. I spent every second of every day writing (really bad) drum and bass and was avid about the entire thing. I was able to crank out songs I was happy with every single day and of course while they were garbage, to me they were awesome. As the years went on, I've went further down this whole rabbit hole. I'm in school for Sound Design for Visual Media (imo more opportunity than Audio Production and Engineering, thus my choice) and my entire life is focused around music and audio in general. I'm passionate about foley work and recording lots of sounds/designing intricate sounds. My songs are pretty unique sounding, since its basically (math-chillout??) with lots of interesting things happening in general. It's all pretty experimental and that's because over the years I've dove deeper and deeper into catalogs on RYM. I primarily listen to electro-acoustic ambient music that has lots of foley work and field recordings, classical-ish piano, musique concrete, and just experimental/art rock stuff in general.

Circa three or so years ago, I decided I was super bored of writing electronic music after some success I had with my last electronic track. So, I started writing what I really wanted to write. I dug deep into this hole of experimental stuff and have been trying to adapt a new style over the years that I feel satisfied with, but it simply isn't happening. The last release I had was a collab I did with a friend.. 2 years ago. I haven't released solo music in 3 full years. My ideas clash with eachother, driving me to scrap whatever I'm working on. The mix isn't good enough and I end up scrapping what I'm working on. Even after consolidating my tracks and using smart disable with high audio latency, my computer can no longer handle what I want to do with my music, leading me to scrap what I'm working on. I get annoyed with the music itself and scrap what I'm working on. When I do "finish" something, it's not good enough. There's things that need to be fixed. There's discrepancies in the way things were done. I don't feel happy enough about what I've wrote to release it to the public, even if I only have a small audience across platforms. I feel embarrassed about the simple mistakes I've made. All of this has led to a point where it's impossible for me to enjoy writing music though. I'm aware of everything I'm doing wrong, and yet I keep standing in my own way. I'm aware that all musicians go through this and hear mistakes in their music where most won't even realize and just appreciate the piece for what it is. I'm so ****ing depressed over all of this, because I just want to write music that I'm happy with. Yet I know that my standards are way too high for myself. I compare myself, I struggle to even want to sit down and write anything at all anymore. I know exactly how I could fix all of this. I just need to release music, whether it feels good enough or not. I tried setting deadlines for myself at the beginning of the year, and was going to do a song per month. It didn't work, because I convinced myself that my Distrokid subscription running out and not having the money to renew it was a good enough excuse to not release anything I did in January. Thus, it carried forward through the months, until now. I feel miserable any time I think about writing music, and what prompted this post was a nice gem that happened today where I was sitting there, working on music, was frustrated with two sections that just wouldn't transition nicely, realized the mix was garbage, realized that I was out of ideas, and scrapped it, after pouring 30 hours into the track. The project file is gone now, the entire thing is.

I have no idea what to do, I would appreciate if anyone here can help me help myself.

tl;dr
I've been making music for 6 years, haven't released anything over the last 3 due to perfectionism and holding my standards way out of my own reach. Any response is appreciated.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 
12ax7's Avatar
 

Maybe you should just get back to basics:

Just go back to making music to make yourself happy.

...I mean after all, if you're not doing that, what the hell's the point?
.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
Do you think perhaps your situation is the result of trying to get too much out of your work in too short a period of time? Art, all art, really is a recursive and reiterative process. It is only through the act of making stuff that you really get better. Perfection is totally fine, as long as it is framed within a reasonable and achievable context. I have made mixes that suck. Everyone has. Most of us would also destroy our own work if given the opportunity to overthink it. You certainly aren't alone.

The important bit is to identify where you think you could have done better, and aim for an incremental improvement. You don't need to be great today. The challenge is simply to try and be better than yesterday. Perhaps push yourself to throw ten pieces of music you aren't happy with up online. Do it for catharsis. Releasing stuff means it is finished. There is no more tinkering with it. It is what it is. If people like it, great. If people don't like it, that is fine too.

What is important is having a healthy and realistic process of reflecting on your work. Out of those ten pieces of music, you might go through and identify one small aspect that you think you need to improve on in each. Perhaps the vocal level in the first one. Perhaps a transition between chorus and verse in the second. Perhaps you slightly overbaked the mix in the third. Perhaps you want to improve your reverb in the fourth. Armed with a list of 10 totally separate, compartmentalised aspects of making music, go out and make ten more pieces of music. Aim to trying and improve on just one thing on your list in each of those ten new pieces of music.

You might not nail those improvements the first time around, but that is part of the process. You really can't learn to do things in a way that works, without acknowledging and understanding the way things don't work. Learning what doesn't work really is a perfect outcome. By breaking down the process into small parts, rather than trying to address every improvement you want to make in a single piece of music, you will have a process that will also keep you moving forward. In a piece of music that you are trying to improve your vocal mix on, worry less about the other aspects. The goal is practising your vocal mix. Perhaps you spent too much time working on parts, and a timer would help.

Have you heard the whole notion that it takes 10,000 hours of practise to become an expert at something? It is actually a load of rubbish. It was a throwaway line used in a book to reference someone else's work, but a lot of readers grabbed onto it in a far more substantial way than it was ever intended. What really matters is where you spent that 10,000 hours of effort. If you are a golfer with a great putting game, spending 10,000 more hours practising putting is going to be far less beneficial to your game than fixing your driving and fairway shots.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with perfectionism. But making stuff is all about the process. Consider putting your stuff out there. Not because you are happy with it, but because it's done. It is a finished step in the process. Reflect on that published work. Acknowledge the bits that you feel worked. Take note of the bits that you think could be improved. Ask for some input from other people who you trust. Ask them what they think worked. Ask them what they think didn't. You will be surprised how differently other people see your creations to the way you see them. Do it with the sole intention or acknowledgement of wanting to get better. Create a game plan that is small and incremental. Concentrate on learning and bettering those individual skills.

There is every likelihood that your work is already great, and that you are your own worst critic. It really is the process that matters. If you aren't happy with your work, it is having a process that includes realistic goals and an approach that allows you to improve. It is all about the journey. It's the journey that ultimately keeps people doing it throughout the course of their lifetime. I doubt that even the best in the industry go about their day without the intention of learning something new.

While it isn't related specifically to music, this podcast has some great stuff about the process of learning that you might find beneficial - https://www.successpodcast.com/show-...th-peter-brown
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
Gear Addict
 
Pindrive's Avatar
You need to play with a group. Play some shows. Get a feel for the energy of a live show, how dynamics work with a crowd, set list arrangement etc etc. W/o this real world experience, it's pretty tough to write really great music.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 

Sounds like you're being impatient and lack discipline. It's ok, you're young, that's normal, keep doing what you like and eventually things will turn in your favour.
Old 5 days ago
  #7
I've been making music since 1989 aged 4 years old, the key is to never give up, don't take it too seriously as well, that's a big mistake, try and have fun with it, I've been making music for a LONG time, I should be successful by now but I'm not, I don't even care, I do it for the love of making music, for myself and if others love it great, if they don't then that's great as well.
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