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Maintaining focus - Mattias Westlund - 05-20-2016

For me, one of the most difficult aspects of working concurrently on a number of tracks is focus. Especially in the late stages of the process when the tracks are like 80-90% done and all that remains is adding whatever stuff is still missing and moving on to the finishing touches. Logically this should be the easiest part -- I'm almost there! -- but my brain doesn't always work logcially. At this point my phobia of making decisions and committing to them rears its ugly head. Is this really as good as it can be? Am I really sure about this part? Maybe I should wait a bit before I decide... So procrastination kicks in, and before I know it I'm working on some other tune and focus has been irrevocably lost.

This is probably different for everyone, but I've noticed that planning ahead helps a lot. It doesn't have to be very detailed planning. Even something as simple as deciding on a single track to work on for every day of the week and putting it down on a piece of paper seems to do the trick for me. Monday: Track 1. Tuesday: Track 2. And so on. 

So when I'm working on Track 1, I don't allow myself to even listen to any of the other tracks that day unless absolutely necessary. While it's always tempting to have a go at the other stuff that also needs finishing -- even more so if you're on a deadline -- I've found that hopping between tracks becomes a huge time waster in the long run. Everytime I do it I have to sort of reset my brain and get into the mood and feel of the new track, time which could have been spent on just pressing on with the previous one.

What's your thoughts on this? Do you have any good tips for staying focused?

RE: Maintaining focus - Otto Halmén - 05-20-2016

The ninety-ninety rule is all too real in the field of music as well.

Conquering yourself is a huge part of the process of becoming a great musician. I can definitely subscribe to your suggestions. There is immense power in having solid routines, although it may take a little while and some effort to build them up.

I've sometimes run into similar problems as you. Additionally, I sometimes just end up listening over and over again to what I've already done instead of getting on with the work.

One tip that often works for me is to just stop and take a short break when the urge to juggle projects hits me and I need to finish something as soon as possible. Getting off the computer for ten minutes or so can be effective for restarting a lost focus.

As to commitment phobia, I have a sort of mantra: You can always make more. Can't remember where I got it from, but I find it hard not to agree to it. Your ability to judge at any given time just is what it is, and everything you make is just a product of your life so far. Not that I'd think wrapping up stuff is any less hard than you do, though. Smile

RE: Maintaining focus - endorka - 05-20-2016

I concur with both of your experiences.

For the last 10% of the piece, part of the reason I find it difficult is that I've often lost a lot of the initial love for it at this point. This is often just from listening to it so many times,  and will particularly apply to those who are doing the production, composition, arrangement, orchestration, recording musicians as well. No matter how good a piece is, how many times can you listen to it and keep objectivity? Even Bohemian Rhapsody would become terrible if you heard it 50 times a day for a month! Things that initially surprised you no longer do, and you feel the piece is boring, so it's tempting to add more to bring the excitement back, but maybe only because you're hearing it with the ears of a jaded listener, not a first time listener.

My lesson from this is to work quickly if possible to retain fresh ears. But it's not always possible! To go with the instinct rather than the intellect, but sometimes the intellect is correct. There's no script for this really, just experience :-) What Otto says about leaving the computer for 10 minutes to refresh the perception also helps,  but sometimes I need more than 10 minutes!


RE: Maintaining focus - Otto Halmén - 05-20-2016

Welcome aboard, Jennifer! I've thought about the idea of simply trying to work faster as well. We sure get "don't be lazy!" hammered in our heads from an early age, and rushing something feels like laziness. Still, if you think about it, there's nothing that tells us it's outright impossible to speed-compose actually good music. In fact, songs like Black Sabbath - Paranoid and Hurriganes - Get On were rushed, last minute additions to their respective albums and they turned out to be the best (well, certainly most famous) tunes of each band. Smile

RE: Maintaining focus - MrMoto - 05-20-2016

For me it seems to work quite well, to just let go and leave a piece alone for a while, when I get stuck. When it feels right, I pick up where I left off and almost always I'm able to finish it. Sometimes after just a day, sometimes after a week or even longer. Of course, it doesn't always work that way, I too have unfinished songs from more than 20 years ago...  Big Grin