Tuesday, March 30, 2010

why it's tough to listen to music when you're a musician

 My wife and I listening to music (dramatization)

When you love listening to music, being a musician yourself is both a blessing and a curse.

It's kind of like being married (God, that came out wrong). It makes things better for you all around; you extract "more" from everything, you don't take small things at face value, you can appreciate not only what someone's doing, but why they're doing it. Like when John Mayer makes my lunch every morning. I think I may have cross-threaded my analogy, but you get the point.

It can also make simple things, things you never used to notice, tough on you. (Insert wife using autotune joke.)

I was recently taking a walk with my wife, and I mentioned that I've lived a lot of my life "behind the curtain" --- from my recreation, to my community involvement, my cars, all the way to my job. You're more likely to find me backstage than in the audience at a church play --- you'd find me waiting in the wings, playing backup guitar for high school choirs --- at work I spend more time getting data ready and presentable for use than actually using the data for anything. Real talk: I never take my car to the shop, because I know that the guy they're going to get to fix it is A) definitely probably no smarter than I am, and B) cares less about the car.

It dawned on me, pretty suddenly, that I have a lot more time invested in getting things presentable for an audience than actually being a part of an audience.

So I don't think the same way as some folks when it comes to final products of any sort - whether it's food, cinema, automobiles, or music. I realized that there are two types of folks: audience folks and backstage folks.

  • At a nice restaurant, the audience folks think "this food tastes great!" The backstage folks think, "the cooks did a good job with this."
  • At a movie, the audience folks think, "it really sucked me in." The backstage folks think "the lead actor really executed his character well."
  • When the audience folks are thinking "this truck rides nice," the backstage folks are thinking "some enginerd nailed the spring rates."
 You know how sometimes I throw a random picture in the middle of a serious blog post?
    I don't ever really enjoy any music at face value anymore. I am dissecting guitar tone, thinking about mic placement, the subtlety (or not-so-subtlety) of compression, and things like that.

    On the downside, the overall picture, the "song as a whole" is often lost on me, or only comes to me once I listen to every "channel" of the song, beginning to end. So if I'm interested in the drums, bass, rhythm guitar, accent guitar, vocal, and vocal harmony of a song, I need to hear that song 6 times, one time focusing on each element, just observing and "seeing what I see" before I can let the whole thing play as a unit. The curse of a wannabe recordist.

     On the upside,  I can listen to something on the radio and pick out a Telecaster through a Vox amp, and think "hey, that sounds great, I might wanna try that combo," and boom - I have a new tonal idea without ever hearing or reading a single word. Or I can hear somebody use an effect in a way I've never heard it used, and I can say "damn, I oughta try that," then I'll spend a few hours in the basement turning knobs and playing around, and boom - a new song is born, just from messing around with a new setting.

    What I imagine when I pull away from a stop light. 
    This condition also affects other areas of life, as well. Having seen the inside of an engine too many times, when your average driver mashes the accelerator into the flo'board, they are probably thinking "WOOOOOOO!!!," but I am thinking about the connecting rods and rod bearings and valve springs and piston rings and how the whole thing should explode.

    It might seem contrived or unfathomable to you, but I literally cannot derive any pleasure from blasting off like a rocket in a car. I'm not thinking about what's happening, I'm thinking about everything that makes it possible. That's life behind the curtain. Anybody else live this way?



    1. This was an all right read and I can understand where he's coming from.

      ~ The Audience

    2. Spoken like a true engineer! All you need is a little math to back it up.

      I think you'll like this:




    3. You live life like someone who's broken a lot of shit by accident.

      Good post.

      -D stape



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