Updated: Mar 14, 2021
I wise mentor and leader I had the pleasure of working with was adamant about this phrase: “sink to your level of training.”
Believe it or not, this is a good thing. Oftentimes, and I’m sure many of you can relate, the longer you have to work on a piece of music (be it a mix/master, arrangement, or composition), the worse it tends to sound because, with too much time, you begin to overthink the project. Obviously, this is not always the case, but working on a tight schedule, you
So, what does that mean? To me, it has to do less with a culminating event, and more to do with how well you are able to adapt because of your general state of readiness. I have mentioned this before. The fact that I am able to compose, arrange, or mix music is because I’ve been doing it for so long. My “level of training” allows me to be more flexible with the evolving challenge with which I am faced.
Believe it or not, this is a good thing. Oftentimes, and I’m sure many of you can relate, the longer you have to work on a piece of music (be it a mix/master, arrangement, or composition), the worse it tends to sound because, with too much time, you begin to overthink the project. Obviously, this is not alway the case, but working on a tight schedule, you have to make decisions and produce the end result quickly (read: EFFICIENTLY), so you default, or “sink,” to your level of training. This may seem like a negative connotation, but I assure you, it’s not. You are able to put quick, but educated, decisions into practice.
Quickly vs. Effectively: when I mean quickly, I mean efficiently; the implied task is accuracy. If you are not at the point in your workflow where you can work quickly AND accurately, then take a step back and build speed WITH proficiency. Again, working quickly depends on your own version of “sink to your level of training.” Working quickly is a skill I had to develop out of necessity because of looming deadlines, but I knew that I needed time to put my own personality into an arrangement or a mix.
Going along with sketching and planning, it makes it much easier to “stay on task” when you have a plan. This will keep you moving forward so you do not spend too much time working on one section. You have to work quickly so you can allocate time for the phase where you add your own personality and flair as the producer, but it has to be done on the back end so you meet your deadline.
Embrace the process. It may be quicker than you’re used to, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad thing. Working quickly still allows you to get to your true creative mode, and the only difference is that you’re on a schedule. When you have the option to take your time, definitely take it, but in the professional realm, we are always on deadlines (sometimes by our own behest), so we might as well put our best products forth…quickly.
This also applies to live production as well. For example: there’s a live production gig coming up, so your team generates stick lists, stage diagrams, calculate power requirements for sound and lights, create gear manifests, and further define personnel and logistical tasks, and if possible, perform site surveys so familiarity with the performance venue is known…WELL, soon as you get on-site, late, by the way, because there was an accident on the route to the venue, only half the power works in the building, your ensemble leader wants a completely different setup, for whatever reason, your computer isn’t communicating with your mixing console regardless of troubleshooting, and two of your production crew hurt themselves during the setup…WHAT DO YOU DO?! You adapt. At this point in time, your plan essentially becomes useless. So, what is the time required for this example? Well, because your team arrived late AND the plan needed to be adapted, the revision and implementation of the new plan AND the setup needs to rapid quickly AND accurately. I wish I were presenting a hypothetical scenario, but these are all things that have happened to me on production gigs…not all of them at the same time, but many have happened concurrently. Yikes! I will say from experience, it is easier to adapt a plan than rather than trying to improvise in the moment.
At the end of the day, the point I’m trying to make is this: rehearse yourself and your workflow to the point where you can adapt your plan and sink to your level of training.
As always, I hope this is helpful for someone out there!
Michael is a music composer and audio engineer who likes to write articles about his craft…sometimes. Sometimes he writes about leadership, space, dogs, and other cool things that might pique interest.
Check out his website: www.michaelandrewnewell.com