Close Your Eyes When You're Riding the Waves

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Audio waveforms are among the greatest tools that the digital audio revolution has given musicians and producers. But sometimes it's important to forget they're there. It's wonderful that so many audio tools have turned into lush, graphical experiences, but making sonic decisions based on visual information isn't always the best way to go. It's funny, when I'm working on a mix, it often takes lots of will power to pull my eyes away from the computer monitor and just listen...

Visual stimuli can be great to help get some creative juices flowing, but there are times when too much of it can really be counter-productive. I love digging into a mix and creating automation curves, experimenting with plug-ins, and playing with arrangements. But as you work on a piece it's equally important to occasionally get the computer monitor out of your sight and just listen.

Sometimes I end up with big spikes in my waveforms that look like they're clipping. I get an instant impulse to edit them away. But then when I listen to the audio with the waveform spike, it sounds great and doesn't need any editing at all. It's a bit of an anomaly, but that does happen.

A waveform from Apple's Logic Pro 9  

Averting your eyes from the screen as the music plays allows for a different perspective on the mix. If you made a big edit or added a dramatic change that happens 45 seconds into the track, when you stare at the screen as it plays, you will anticipate the changes because you can see them coming. When you close your eyes or look away, you'll get closer to what your audience is going to experience.  

Never forget that your ears are the most important part of any recording studio. Sometimes I bow my head and stare at the floor and listen. Sometimes I give up my perfect listening position between my near-field monitors and pace around the room and listen. Okay. I admit it. Sometimes I even dance around like a goofball.

What do you do when it's time to turn your attention away from the screen to stay focused on the music?