On Overthinking AKA Contemplating vs. Narrow-mindness AKA Focused mindset (and how it may affect the quality & speed of creativity)

“Over-thinking/Contemplating” vs. “Narrow-mindedness/Focused mindset”
(and different ways it may affect both quality & quantity of your creative work, and the production value for it)

by Fredrik Park – Composer, Music Producer, Musician & Music teacher

Here are some aspects of finding balance between over-thinking and when to stop looking into a subject further.
What do you choose to spend your time with, attempting to improve more efficiently? (if that’s even your aim)

This very blog post is addressing perspectives of improving quality & skills for Music Production a little bit more than the composing-songwriting improvements aspects.

 

But to start with, what if you pin the two general kinds of mindsets against each other?
Here’s a way to look at these two, addressing both some pros and cons:

“Over-thinking/Contemplating” can be time consuming at the expense of productivity, and often perceived as less social.
I believe it often can offer a deeper kind of storytelling and creativity though.
Often more personally fulfilling, and perhaps also emotionally connecting stronger with your listeners, by delivering a deeper message in your work, that might seem more significant to the listener.
But don’t forget, to get things done, you also need to consider when you’d benefit more from moving on, whether it is for an unforeseen period of time, or for a shorter while before returning to it.
This goes for creative tasks, and might be applicable to lifestyle and relationship topics in general too, I believe.

“Narrow-mindedness/Focused mindsets” on the other hand can limit your perspectives or making you regret wasting lots of time on choices that turns out to be non-efficient, or maybe you are emptying the wallet on badly fitting investments or bad quality, if you failed to do sufficient research into the matter.
(e.g. expensive instrument samples or plugins that you end up have little or no real use for, regretting you didn’t pick a better alternative instead.)

So a different cause for not being efficient with your time.
However, sticking to a single aim at the time of course should help you get particular tasks done quicker.
And perhaps also being able to successfully juggle a higher amount of different projects etc. at the same time. Or being able to successfully finish off each full project one at the time faster.

It can often depend on what kinds of improvements you aim to achieve at the time, and long term speaking as well.
It might also depend on the kind of audience or employers that you aim for.
I’ve probably spent too much time on doing research, but in this context, making good software purchase choices for music production surely speed things up in the end.
At least if aiming high with the production quality. And I might spend less time with research ahead…

One other route for higher productivity quantity-wise would be to make more music with less attractive sounds & samples libraries or recording quality. And with less attention to details.

This way would require less research and investments, and less time per song.
But if aiming high, it would either require spending tons of time with post-editing and tweaking, damage-control even, or simply not caring at the moment.
Maybe fixing it with future purchases, or letting someone else fix it.
Again, focusing on songwriting or productivity with the current audio quality might be preferred by some.

I’ve done all the above, but lately leaned towards that research is worth my time, generally speaking.
I can spot and avoid bad quality & aim for high quality way easier and faster lately, thanks to my past research and choices for music production investments.

Plus, my knowledge and ears for music production qualities has increased from it. Even the versatile kind of creativity. But the sheer number of tracks I’ve made the last years are far less because of it. Question is if I should regret that, or if I should be content in gradually increasing quantity productivity ahead?

I do believe in a using a combination of at least both these kinds of mindsets. (I’d say there may be other kinds of mindsets too)
At one point however, it’s probably time to be content with the current level of audio quality or amount of Mixing & Mastering studies, or your Music theory studies etc.
At least for the time being.

 

Try your wings again and see if you can speed up the composing or mixing process with a quality that you are happy with. Without getting stuck on minor details too much.

On a similar note, I’m personally not a fan of making “one song each day” regardless of quality though.
At least not if the process is rushed in any way.
Even though focused work with strong time limits can get things going quicker and easier, but I’d still suggest allowing yourself to elaborate, at least for a little while on initial ideas.

Even if it would breach the time limit that you might have set for yourself slightly.

I’d agree more with another common advice to “spend time each day on your goals, e.g. improving your performing skills and songwriting, etc.”
To me, that’s the more thoughtful advice, more applicable on different aims and situations.
And to always aim to study, practice, compose, produce etc. in a conscious and mindful manner.
Anyways, I might still fool myself with these conclusions to some extent, in a similar way I suspect people who use the terms “over-thinking” or “narrow-mindedness” in exclusively negative contexts often might fool themselves.

There are always ways to look at these things slightly differently. As long as you’re not clinging onto neither of these two seemingly final mindsets, I think you’re onto something.
As always, I suggest trying to not looking at things 100% black or white, or from a single perspective.
I elaborate more on these things in this blog post of mine:
http://fredrikpark.com/2014/12/31/multi-facetted-perspectives-as-a-personal-philosophy-and-as-a-composer/

And for more specific advice on improving composing and improvisation skills, so far I’ve written a 3 part blog text on that too, and more… Check it out in my blog!

http://fredrikpark.com/blog/
http://fredrikpark.com/
https://soundcloud.com/fredrik-park
note: Music Production can be described as the whole process of Recording, Editing, Mixing and Mastering.
Mixing is probably what most people associate with Music Production.

It’s making any changes in volumes, EQ (changing frequencies like bass, mid, treble in a more precise way), editing audio (e.g. changing pitch, timing, stretching audio, combining parts from multiple recorded takes, (often referred to as “comping”), adding audio effects and such.

“Mastering” is the final adjustments made preferably by a professional Audio Engineer. The mastering process typically involves volume adjustments of the full finalized tracks, unifying the track volumes and character through EQ, compression and limiting (these are separate topics all together, and I won’t elaborate more on these things here. There are plenty of both free and retail material on these subjects already.)

You might have heard of Landr, which is a very cheap, but automated Mastering solution.
Probably the #1 problem with any blind automated decisions, by AI or algorithms, is that although it was initially programmed by people, then the Mastering decisions for your track are not done with concern for any musical directions or details that you might wish to be taken into consideration. A pro Audio engineer would.
To me, automated Mastering can fix a few issues like volume levels correlation, maybe any horrible imbalance of frequencies.
But I assume it doesn’t makes any human fine tuning based on musical context, such as addressing any creative intentions through specific mixing, accents, phrases or other musical details like that. We’ll see how it progresses in the future though…