listening from a distance

I was once told that a painter spends about 80% of the time looking at the painting from a distance. somehow, emotionally detaching yourself from your work and perceiving it as somebody else would, seems helpful when making creative decisions. here are a few techniques that i use to listen from a distance.
the first one is obvious: let a track rest, work on other music for a few days and then come back to it. you won’t be wrapped up in all the details and usually things will be much clearer.

another technique is to do something that demands your attention, while your music is playing in the background. doing the dishes, for instance. personally, i like to listen to my unfinished tracks while cruising the city on my barfoot longboard. because i have to be very alert of what happens around me, i only get the big picture of the track. it’s a good way to check whether something drags on for too long or could be stretched out.

you can also get some distance when asking others for feedback. i always ask my girlfriend. she isn’t into electronic music at all and knows nothing about creating it, but her reaction is very valuable. it’s usually more direct than feedback from someone in the know. if she says a sound is teh suck, it probably is. she won’t be impressed by ‘but that’s an fm8 sound i programmed from scratch’.

sending tracks for feedback to other electronic musicians can be helpful too. but for me, nothing beats having one of my peers in my studio. i usually ask that person to sit in my chair and actively listen to the whole track. i just sit in the back and observe.

somehow, this is always a revealing experience. it’s almost as if the other person becomes me and vice versa. i feel it’s the closest i get to listening through someone else’s ears. observing helps too: unconscious tapping of feet tells me the thing has got groove. rapper mad skillz called it the nod factor, i call it the tap factor.

giving useful criticism is really hard, and not many people can do it. so i treasure the few ones that have helped me every time they gave feedback. i just hope this post doesn’t make them too self-conscious the next i ask them for a reaction.