Welcome to issue #118 of Tape Op.
A lot of times during recording sessions people ask me if I'm able to listen to music outside the studio without being super critical of what I'm hearing. Usually this follows 30 minutes of using iZotope RX to remove little noises that I find egregious on a singer's track, or perhaps meticulously comping vocal and instrumental takes, or some other process that makes me look a bit overly concerned with some of the details of recording. I always answer, "Oh, no. I listen to the music, the songs, and the performances, and I try to always enjoy the experience for what it is." And, to be honest, most of the time I do! But sometimes my "engineer/producer" hat slips back on outside of work, and I hear sounds that I question. It could be out-of-phase stereo guitars, drums and percussion that are out of time, flat or sharp vocals, overly loud mastering, or sometimes just odd arrangement choices. But the truth is, many of these details don't matter. If it's a great song to start with, and the performances do the song justice, then it's highly likely that the song is worth listening to. And then I think back to sessions where we were obsessing over tiny details of timing or pitch, and I think to myself, "In the future, relax. Don't worry about everything. Just make sure it feels good. Make sure it reminds me of records and songs that I love." Every day we have opportunities to learn more.