Mix records on crap speakers

I just rediscovered this post I wrote a in 2008 ago about mixing records on small, crappy speakers. I was lucky at the time that Basecamp wrote about it, thus saving it from oblivion when I deleted my website and started over.
I didn’t know anything at the time about backing up websites.


“It’s the very naive producer who works only on optimum systems.” -Brian Eno

It’s unlikely whoever is buying your records has anything better than an average hi-fi, boombox, car stereo, or ipod. I’d bet they don’t have studio monitors.

Recording & mixing solely on studio monitors is foolish. All that low end in the guitar? It’s useless in the small speakers. It’s just taking up frequencies the bass or drums or organs or tenor instruments can occupy. You have to be ruthless in cutting away useless frequencies so the record is loud & jumps out of all speakers. Make the record sound outstanding on little crap speakers since that’s where most people will hear it. I’ve found when I do this it still sounds great on the fancy speakers.

“Some years back I had a lot of success with a pair of Auratones strapped in parallel to a pair of Radioshack speakers. That’s the rig I used for the making of Peter Gabriel’s So album.” -Daniel Lanois

If you consistently have these mixing problems try using small speakers…
-the bass drum disappears in your car
-the vocal level is not where you expected
-the guitars are lumpy in the low-mid
-any reverb or echo is surprisingly quiet
-anything you thought was subtly in the mix is actually inaudible

I haven’t ever bought expensive crappy speakers like Auratones. I just use crappy speakers. You know…. radio shack, bose… whatever.

be good to yourself,

Studying without fighting my monkey mind

skittish birds in Hawaii

Usually when I plan to study I’ll say something to myself like: “I have 2 hours to learn about assembly instructions… No Problem! Go!”

Then, inevitably, the 2 hours pass and I’ve learned 30%-50% of what I had intended.
Apparently I still don’t know that I will lose focus and get distracted. Then that leads to getting worried that I haven’t learned it in time, frustration, stress…

Lately I gave up and said Fuck It, if I get distracted then I get distracted. I’ll just build it into the time. So now when I have a study session with dense and difficult material and I feel my mind wandering or needing a break, I don’t fight it. For instance, 3 minutes ago I was studying assembly code to understand base pointers and stack pointers. It was getting foggy and unclear, so I walked around, got some water and let myself play by writing this.

I have been doing this for the past two weeks or so and it’s a significantly better way for me to study. I assumed I would learn more slowly this way, but it really feels like the same pace with much less stress. Instead of beating myself up for getting distracted, trying to force myself to focus and getting distracted anyway, now I just roll with it. Happily, this idea reminded me of Derek’s excellent post about a 2 minute difference.

I watch my mind begin to get distracted, and if it feels like I can’t pull it back to focus, I indulge the distraction and follow it for a bit. Then after 10 or 15 minutes of that, I bring myself back to the work. I have been a meditator in the Shambhala lineage for about 12 years, but somehow this idea of relaxing into my mind during study has only just occurred to me.

be well,


“A beautiful country is a dream-like illusion…”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

“A beautiful country is a dream-like illusion. It is senseless to cling to it. Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered, strife with outer enemies will never end.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said this when the Chinese invaded, murdered people, and he was forced to flee Tibet. I’ll try to contemplate this one today and tomorrow.

I’m feeling heartbroken about the United States election.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

if I had the flu today…

When I get stressed due to overloading myself with projects and commitments, I end up using this quick filter to figure out what’s really important to me. I ask myself: if I was really sick today, what would I do?

Today, I am looking at…
1. a phone tonight call at 8pm that I’m unprepared for
2. an Android project that is a bit past due
3. two sets of discrete math linear algebra assignments due today
4. a C programming assignment due tomorrow

I asked myself: “Ok, if I had the flu today, which of these could I postpone or simply not do? Are any of them crucial?”

1 . The phone call: I can postpone that to next Sunday. We had planned this call a bit ago, but she’s an understanding person and will help out.

2. The android project: I have an A in this class, so I can afford to skip this one assignment, but the concept we’re working on (Fragments) is crucial to every other app I’ll build. So, I do need to make time this week to really understand Fragments, but that doesn’t mean I have to do it today.

3. Two sets of discrete math linear algebra assignments: same thing as above. I’m doing well in this class, and we’re allowed to drop 3 assignments. This would be costly since I’d be dropping 2 of my 3, and I must understand the concepts going forward, but they aren’t crucial today, so they can wait.

4. The C programming assignment: This is due tomorrow and feels like the most important and urgent. I’m halfway done already, and I don’t want it hanging over my head after tomorrow.
I’ll likely have trouble with some of the logic in the 23 methods we’re writing, so getting as much done ahead of the due date is a wise idea. So, of all my projects, this is the only one that I would work on today even if I was sick.

So! Thankfully, I’m not actually sick and I can still apply this thinking and get myself down to just one priority: the C programming assignment.

So why did I just spend 15 minutes writing this post instead of C code… 😃
My ideas only become clear to me when I can write them out.
be well,

You Need Someone Else to Point Out Your Skills

(a photo from my trip to Belize)

I have been writing some resumes and cover letters for myself lately. Then I asked my wife to write one for me and I was surprised by the skills she listed. “Those aren’t skills,” I thought.

Then I was hanging out with a close friend who is unhappy with his current career. We started talking about what he’d like to do next and he said he had lost so many skills that he wasn’t even viable at the moment. I started to tell him that he knows everyone in the city, remembers everybody, actually keeps up with what everyone is doing, volunteers his time to help at the seemingly hundreds of events he attends, and is trusted by diverse people all over this city. He said: “that’s not a skill.”

This made me realize that is takes someone outside of yourself, who is close to you, to point out the skills you have that you are blind to. Maybe these skills are so intuitive to you that you assume everyone has them. Or maybe you don’t even realize they are useful to other people.

Be well.

Practicing Remembering People

New Hampshire
(a photo I took in New Hampshire)

For me, remembering people I meet is a skill I would absolutely like to cultivate and I’m actively working on. It’s been difficult for me for years. Often I meet someone, and ask their name again when I forget it… but after one or two times I feel too embarrassed to ask their name once again. I realized I wasn’t just failing to remember names, I was forgetting that I had even met people. Years ago I was walking down a street and only one other person was walking toward me.
I looked at him and thought: “Well, I definitely don’t know who that guy is, so I can’t expect to know the name of someone I’ve never met.”
Then he said: “Hi Bill!”
Me: Dammit.

So now I see remembering people is going to be a practice… Continue reading “Practicing Remembering People”

Learning Software Development and How To Help our Adaptation to Climate Change

philly blues

A couple years ago I started to get the itch that I wanted to do something else with my life in addition to producing records & making music. At that point I had made many, many records and realized I had gotten a little bored with how I was making records.

I had always been a freelancer and this timing coincided with my wife & I having to make some real choices about our careers going forward. At that time our daughter was 3 and it was clear that two freelance incomes wasn’t going to cut it. My wife found a difficult, steady job and we decided I should finally go to college, earn a bachelor’s degree and find something steady in addition to freelance record production. I had alway wanted to know how to make software and I was becoming increasingly interested in helping with our collective adaptation to the changing climate. So I enrolled at community college of Philadelphia and majored in computer science. I will admit I did not realize computer science is mostly mathematics. I hadn’t done math since failing pre-calc in high school… so learning math again (basics through calculus 2 and discrete math) took a lot of time and late nights and yerba mate and study groups and bouts of “what the hell am I doing?!” to get through. In hindsight, I would recommend taking the free online course Learning How To Learn, getting a study group, and taking all math classes in person (if at CCP, go with Professor Jernigan).

But now, I have spent two years learning software development in Java, database design, and now I’m learning python & swift. Also studying javascript, MySQL, GIS… the list keeps lengthening.

And how does this play into helping with climate change adaptation?

Continue reading “Learning Software Development and How To Help our Adaptation to Climate Change”

Moving from Waking Studio to stay Uncomfortable in 2014


Cheerful New Year, Everybody!

I’m happy to say I shut the doors and turned in my keys to Waking Studio at the end of 2013.

I’ve always intended to move studios every few years to keep me fresh & uncomfortable. I don’t want to get stuck making the same sounds again and again.

For this coming year I’ll be working out of 4 setups: Kawari Sound, Dr. Dog’s studio called B-Room, my home studio for a lot of mixing, and I’ve built a portable setup of mics and tube preamps to take out to cabins and beach houses for fun remote recording.

How to Use Evernote to Produce Records

The software I use everyday for nearly everything in my life is Evernote. To try and explain what it is… it’s like you’re carrying around a bag and anything you want to remember later or any piece of information you think will be useful you toss in the bag. The moment that got me hooked was when I wondered: …Hey, do I have anything on how they mixed that Amy Winehouse album?“ So I type Winehouse into Evernote and it brings up a photo I took of a magazine article about mixing Amy Winehouse. I had taken the photo on a cell phone and saved it into the Evernote App and since Evernote can scan photographs for words it’s showing me this photo I took with the word Winehouse in the magazine article. Continue reading “How to Use Evernote to Produce Records”