“Trust the Engineer” Day

It wasn’t until I was sitting in my car at 9:00am about to turn on the ignition that I realized how anxious I was about this final day in the studio.

See, it only takes me a half hour to get there, and we start at 10:00. Yeah. I made myself go back in the house and read for thirty minutes, but even so I was still shaking when I got to the studio. Matt suggested a cup of tea (tea! I didn’t even know they had any), and soon I was sipping a lovely herbal brew with chamomile and some other stuff, aptly named Tension Tamer.

Since Thursday’s session, my task had been to listen to the mixes and make sure everything was as I wanted it.

I listened to it all day Friday as I worked on the graphic design, and thought it sounded great — but my attention was almost entirely on the computer and I only heard the CD as background and occasional snatches that grabbed my attention.

Saturday and Sunday I listened more attentively, and came up with a list of places I wanted to double-check. Some were simple mix concerns — wanting various instruments’ or parts’ volumes adjusted here and there. Some were performance concerns — a knock on the bridge or a weak note; perhaps I had a better take we could edit from. Some were editing concerns — I thought I could hear some of the edit points and I worried that they were blatant noises that everyone else would notice, too.

As I listened, though, I reminded myself that I have a tendency to look not just at trees (instead of the forest), but their leaves, even the cells of the leaves, even the little bits floating around in the cells, etc.

So, I decided that today would be “Trust the Engineer” Day. It’s the engineer’s job to make the edits work. If they didn’t work he would have told me so — at the time they were made, so that I could have done another set of takes if necessary. Therefore, as we reviewed each of the things on my list, whenever I was in doubt, I chose whatever Matt suggested.

Someday I hope to be a good enough musician that I won’t need to rely on edits in order to record an album on a reasonable budget. I would love to be able to play both precisely and expressively. Then I wouldn’t be sitting here with a sinking feeling in my stomach, wondering if, by attending too much to precision (in the form of edits), I might have taken the life out of my performance.

Conclusions… obviously I’m still “in the hole,” like I was after recording “He Shall Feed His Flock.” Anxiety is surely making me focus on tiny negatives instead of being able to enjoy any overall beauty. But it’s “Trust the Engineer” Day still, and I’m fairly confident that I’ve done my best and made a good record. So, I take a deep breath, put aside my stomach-sinking fears, and say, “Woo-hoo! It’s done and I love it!”