Chances are you’ve picked up on my “mild obsession” with setting time limits.

The naysayers tell me alllll about how you can’t rush art, that giving yourself constraints only hinders the creative process and makes you produce subpar material.

My response?


Sadly, they can’t. They have nice theories, but that’s all. They can’t prove any of them because they don’t TRY any of them. They’re thinkers, not doers.

I’ve never created anything by thinking, only by doing.

Forcing myself to work under strict time constraints unleashes a huge flood of creativity that causes something magical to happen.

Like the 15-minute mix I did for my VIP members recently; I challenged the VIPers to join me, to try to finish a mix in only 15 minutes.

There’s no way you could get anything good in such a short amount of time, right?

Check out Gabe’s comment after completing the challenge:

“I didn’t find it stressful at all, quite the opposite. I was really focused, and had more fun mixing a song than I’ve had in a while…I may need to make this part of my normal mixing workflow, it was that helpful.”

By doing this silly little exercise, Gabe discovered that by limiting how much time you spend on a task, you force yourself to get better.

You experience:

1. FREEDOM (Gabe wasn’t stressed out. He was free to just MIX.)

2. FOCUS (When you’re up against the clock, your brain automatically hones in on the important stuff and ignores the rest.)

3. FUN (It’s a BLAST to see what you can accomplish.)

And what about the work itself?

Is it still good?

Guess you’ll have to find out for yourself.

You can start by watching and listening to my 15-minute mix, as a brand new VIPer:

Joe Gilder
Home Studio Corner

6 Responses to “3 reasons why spending LESS time on music makes you better”

  1. ironman2819

    Isn’t the whole “you can’t rush art” really talking about the writing/recording/arranging phases of the process?

    I mean anyone who knows and is confident in what they are doing can mix down a song relatively quickly if its recorded properly (especially when you get it right at the source) and anyone can pump out cookie cutter formula based songs just for the sake of doing so… but its that certain phrase, that haunting harmony, the perfect stomp and break, building a crescendo or ending a’Capella…. That can take a great deal of time especially if the “artist” is not fully prepared.

    Plus as a guitar player myself I know there is a big difference in playing through the breaks during the solo and playing with the breaks… and getting that certain riff that builds the tension properly can take multiple takes even when you know what you want to achieve.

    But I do agree with you that the mixing process (especially the way you break it down) is a logical progression of putting the tracks together dynamically so they work with each other instead of competing with each other. It is what makes even a 3 piece band (or in J.W.’s vein 2 pieces and a couple of backing tracks) seem like a chorus without necessarily having to scramble through a train wreck to get there!

      • ironman2819

        Well I actually named three (writing, recording, arranging) but I agree, art is art.

        Is the perspective of this “making great music” or “making great music for a living” because I think there is the difference here.

        Personally I would rather release 10 great songs that made a listener want more in a single year than 1 perfect song or 50 songs that were cookie cutter…

        But that is the artist speaking, not the businessman.

        • Joe Gilder

          Did you read the part about the pottery?

          You’re assuming that creating 50 songs would produce 50 cookie-cutter songs, but in the experiment in the book, the students who created dozens of pieces of pottery also created BETTER pottery than the students who only had to create one “perfect” piece.

          • ironman2819

            I cannot equate music to pottery… not even if I tried. And frankly “pots” is hardly “pottery” in form, function or “art”.

            If this experiment had students doing 50 paintings or sculptures (something subject to critique and evaluation of effort) then I would really like to see how they felt about the quality of their pieces.

            Again, you are weighing two extremes and declaring a winner. My point is that I believe there is an alternative to either extreme that is even more optimal in terms of accomplishment and reward.

            Some may be as gifted as Steve Allen who could crank out over a hundred songs a year.

            Others may only be as special as Vanilla Ice or Rebecca Black…

            But take heart Joe… for these are the most important words in that article that we can both agree on.

            [“As Ira Glass so famously put it, the best way to refine your craft is to create a huge volume of work. Not to create the most perfect piece you can, but to create many pieces of work.Don’t get stuck trying to get it right the first time. Instead, start making one or two things everyday.

            You’ll eventually figure out how to get feedback and improve”]

            Now getting feedback… THERE IS A SUBJECT for you to expound upon… getting feedback from clients as well as getting feedback on your own material prior to release… how would you approach getting the answers you need to improve the song instead of getting what they think you want to hear?

            • Joe Gilder

              Good question about feedback, and I think that’s important, to a degree. But I also know that sometimes you get horrible feedback if you ask the wrong people…then that can lead someone to make art OTHER people want, not the art they feel they were made to create. (Read Seth Godin’s book, “The Icarus Deception.”)

              Yes, feedback is crucial. That’s why I do mix critiques every week for my VIP members. But when it comes to creating art, you wanna make sure you’re catering to the RIGHT audience, which may not be your current audience.
              If suddenly all my HSC readers told me they only wanted me to write really long blog posts, no videos, no podcasts, I would tell them no. And I would look for a new audience. Because I know what kind of content I’m best at creating (and enjoy the most).

              Great discussion, by the way…


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