This week I had the amazing opportunity to sit in on a round table discussion about the music business over the last 40 years or so. It was quite a thrill. One of my favorite producers, Phil Nicolo told a story about being in the studio with David Bowie. It was a Friday night, in New York City, in the 80’s and David was not interested in spending the evening in the studio. His direction, before heading out into the night, was to turn up the good stuff and turn down the bad stuff. A simple adage that Phil has used over the years. Maybe it’s what has kept him at the mixing board long after many of his colleagues have closed their doors. But it’s also a dandy way to think about life.

I have not yet found a good reason to turn up the bad. I suppose there’s a notion that says you must think about the things wrong in your life in order to . . . I don’t know, not forget them, or find a way to fix them. It is my experience that if something’s going wrong in your life, you don’t usually forget it. If your job is taking more than it’s giving, if you’re just not getting along with your husband/wife/mother/father/friend the way you used to, if you’ve had a diagnosis, you’re not likely to forget about it.

Maybe, if you turn down the string track that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the song, you might find you have room for the killer clarinet line you liked in the first place. With the noise of how “bad” things are, how out of control, busy, boring, etc, turned down, you’ll have a little peace to figure out what you can to do change things.

I find, the more I dwell on my bad stuff, the more ingrained it becomes. Like a child who is hurt by blame, feels unloved and acts out, the bad issues can continue year after year. It’s too easy to fall into the “I always do that” or “It’s always like that” routine, which more often than not, causes me to repeat what I expect, zapping my confidence. Thinking and expecting the worst of others doesn’t help either. Rather than churning up a solution, it usually just stirs up more trouble.

I would never advocate ignoring what’s going on. You need to know what you’re dealing with. You don’t want to toss out the recording of those incredible string players. When you turn it down though, you might realize that strings are exactly what you need there, but maybe it’s that it’s too loud, or too heavy on the bottom end. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave the offending track way up in the mix for all to hear.

On the other hand, turning up the good keeps you focused on what’s good, what’s going right. You start to feel better about yourself and your life. When you feel good, you treat others better. Now the situation can change. You can find ways to fix the track and make it work or decide it’s got to go.

May all your mixes be filled with good stuff!

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