The Best Internship Lesson I Ever Learned

I was in front of a 6+ foot long mixing board with computer screens and gear stretching across the entire room in both directions around it. I was an intern. I had the man who would become my first boss after college standing over my shoulder. I didn’t know that latter part yet. We were still working after a long session all day recording a band.

We were starting to do a rough mix of one of the songs and he said “we need more highs from the cymbals. They’re too dead in the mix.” Like a good intern, I started to bring the high frequencies up a little more on the corresponding tracks and was met with, “Matt, no.”

(insert my tentative and confused look, hand still on the knob, now frozen)

“No, don’t add more highs, that’s going to clutter other things up later. Cut more lows so all we hear is the highs. Never add when you can take away.”

He went on to explain the nuanced sonic theory of it to me, but this isn’t about engineering. It’s about an expression that goes well beyond the mixing board.

We don’t always have to do more things right. It’s especially true if we can find ways to do less things wrong. It’s a reminder to look for all of the paths towards the answer before just turning a knob in the direction of the most obvious fix. Most obvious doesn’t always mean right.

Less wasted times = more good times.

Less wrongs = more rights.

And, the one I always go back to as a mantra:

Less lows = more highs.

In life, and in the mix. Amen.

PS. in case you’re a music production nerd and about to say, “but,…” I want to answer you here: Yes. I know. There are times and places and gear and reasons and I am confident you do it better than me anyway which is why I’m not in that seat ad you are. You, professional audiophile, can distinguish precisely when you do want to raise the highs. Now, in general, I hope we can agree it’s still a cool aphorism, right? Good.

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