Enter your music production space: a computer, monitor speakers, audio interface and hours of sitting on a chair, mangling with knobs, LFOs and saturation plugins. You are in what producers call “the zone.” You are not thinking of anything, except how you can program your bassline to hook your listeners. Physical and personal responsibilities are starting to fade in the back of your brain, and before you know it, it is almost midnight.
I have faced this issue multiple times, and I ignored my physical functions to try and perfect my craft. Quite a few times it is justified; I have made a fair amount of progress and I am satisfied with my session for the day. However, does my body perform at its peak, if it is malnourished and stressed?
Staying Healthy Physically
If you are broke, work a part-time job, live with other millennial roommates and hate washing dishes, you have experienced the phenomenon of excruciating hunger in the studio. Your day might start with a strong coffee and some cigarettes, while you sit down and continue to write this song. You have spent four hours changing this midi pattern and decided that the initial progression was the best one. Could these problems be potentially avoided?
Success is all about habits. The body will not be functioning correctly if its physical functions have not been met. You need to fuel your body with energy in order to stay healthy. I came across this scenario until I was able to change my habits for the better.
You NEED a meal plan.
Eating is the most important factor to staying in top shape. I remember this old saying from my childhood, “we are what we eat.” In order to keep your body mass fueled, you need to plan meals that are easy to make, healthy and are cheap. If you are able to afford an organic meal delivery service to your house, you have solved this problem. However, most producers who have not made it yet, do not have that luxury. They are paying rent, no one cooks for them and they barely made their Serum subscription for the month (and it is only $10 dollars).
In order to solve this issue, you have to meet your daily needs. A major one for me was the protein intake, due to me losing too much weight. You can find a protein calculator here. Just select “Lightly Active” activity level, since you will be sitting down most of the time.
Below is the meal plan that I made, in order to have a healthy calorie intake, with enough protein and vitamins.
This is only a sample meal plan. Your times and meals may vary, depending on what you trying to accomplish. I made mine suited as an easy plan to stay fueled without cooking a lot, breaking the bank or spending a lot of time preparing meals. With this plan, I get about 112 grams of protein just from everything except lunch. Lunch is the biggest intake, due to the fact that you have chicken, tuna, salmon or eggs.
If you follow this, or make your own, you will stay full during your sessions. The difference is immense. You have fuel to convert to energy, whereas before you were burning muscle and fat from your body.
Exercise, in any way possible
Creatives get so sucked in their art, that they forget why their body is in pain. Due to the sedimentary lifestyle of a producer, you sit in a chair most of the time. Most bedroom producers do not have the luxury to walk around in their huge studios, because their studio is cramped in a room along with their twin bed, dresser, and a tiny closet.
You have to find ways to exercise. Many say there is no times for this, but there is. When you are flattening tracks on Ableton, you have time to kill. When you are reading tutorials or marketing techniques, you have time to occupy the other parts of your body.
Enter isometrics exercises. I initially discovered this in a book called Bruce Lee: The Art of Expressing the Human Body. It talked about how Bruce used a plethora of different exercises to stay at the best shape possible. Lets be honest: we are not trying to build our bodies to do push ups with three fingers. We want to remain fit, so we can withstand future tours and have a healthy, fit appearance in the DJ booth.
These exercises will not help you build pounds of muscle. On the other hand, they will make sure your body stays tight and fit, due to their results and small amount of time they require.
I found a set of seven exercises that you can do in 20 minutes, which is feasible time for anyone. I start my day with this 20 minute routine, right before I hop in the shower. Following these, I have a pair of adjustable dumbels, that I use throughout the day.
If you want to really kill it, you stretch and go for a 20 minute run every morning! Running gets your endorphins going, and make you feel amazing. These three habits will keep any creative fit and healthy, and they will only take about an hour a day. You can spread them around your producing schedule, and they will be the perfect session breaks.
Staying Healthy Mentally
People were meant to communicate with each other. In the studio, we communicate with our cursor, the knobs on our hardware synth, the chopped vocals over a drop. Let’s be honest. Any bedroom producer faces the lonely part of being in the studio. You might enjoy your time in there (or else you wouldn’t produce!), but as humans, we need interaction. Let that be friends, girlfriend/boyfriend, family or hanging out with your pet!
You have to tend to your mental needs or else you will get depressed. You think that by spending ALL your time in the studio, you will make something marvelous that will get you laid, friends, money, fame, etc. This is how you don’t make bangers.
Socialize with others
A mistake I made when I was younger. I took it to the extreme to stop hanging out with people to make music, period. I mean really stop. All I was doing is music and resting. I gained a lot of music theory knowledge, but I got distant with friends. This is an issue that if taken to extreme, it will not improve you.
You need a music-life balance. Only producing makes the process mechanical, and leads to tracks that have no emotion. The second track I ever made got released in a local Chicago label. I never thought anything of it. However, it has heart and soul. It is a happy track that was inspired from a sunny day, and a hot girl from Taste of Randolph Street Festival. Fast-forward now, this is where it got me:
If these moments outside the studio never occurred, I would have never made such a track. Do not get me wrong: it is not my best piece. I cringe on that weak hat every time I listen to it, but the progression has soul and feeling. Something that many electronic tracks do not have anymore.
Find a significant other who understands you
A person who can tell you it is going to be OK and hug you after you spent eight counterproductive hours in the studio is crucial. Sometimes we don’t have that luxury: we are single, fat, awkward and all we know is dope sound design. This is not true. Do not belittle yourself. The only reason you have failed up to now is because you haven’t found the right formula yet. And the right formula requires production time and social time, in order to achieve your best self.
There are many ways to meet others. Best one, hang out with your friends. You never know who you will meet with them. Another way is to go to public events that you like; concerts, street festivals, dance classes, video game cons, gaming cafes, sporting events, etc. If attend public events that you like, there is bound to be another person who will like your vibe and want to connect with you.
If you already have that significant other, make sure they understand you. I can’t imagine having a girlfriend who does not consider music production my main job, even though I am not making a living from it yet. It is about what pushes you to become the best, and that is your passion. If they can not understand that this is your life, they might not be the right person for you. Choose wisely; your priorities and success depend on that.
Recap: Keep the Good Habits Rolling
Whatever you do, make sure you achieve your dream. You want to tour. You want to write score for a full-length feature film. You want to make the bounciest basslines in the world. If you don’t keep trying, you will never achieve it.
Make sure you follow these guidelines and change them based on your lifestyle. One of the most famous Greek philosophers said:
Sound body makes for a sound mind.
Keep both of them in top shape, and you will succeed.