The secret is knowing when to stop

How many times did you hear this when you were growing up? “Know when to Stop!!” often followed an incident or series of escalating events that would be driving everyone round the bend and you to the point of no return, hyperventilation and the threat of ‘bed with no tea’. A small, gentle ‘tap’ on the bridge of the nose whilst offering these wise words to our children to this day result in a reaction of suppressed rage and speedy retaliation.

Politicians are surprisingly guilty of not knowing when to stop. It would be a great instruction if The Leader of the House actually instructed; “Please my Right Honourable Gentleman, the secret here is knowing when to stop!”

Equally obvious and silly is if you’re running a marathon. I suppose it’s fair to assume that the secret of knowing when to stop would be at the actual finish line. End of the race, job done. You’ve finished! Taking that literally I think can be helpful. There’s a point when finishing or stopping is a clear and necessary directive. Potential crashes could ensue.

In music production, knowing when to stop can be a problem. If, as most media composers have experienced the thrill and joy of sitting alongside a client, knowing when to stop becomes a challenge and skill it its own right. There are those who thinks they know what they want; “I’ll know it when I hear it.” There are those who request bizarre suggestions;”Could I hear something quite cosmic, but also very earthly?” There are those who offer: “I’d like something light blue, resembling drawn curtains”. And there are those who’ve been in pub bands and want to prioritise the instrument they once played: “A little more hi-hat?” or “Could the triple bassoons be higher?”

The secret is knowing when to stop.

When I started compiling music for Topline, I began thinking that my archive would be sufficient to kick start the library. But I started writing, recording, mixing and mastering, imagining what a client might say on each track. As I progressed and wrote more, I learnt that knowing when to stop was becoming more of a priority. Taking your hands away when it sounded good. Knowing when to stop before the voices in your head start their ever-present nattering and doubts. There is never the perfect mix. There will always be improvements, tweaks, changes, different thoughts and opinions. But know when to stop.

Now, with clients still present and commissions being done, it’s liberating to approach a project with this thought very firmly in your mind and not be afraid or paranoid. So be relaxed, enjoy the process, use your ears and learn the secret of knowing when to stop.

“Sorry what? You want more cowbell in the fade?”