“Mixology” with George Walker Petit: Set Fire to Your Distractions

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“There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.” — W. C. Fields

W.C. Fields -- George's true muse.

The ‘by the tail’ part suggests a rather negative outcome…and one hopes that can be avoided. But in spirit, I tend to agree with W.C. on this one. With a few of his observations in fact — I like the one about the stimulant and the snake.

So sue me…

It’s been a while since my last article for my friends at SonicScoop, and for all of my…fans. Forgive me, Father, I have sinned, etc. Sorry ‘bout that. It’s mostly because life’s been really busy here. But I also have a few “personal issues” with time management, setting priorities, focus (A.D.D, moi?) and would bet some of you have as well.

Living in central NYC doesn’t help. So many distractions. I’d hazard a guess and say that we all wrestle with such issues and annoyances to some degree.

As unavoidable as they might be, I think it’s important to acknowledge them (“ I do believe in ghosts, I do believe in ghosts…”), note their existence and try to either address them or at least be aware of their potential to derail our work and forward motion. And as usual, I believe all of this has to be done with a certain amount of humor. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves, right?

So here are a few recent observations on how projects can be impacted, not always negatively, by external events, internal issues, surroundings.

I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot lately, trying to find solutions that streamline my workflow…”streamline my workflow”… puh-lease. I hope that this might get you thinking, too. I figure we can all benefit from hearing about another guys neuroses — at least good for a laugh!

To set the stage, there are a few work related things happening at my place simultaneously. The “big” project, now ongoing for three years, is dzdap.com. On this one, I wear many hats – from “producer” (it was my idea) to engineer and composer, fundraiser and motivator…and at times arranger. Those of you that read my last piece know my laundry list of “things needed” to be an effective producer, so this project keeps me pretty busy. It’s not just about the music!

In addition, three pending projects this Spring and two returning clients asking for input and estimates for their upcoming recordings. Then there is the Brazil tour I am planning for the Fall. And somewhere in all of this, there is “my next cd,” a project of my music and playing. And all of life that exists outside of music! Family, friends, health — that stuff.

BFD. Quit complaining! We’re all busy, right? Right! That’s the point.

1. When you get rid of the fruit and nuts, all you have left are the flakes.

I really like cereal for breakfast. Not every day, now, but a few times each week I start my day the Kellogg’s way, and I have my own special (read: neurotic) combination:

Equal parts Shredded Wheat (original), Total (original) and Grape Nut Flakes (original). Let’s not get into the milk thing now, I haven’t had my n’th cup of coffee.

This is a really tasty combination of grains and fibers and in small amounts does not weigh one down, provides a good bit of nutrition and does everything cereal is supposed to…um, do. Trust me. With just a tad of either honey or agave sweetener, it’s a great way to start the day.

You can TASTE the flakiness.

The only down side is running out of one or all…you must then steel yourself for the Great Grocery Adventure. I’m not talking about the journey to your local supplier, albeit that is an adventure in itself in NYC, but what transpires when you are actually in situ.

I am fortunate in that I know what I am making the trek for. I have, after all, arrived at the perfect triad of cereals. It has taken years to arrive at this magic combination and, having sampled the wares of many and experimented different portions of each and their effect on the “mix,” I have arrived at my fave choices and ratio.

Unfortunate are those without such focus and confidence! For arriving at your store of choice, you must first locate the correct aisle wherein cereals abide. Rather than wandering aimlessly through the many aisles in numeric order, often risking confusion and possible disorientation in negotiating the black hole of the frigid frozen section, or the competitive bustling of the deli counter (“…and do you have a numbered ticket, sir? I’m sorry, but without a numbered ticket…”), following the advice of a store “professional” can get you to the right destination without bodily risk and delay. Following the guidance of a pro is key: They are well versed in the product line, they’ve no agenda, they are not endorsers of any particular product. One would hope.

And suddenly, Eureka! There you are! Standing at one end of what seems to be a nine-mile long aisle, eleven feet high at each side, and bathed in the bright, whirring light of countless florescent tubes, you see the sign. CEREAL But surely there must be other items along this gauntlet…paper goods perhaps…jams and jellies…pop tarts, oh please let there be poptarts, oh please.

Negative…it’s all cereals. So, taking a breath and preparing yourself for an investment of time more than you’d anticipated, you decide that you’ll just get some Corn Flakes. That’s simple, right? Good ‘ole Corn Flakes…part of The American Way…Corn Flakes…Norman Rockwell…Rosie The Riveter…the two party system…(cue music).

And there they are…Corn Flakes…but no. NO! You are presented with choices. Original Corn Flakes (“Originally” from seven different manufacturers), Corn Flakes with frosting, Corn Flakes with honey and nuts, Corn Flakes with low sodium, spoon size Corn Flakes, ‘All Natural’ Corn Flakes, low-budget Corn Flakes, environmentally friendly Corn Flakes, Corn Flakes from Europe and Corn Flakes made from wheat.

Choices. Problems. Confusion. The desire to try all the Corn Flakes in all their different incarnations (get it? inCarnations? Woah, I’m killin’ me!) You glance down at your grocery list, there in your shaking hand and realize that you are not going to make it home in time for the 2013 Super Bowl and that GoDaddy spot you really wanted to see. But all you wanted was a box of Corn Flakes.

OK, I’m being silly (as is my natural state). But you knew that, right? I mean you could just go for the Cream of Wheat and be done with it…

You must know where I am going with this.

Yesterday, I opened a session file to start mixing a project. A significant and important project, aren’t they all? After arriving at a pretty nice balance of the drum mics, I wanted to EQ a few things – surgically and subtractively, as is my wont. So I accessed my list of EQ’s in my plugin dropdown menu and found that I had the choice of over 50…boxes of Corn Flakes.

Options overload can await in your DAW.

Now, I know what I am after: Corn Flakes (original). I just want to cut a little 240Hz and boost some air. But there are at least 37 plugins that can do this job. Some better or different than others, some that take very little DSP (or in the case of my UAD-2 Satellite Quad rig, none!) and some that are DSP hogs. Some that have great user interfaces and are highly visual…some that are “one-knobbers.” Sanctuary!!

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  • Brian

    Love it. 

  • Brian

    Love it. 

  • George

    Thanks, Brian…!

  • Christineinaz

    Loved it……..thanks for sharing….

  • Federico

    George you are in music but alas in writing too!

  • gwp

    Thanks, Fede !  We do what we must…

  • Steve

    Great work G. Thanks for sharing your personality as well as your experience. It’s nice to have fun whilst being skooled!!