As life gets busier and more diverse, it can be tricky to find time to do something that used to be so straight-forward and enjoyable, like listening to music. So I just wanted to share some tips on what I’m doing at the moment, in the hope it gives you some ideas for your time.
My teenage-self would have sneered at future self, at him discussing how he plans listening sessions throughout the week.
But teen-self used to listen to a whole record or CD whenever he felt like it. He learned all the lyrics, took in all the art in the liner notes, and was immersed in the experience.
Present-self can rarely do this on a whim, but still has opportunity to listen on the go or while working at his desk job.
While my turntable and CD player are back in Australia, I still like the “session” way of listening to music. This is where you are listening, enjoying, and not doing anything else like errands, commuting, washing up, or other assorted activities of earning your keep.
Putting on an album-medium like vinyl or CD suggests some level of commitment, you won’t be changing and searching and skipping tracks. And it’s not the radio filled with hosts cutting in on the end of songs for a ramble, traffic reports, songs you would never have specifically chosen to listen to etc. No, it’s a time to connect with the art, just one degree from the artist themselves.
Here’s how I have been going about this lately…
Choose Your Time
Firstly – you need to choose your time. Mornings are magic. I like to be a little productive in the mornings first and do something for myself before I start work for “the man”. But then often I will spend a little time purely for listening to music.
Distractions are minimal in the mornings. I like to get up at 5:00 or 5:30, push the coffee button, and sit down with the silence and my thoughts.
Once I’ve done the work and achieved something, I’ll stop at least 15 to 20 minutes before it’s time to wake the family up. That’s the time to simply listen and enjoy.
Normally I’ll have chosen the album I want to listen to the night before, so there’s no time wasted scrolling through my library or Spotify looking for something. That can be just like trying to choose a movie with a group of people: it’s an absolute sinkhole for time if you can’t decide. And the less decisions to make in the morning, the better.
Set an alarm
Before I sit down and load up some tunes, I’ll set an alarm on my phone with vibration on, and put it in my pocket. This way I can relax and don’t have to keep my thoughts and eyes on the time.
I also have the phone on “do not disturb” or aeroplane mode so there’s no interruption. And don’t forget to set your computer to off-line or ‘do not disturb’ mode too.
A few settings I pay attention to when wanting a simple and high quality listening experience are the following. Whichever application you are using may have similar features.
Here’s what I look out for when using Spotify:
- Set the encoding quality to ‘high’.
- I turn off ‘Volume normalisation’. This will set the maximum volume to a certain level so that all tracks have the same perceived volume. The fact that it involves extra processing and my audio interface has to be turned up quite high to run my headphones already, I prefer not to have it on.
- Spotify has another option doing basically the same thing again ‘Set the same volume level for all songs’ under advanced options, so I turn it off too.
- If crossfading or some other effect is on, I’ll normally turn it off as well.
Laptop clamshell mode
Another thing I like to do is close my laptop when listening so there is no screen glaring at me. I don’t like screens. Even if my eyes are closed, I don’t even like knowing there’s a screen on.
If you’re using a laptop like I am here, you can change what your operating system will do when you close it, usually in the settings in ‘power management’ or something similar. I set mine to simply turn the screen off when the laptop is closed, not to put it asleep or go into hibernation.
What’s my gear at the moment?
So what’s the hardware I’m using to listen on? I have my Schenker S306 laptop running AVLinux, a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, and a set of Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro headphones. Sounds geil. Which means awesome.
Once I have selected my album to listen to, I close the laptop, settle into my couch, sit back and enjoy. Now is not time to plan, stress, or worry. Now is for recreation, even if for just a few minutes. It’s been well worth it for me and has definitely helped with mood and coping with stress.
If you can’t make time to listen to a whole album, I encourage you to listen at least to your favourite song or maybe a short playlist with your fave tunes. As I mentioned, I sometimes find only 15mins, if that. But it’s always worth it for whatever inspiration you can get at the time.
Hope this little tip was helpful. You can leave your own tips in the comments section or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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