My #1 Computer Troubleshooting Solution

My #1 Computer Troubleshooting Tip -

Sometimes we humans just make things more difficult on ourselves than we need to.  An example of this weird phenomenon that I see every day in my classroom is computer troubleshooting.

Of course, we’ve all had those moments when our computer/software just didn’t react the way we thought it should.  It happens to me too so I understand how frustrating this can be.

However, it’s the way we react to these moments of frustration that separates the experienced/savvy computer user from the novice.

Luckily, I have a quick and simple fix for you.  So, in the hopes of saving you from hours of frustration, here’s my #1 solution to 90% of your computer issues:

When In Doubt, Re-Start

Wow, that was a little anti-climactic wasn’t it?  Unfortunately, I’m not kidding.  The simple act of re-booting your computer will fix about 90% of your computer troubles.

I can’t give you the technical reason why this works because it will be different for each of you.  All I can I tell you is that 9 times out of 10 this will fix whatever issue you were experiencing.  And here is where your mindset is going to come into play.

Just Get Out Of Your Own Way

The only way this is really going to work for you on a consistent basis is if you are able to quit obsessing over the details.  Here’s what I mean by this.

Based on my 15+ years of teaching experience, computer users break down into two main groups:

  • Those that feel like they need to understand every single technical thing involved in using their computer system, no matter how small or random it may be.
  • Those that just want to get stuff done.

It’s the people in the first group that tend to waste a huge amount of their time trying to understand why they get a certain error message or why something isn’t working the way they think it should.  They’ll often spend as much as half an hour or more trying to “beat a dead horse” when they could have simply re-started their computer and been up and running again in 2-3 minutes.

The people in the second group tend to be focused on finishing tasks.  Because of this, they don’t bother wasting the extra mental energy needed to figure out why something went wrong.  They simply re-start and move on.  Problem solved.

In other words, they stay out of their own way.  You need to find a way to join this second group.

What About The Other 10%

At this point there’s probably a few of you asking, “What about when re-starting doesn’t fix my problem”?  As I mentioned before, about 10% of the time you’ll find that re-starting your computer won’t fix your problem.

This is when you’ll have to dig a little deeper for a solution.  Check out your owner’s manual, surf Google or the forums.  If this still fails you may need to call tech support.

However, if you do resort to calling tech support be prepared for one of the first questions they ask you to be something like, “Well, have you tried re-starting your computer?”  And that’s the moment when I hope you remember this tip and say to yourself, “Man, Bill really does know what he’s talking about!” 🙂

Best of luck on your computer troubleshooting and, as always, feel free to “drop me a line” here with any questions or comments.

Are You Really Listening?

One of the most important skills any musician, recording engineer, producer, sound designer, etc.., must have is the ability to listen critically. What do I mean by that? Not only must you be able to listen, you must be able to understand what you are hearing.

I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you are a recording engineer and you are spending your day cutting guitar tracks. The guitarist tells you that he has a specific tone in mind for the next song. He plays you three examples from other songs to give you an idea of the tone he is looking for. As an engineer, it’s now your job to listen to those examples and immediately understand what your client is looking for and how to get it for them.

Here’s another example… You’re writing a new tune and you need the ultimate kick drum sample. You search your sample libraries and realize that you just can’t find what you are looking for. Now what are you going to do? Well, if you are are a well trained producer/engineer you should have no trouble taking the kick drum sound that you are hearing in your head and turning it into a reality. You will have spent many hours listening to kick drum samples so that you understand what frequencies are involved. You will have also listened to the shape and envelope of a great kick drum. Because you have developed your ability to listen and understand what you are hearing it shouldn’t take you very long to find a kick drum sample that is close to what you are looking for. Then all you need to do is apply the correct amount of EQ and/or compression and other effects to create your ultimate kick drum.

A common question among new engineers/producers/sound designers is, “How do I practice listening?”. I have lot’s of ideas on this but I’d like to turn it over to you. How have you developed your listening skills? Are there specific books or courses that you’ve used in your studies? Leave me a comment and let me know. We’ll continue this conversation in future posts.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Project Studios

What does an effective project studio have to to do with designing cool sounds and creating memorable music? Just about everything! You can’t be a prolific producer/musician/sound designer without having a comfortable workspace. This list was compiled over years of tweakin’ the various incarnations of my own project studio. I provide this list as a service to you, my friends, in hopes that you may avoid the sweat and tears I endured in the quest for the ultimate studio.

1. Use patch bays.
Here’s a question for you. Would you rather spend your valuable studio time plugging and unplugging gear or getting actual work done? If you chose the former then you can forget this article because I can’t help you. However, if you chose the later then get yourself some patch bays. My favorite is this one by Neutrik.  Patch bays make connecting your gear so much easier. You have permanent connections that are also flexible connections through the use of a few patch cables.

2. Learn how to use the equipment you have before you add something else.
Put another way, the less gear you have to worry about the easier it is to get work done. Are you sure you use every feature on every piece of equipment you own? Look closely at the gear you have. It may already cover all of your needs. This saves you from the reconfiguration necessary every time you add a new piece of equipment to your studio.

3. Create and use templates.
Anyone that uses anything software related should be using templates. Think of templates as the “blueprints” of your sessions. If you are like me you only have a few pieces of MIDI gear. You probably have some favorite patches that you use all of the time. Why not make a session template that already has those synths and patches arranged in your normal working method? This way you can pull up the template and be working in seconds instead of the 5-10 minutes it would normally take. Nearly all software nowadays allows the use of templates. I strongly urge you to investigate this feature.

4. Arrange equipment ergonomically.
Do you find yourself continually reaching for certain pieces of equipment, while there are other pieces within arm’s reach that you never touch? You may be able to save yourself some time, not to mention a few trips to the chiropractor, by rearranging your equipment. Put the stuff that you always have your hands on close by. The pieces that your rarely mess with can be kept further away. One important example; arrange your monitors so that you don’t have to move to find the sweet spot. In general, everything should be laid out in front of you in a semi-circle, allowing you to reach 75% of your equipment without having to move, stretch or lean.

5. Get a comfortable chair.
Some engineers/producers consider this their most important piece of equipment. The more you sit the more you appreciate a good, supportive chair. A good chair helps to reduce fatigue which, in turn, helps increase your efficiency. I just bought the Tempur-Pedic TP9000 and it has made a huge difference.  You could also apply this same idea to your desk and/or workspace.

6. Follow a consistent organizational strategy.
How do you store your projects? Do you use floppy disks, jump drives, hard drives or cdr’s? Whatever you use, make it as consistent and organized as possible. Nothing disrupts the creative flow more than spending 10 minutes trying to find that cool sound you made last night. If you use a consistent organizational strategy then you always know where all of your various projects are, saving you loads of “down time”.

7. Save, all the time!
Nothing wastes more time than having to recreate something lost due to a computer crash. Unfortunately, most of us don’t fully realize this until we become victims ourselves. Save, save and then save some more. I like to save separate versions of a project as I work on it. Let’s say I start a project today. I would save it as TodayVer_1. Then as I work on it tomorrow I save it as Ver_2. When I work on it next Thursday I save it as Ver_3. This way I can always go back to an earlier version if I find I have gotten away from my original vision for the project.

…and one more tip for good luck!

8. Back-up regularly.
This is a corollary to the preceding point. Make multiple copies of your data. Depending on the importance of your data, you may want to keep copies in different physical locations. It’s not a question of if your hard drive will fail, but when. Make sure you are prepared!