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Mix Blog Studio: The No-Flow Zone

Athletes and creatives call it "being in the zone," while to neuroscientists it is known as "being in the flow." It's that state where one loses a sense of time... until the distractions come.

If you are a musician or music creator, you’ve probably experienced the fantastic feeling of being “in the zone.” You know, that place where you’re totally focused and able to come up with cool song or melody ideas, great riffs and solos, innovative mix moves or other creative musical output. It’s also a state you can achieve onstage when all is going perfectly and you’re entirely locked in with the music and your bandmates.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to just music, it can happen in any creative activity. Psychologists and neuroscientists even have a name for it— they call it “flow.”

In this article, writer Siddhant Chaudhary observes:

The flow state differs from our natural state. When someone enters in the flow, his sense of self-consciousness decreases. For example, when the rappers improvise, brain scans revealed [that] brain activities responsible for self-consciousness dropped. In other words, they’ve switched to the flow.

So how do you know that you’re in a flow state? In this article on the subject from, author Kara Cutruzzula points out:

One of the key indicators of being in a flow state is losing a sense of time. Ask yourself: When have hours passed by without your realizing it?

That definition could also describe mixing, no matter your mental state, but that’s for another column.

Read more Mix Blog Studio: A Nice Surprise in Subscription Support.

Getting into a flow state is a challenge. It’s not like you can just snap your fingers and boom, you’re there. You need to be totally focused and free of distractions to reach it and stay in it long enough to reap its creative benefits.

Some might think that the solitary nature of a home studio would be conducive to getting into the flow, but, as you’re probably aware, that’s not always the case. Many things occur that can impede your momentum and either keep you from achieving flow or knock you out of it prematurely.

To illustrate, check out these endings to the sentence that begins: “I was in the flow, and then…

  • I booted my computer, and all I saw was a black screen.”
  • I opened the session and was told that audio files were missing.”
  • my next-door neighbor turned on his lawnmower.”
  • Pro Tools stopped in the middle of recording and said I’d run out of CPU power.
  • my DAW said it wasn’t authorized, even though I had my iLok plugged in.”
  • my annoying friend texted me.”
  • it took me so long to troubleshoot why I wasn’t hearing anything on playback that I forgot my brilliant song idea.”

Those are just a few of the distractions that get into the way of creativity in the studio. I’m sure any recording musician could add a dozen more to the list.

All kidding aside, when you do achieve a flow state, it’s amazing how productive and inspiring it can be. It’s a place that we as creative people should all aspire to reach as often as possible, because the rewards are bountiful.