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What a Great Mix and a Broken Heart Have in Common

I guess I only write after breakups.

I’ll always have love for her, but as many times as we’ve tried to make it work, it just doesn’t.

Imagine a stunning synth you add to your arrangement. Supportive but independent. Bright and beautiful. So stylish. No filter.

The sound is so potent, so good, and you just want to make it work. But it won’t because it doesn’t fit your song. The song is already where it needs to be. Logic crashes. Just stop.

But you add it to your song anyway. And even though you keep trying to make it work by adjusting filters and tweaking arrangements, the core groove keeps falling apart.

It turns out heartbreak and great songs have a lot in common.

I rented a random rehearsal studio today to play drums. It felt good because it had been awhile. Drumming was a big part of my life until two years ago.

Afterwards, when I was driving back to Boulder, “Uptown Funk” was on the radio (like six times). That song has a great arrangement. It feels like all the elements enter and drop at the perfect time to keep the momentum going. After its busiest and most climactic moments, what happens? Yep, it breaks down again. I never want to hear this song again.

My existence tends to be an oscillation of anxiety/obsession contrasted by lightweight euphoria. Sometimes it shifts minute to minute, sometimes day to day.

As a musical equivalent, minute to minute might be an etherial synth pad contrasted by a dark growling bass. Day to day might be keeping your first chorus sparse, but adding a tambourine, synth layer and background vocal to the last chorus.

If you just come out swinging with everything you’ve got the whole time, the music will have no effect at all. No arc to the song, no dimension to the arrangement.

It’s like if “Call Me Maybe” was just the chorus over and over without that dainty little plucked synth line during the verse. Or how whenever the chorus repeats a second time, it adds an off beat open hi-hat, doubled guitar riff and background guitar lick.


Yep, just referenced Call Me Maybe in 2015. Crushing it.

You might feel differently, but for me, trying to make a relationship work that isn’t working always manifests as anxiety. The reason I feel lighter today is because of the contrast. Sure I feel sad, but the anxiety dissipated. I can do the things I’ve been putting off. Like get rained on in Portland or buy a one way ticket to Thailand for a workation.

Contrast is key to so many things: great food, great photos, great music, etc.

Like Eno said, “Having no silence in music is like having no black or white in a painting.”

Pouring a salt shaker into your mouth is (in my opinion) inferior to eating a sweet chocolate chip cookie with just a hint of salt. A pure black photo is way less interesting than a black and white photo with 49 shades of gray. Listening to scream vocals for an hour will always turn your least favorite Norah Jones song into a huge relief.

A great mix is an emotional mix. Music is organic. Rhythm is literally division of time. Hitting a drum is physically moving the air. It’s all connected.

I’m writing this under the sun and in an hour it’ll be dark.

Contrast is key. Rhythm is good. Harmony is ideal.

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Dan Comerchero

Dan Comerchero

I'm Dan, Founder of The Pro Audio Files and Quiztones ear training apps. I'm probably checking Instagram if you want to say hi.

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