How To Make Better Music Without Doing Anything

by Andre Gonsalves

Today, I’m going to tell you about a superpower I’ve developed over the last 10 years and how you can develop it too.

You don’t have to try harder or work harder or put in more hours or learn some new skill that’s going to take years to master.

You just have to BE.

And that is actually the hardest part.

How do you just BE?

A Little Story

Last year after my Toronto Raptors won the title, I became obsessed with basketball. Not just watching it, but also playing it.

Now mind you I hadn’t touched a basketball in 20 years.

I have no business even looking at a basketball.

But I have that mentality where if I get interested in something I go deep.

This was no different.

I practiced everyday and played in any game that would have me.

I played with teenagers.

I played with pre-teens.

I played with twenty year olds.

I got elbowed in the face by a girl one game and passed it off like nothing happened.

I even did this thing called “100 makes a day”.

Which is exactly what it sounds like: one hundred makes or you’re not leaving.

I even developed jumper’s knee, which is an excruciatingly painful condition from jumping too much

I was getting better. But I eventually plateaued after 6 months.

This went on for a few months (which if you’ve ever weight trained will know is the worst).

Until one day, I had a great game. And then the next time I played, I had a great game.

And then the next time, I was Lebron.

No but it was only when I reflected in game that I was having a great game that I could identify that feeling and wanted to stay in that zone.

When I found myself slipping out of that zone, I would repeat “unconscious, unconscious” to myself.

And I’d get back into the zone.

Even just now when I say “unconscious, unconscious” I feel centered.

Now what does all this have to do with making music?

I’ve written before about how artists should freestyle their lyrics more so they can tap into their unconsciousness but didn’t articulate why.

We creatives intuitively know why, but I’ve never seen it expressed like this: And it comes down to controlling your fight or flight response.

Our fight or flight response is basically our mind’s safety check system. If you ever feel threatened, it’ll kick in and decide whether you need to fight the threat or run away from the threat.

You’re not going to nail that solo while a lion is chasing you!

When you’re trying too hard, you’re not going to perform well, because your mind is focused on performing well (or surviving) and not on the actual task.

This is called the Law of Reversed Effort, which was coined by Aldous Huxley, who defined it as:

“The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed.
Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent Unknown Quantity may take hold.
We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us.”

Another Little Story

Two years ago I got into stand up comedy. Yes I am that person.

And after about a year I got pretty good at it because I noticed when I cared what the audience thought, I did poorly and when I didn’t care what the audience thought, I did great.

I learned to just BE.

I learned to control my fight or flight response in real time.

I learned to create from that inner voice, I’m even writing from that inner voice right now, which is why this is coming out so effortlessly.

I truly do not care what I’m writing right now. And it shows!

Okay that’s great Dre, but how does this help me?

…One More Story

I totally forgot that I learned how to mix and master by tapping into this unconscious.

You all know how frustrating it can be to mix and master your own songs and I obviously don’t recommend it (unless you want to lose hair).

And when I started making music at 13, I was in the same place.

I so desperately wanted my music to sound as good as the artists on the radio.

It wasn’t until I met Drake’s audio engineer, Noah “40” Shebib and he just said, “really just listen to music” that was the unlock for me.

I learned to let go.

And hear with my third eye.

Or third ear in this case.

So how can you create from your unconscious?

The thing is you really have to develop the fundamental skills first.

It actually takes years of effort to sound effortless.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a rapper, or singer or guitarist, the audience wants to hear you make it sound effortless.

Bohemian Rhapsody, the most complex pop song in history, sounds completely effortless going from ballad to opera to rock and back again.

This is not easy to do. And if you try to, it will end in disaster.

Anytime I get a song and the singer is trying too hard, it actually hurts my ears.

This is probably why drugs and musicians go together so well.

Because drugs allow the musician to let down their guard and create.

But for someone like me that doesn’t like to create from a place of intoxication (and I don’t recommend you fall into that trap either).

We have to tap into the unconscious.

One More Way to Tap Into Your Unconscious

When I first started mixing and mastering, I couldn’t do it with the artist in the room with me.

Too much pressure.

I’m focusing on making them happy and not on the song.

You see how those two things conflict? So what did I do? Create an online mixing and mastering service.

I can mix and master from a place of calm and zen. My interests are now aligned with your interests.

But that’s just how I’m wired.

You may be able to work in a room full of people.

I know when I was doing stand up, I’d do better when I was freestyling sets, rather than reciting them verbatim.

It’s the same with my music, my best songs are where I sound effortless.

And I know the same is true for you.

So what do you think? Is trying too hard ruining your flow? How do you get into the zone? Let me know below in the comments.



Andre is the head audio engineer at ADG Mastering, which he helped found in 2012. For the last 10 years, he has made it his mission to empower aspiring artists and musicians from around the world. You can see more of Andre's writings on our Blog.

One Comment

  1. Totally spot on. Thanks for articulating this. I am a musician, and a hypnotherapist, and I’ve been thinking it’s about time I created a program specifically for artists. You’re inspiring me to do that.

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