The P/PC Balance of Effectiveness in the Studio

p-pc-balance-studio

In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey introduces what he calls the “P/PC Balance”.

“P” stands for “Production”, and “PC” stands for “Production Capability”.

As an example to understand this balance, consider a large piece of machinery at a car factory.

(I’m going to tie this back into creating music soon, I promise)

On one hand, the point of the machine is to produce parts. That’s it’s purpose. A day when the machine produces many parts is a good day, right? This is the “P” activity of the machine.

However, if you focus too much on “P”, the machine will eventually break down. You can’t just keep producing non-stop. Eventually, you’ll run it into the ground.

So on occasion, you need to stop producing, and perform some maintenance on the machine. Iron out the kinks, tighten the bolts, and give it some grease. Then you can go back to producing. This is the “PC”, the Production Capacity. If you neglect the PC activities, then you won’t get the P.

However, you can also go too far the other way. You could spend all your time and resources on maintenance, fixing the machine, and making it perform really well (i.e. PC activities). But if you spend all of your time on maintenance, then nothing will ever get produced!

The point Covey makes in his book is that effectiveness in life is defined by maintaining proper balance between P activities and PC activities.

And this is true for the work in the studio, too.

On one hand, you can jump into the studio and get to work. The point of the studio is to produce music, right? So you get in there, slap a microphone up in front of your instrument, and start playing.

This is great, but what about planning? What about mic placement? What about improving your craft? If all you do is “Produce” the same way you always have, you’ll never get any better.

On the other hand, maybe you spend all of your time on the internet, reading articles and watching videos. Learning how to get better at recording and mixing. You increase your production capacity often. But you never actually produce anything.

Effectiveness lies in the balance between Production and increasing your Production Capacity.

Between improving your craft (PC) and actually creating music (P).

Between working hard to get great sounds on your electric guitar (PC) and getting the electric guitar recordings done (P).

Between learning how to mix better (PC) and finishing mixes (P).

Between practicing (PC) and performing (P).

There has to be both in order to be effective in the studio.

So next time you’re working in the studio, be mindful of the P/PC balance. Focus on recognizing P activities and PC activities, and focus on maintaining balance between the two.

That doesn’t mean that you have to do both types of activities every time you’re in the studio. One day you might just sit down and mix (P), and another day you might watch some Dueling Mixes tutorial videos to improve your mixing skills (PC).

But if you focus on the overall P/PC Balance in your studio, you will become more effective, and you will create more and better music.

What do you think of this balance? Are you further on the “P” end, or the “PC” end of things? Let me know in the comments below!

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23 thoughts on “The P/PC Balance of Effectiveness in the Studio

  1. Hey Alex,

    I see a big problem with your article. After a very short time in analyzing what you have described, it quickly becomes painfully obvious how much more time many people (including myself) spend on the PC side of the equation.

    As you say, production capacity means nothing without the production. Many of us have all the equipment necessary to produce all kinds of great music yet our actual production of music comes nowhere close to the potential we have right at our fingertips.

    Thanks for getting me thinking.
    Now I have to figure out how to stop thinking and get tot work!

    Like

    1. Hi Jim,

      Yes, I think you’re right. A *lot* of people tend to spend more time on the PC side of things. It’s “easier”, and it’s less scary (it doesn’t involve releasing music for the world to judge).

      You’re totally right. Most home studio owner already have exactly what they need to make great music. And there’s so much information out there that anyone who wants to should be able to maintain a good P/PC balance of learning and doing. But so often the “doing” gets crowded out.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
      Alex

      Like

  2. Hi Alex,

    Great article.

    It’s time-management in a nutshell. I have found out, that planning ahead is a big help (Hi Jim;-).

    The last few months I have been sucking up information (PC) from Joe Gilder, Ian Sheperd, Graham Cochran and you, trying to get a picture, how to manage my P(roduction). During the last four weeks I’ve been busy, recording, editing, mixing, starting between 6-8 am to 8-9 pm (and yes, I take breaks to eat, drink, sleep, just sitting there doing nothing, go for a walk etc.). On the input side, there’s not so much happening right now. The output, on the other hand, is increasing: 4 songs to be ready by the end of next week! And guess what? It seems like I’m gonna make it!

    After having read so much, my mind just needed to get a rest and time to put things into place. While working on these songs, a lot of the stuff I have been reading seemed to come out by itself (I wrote down some lines to read back later).

    To get all this done, I schedule time for P and PC in my calendar. If you don’t want to much at once, you’ll see the ‘done’-signs in your booklet and that is a good feeling! Deadline is the magic word….

    Keep up the good work.

    Like

    1. Hey Pete,

      Good for you, applying what you’ve learned and making music! Setting deadlines is definitely helpful, and using your calendar to schedule your time is key.

      Awesome that you’re getting close to being done your 4 songs! I’m also getting very close to being done my 5-song EP. I don’t get to work on it every day, but it’s getting close. My deadline is the end of August, and I’m almost done recording. I should at least have the mixes done by the deadline, and hopefully also the masters.

      Exciting stuff!
      Alex

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      1. Hi Alex,

        Two of the songs, I recorded with/for a band and two are mine, so the EP is still a long way to go. By doing the external recording, I committed myself to have an external deadline. This is a great help. While recording, editing and mixing for others, I was forced to find out more and more about my DAW to get the job done. Nice side-effect: I learned more in four weeks about my DAW than in the last three years…and that’s no joke.

        Wish you lots of succes and ‘mucho inspiration’ (as your fellow man Pat Travers stated on his Album Black Pearl) for your EP.

        Have a nice weekend.

        Greetings from a warm and sunny Germany,
        Pete

        Like

      2. That’s great! In this industry, as with many others, one of the best ways to learn is by *doing*. And it sounds like you’re experiencing that quite strongly! Awesome 🙂

        Thanks!
        Alex

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  3. Hi Alex, Jim, Pete

    I was going through all your comments and it definitely makes me thinking about the P & PC things, and is also inspiring to see you guys working on your deadlines to achieve your goals.

    Deadline/calendar and time management is indeed so much important. I realize it, but often don’t work on it. However, I cannot deny that I am very much occupied with other responsibilities. Also, I have started to work on and improve my performance (P) side, which will help me to increase my PC capabilities. Gear is no limitation for me right now. As already mentioned, most of us have enough to produce great music. “Skills” should be the next “gear” we should be aiming for.

    I also remember one of Graham’s blogs, where he pointed out that we should not produce only when inspiration strikes or wait for the mood to set it. We should not wait for it to happen, and instead start something and then try to get inspired. It is very important to get started and actually DO the things. One should be wanting to do it, rather than over thinking the “thinking” process. This is more of a reminder to myself.

    Keep up the good work. And I would love to check out your music when it is out, guys. I wish you the very best and hope you get the ultimate satisfaction out of your releases.

    Have a nice weekend,
    Kaitav

    Like

    1. Hi Kaitav,

      That’s the point, just go for it. Even without inspiration, you can get to that level of creating something special (for you, your friends, the world whatever).

      I have the luck, to have about three weeks summerholiday at the moment. Like the most of us, recording/mixing/producing happens only when I have the time. That is where PLANNING comes in. If you only have time, to record one acoustic guitar this week than this will be your goal and your deadline is next friday (for example). Feel happy when you succeed before the end of the week and take a look ahead what is on the agenda next week. Don’t aim too high, you will only get disappointed. Set goals you can achieve and you will be more satisfied with that one great guitar you recorded than with twenty mediocre tracks you did in three days. Trust me.

      Thanks for the support, I will keep you posted. Good luck with the ‘Planning Thing’ :-). Stick to it and you will see, that it works.

      Have fun,
      Pete

      Like

      1. Hi Pete,

        Thanks for your comments and encouragement. 🙂

        Yeah, that’s true. Being independent artist gives us that freedom to make some good music that we really like to make.

        You are lucky to have such a vacation and it is a good thing, but the best thing is you have planned what you are going to do. I know how holidays can pass quickly when you have no planning in place and ultimately you have got nothing done. I am not yet into recording (because I use computer and virtual instruments to create my music), however, I have recently started to delve in the beautiful world of audio recording. But before I actually start to record anything, I have two important things to focus on for now: My keyboard playing (performance) and getting knowledge of recording some basic instruments, especially vocals. I have an electronic keyboard that I can plug into my audio interface and take it as a starting point for recording. Of course, it will be DI, but I also have an SM58 which I can use for mic recording experiments.

        Thanks for your tips regarding setting one goal at a time and planning. Alex is stressing this important point as well.

        You’re very welcome. Sure, I will be waiting. Meanwhile, let me know if I can connect with you on your facebook page or something, and can check out your music. 🙂

        Thanks again,
        Kaitav

        Like

      2. Really great points here, guys. This is awesome.

        Pete: as Kaitav said, it’s awesome that you have some vacation time to work on music, and even more awesome that you’re planning it out and using it! It’s so easy to see a “vast” amount of time sitting in front of you and procrastinate it away. I’ve been there. Good for you! Looking forward to hearing your music 🙂

        Kaitav: great stuff man. I think it’s awesome that you’ve been focusing on learning and practicing your keyboard skills. That’s super important. I know I spent some time a while back just working on my vocals. I was a good singer already, but I wanted to take it to the next level. So I resolved to sing a song every day, and be mindful of how my voice sounded as I did so. It helped a lot!

        Keep it up, guys!
        Alex

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      3. Hey Alex,

        Thanks for the motivation. Yeah, it is important and beneficial to know your voice and instruments as much as you can. Can really take up your PC capabilities to the next level.

        Keep up the good work! I am waiting for your EP.

        Have a great week ahead, everyone! 🙂
        Kaitav

        Like

      4. Hi Kaitav,

        With the SM58 you really have two mics in one. I love the SM58. At the moment I mainly use a U87(Neumann) and SM57. The SM57 is versatile and I use it for electric and acoustic guitars and as a second mic for vocals. Especially rap sounds cool with it. When you take off the head of the SM58 you have the ‘naked’ membrane and you get every close to a SM57! Just try it.

        On facebook you can find me by my artist name: Pit Merenco (pitmerenco).
        Throw me line. There is no music yet. It is planned for the end of August.

        Have a great week,
        Pete

        Like

      5. Hi Pete,

        Thanks for the tip and explaining your use of other mics! I really haven’t explored the SM58 yet. But I am gonna do it now. 🙂

        Okay, I have sent you a friend request on facebook. I hope I have sent it to you only! hehe. Please let me know if you haven’t received any request from “Kaitav Sapre”.

        Have a good time,
        Kaitav

        Like

  4. Alex,

    This is Great! I don’t spend as much time as maybe I should on the PC side. When ever I learn something from a book, video or blog post, I try to incorporate it into whatever I am working on at the moment. Mostly, when I run into a problem, that’s when I go searching for answers. I have spent a good deal of time over the last 7 years researching music publishing, copyrighting, and the business end of being an independent record label/artist – primarily for releasing my own material – which I now do monthly. In doing so, I came across Graham, Pensado, Ian, Joe, and of course Alex – and there are many valuable videos and explanations that you guys have given. I know my recordings have benefited greatly from the philosophies presented. And probably would benefit more if I did something like Dueling Mixes.

    I contemplate it but I am very careful with my time. I like to spend it first creating (writing and performing music), and then producing (recording,mixing,mastering,releasing). I still need to work on promoting!!!! I am not good at that!! So fitting in the Learning in a way that doesn’t disrupt the work flow I have is my challenge.

    So my question is = How much time would you say you spend on DM or something like it each month??
    Thanks,
    Josh

    Like

    1. Hi Joshua!

      I think it’s great that you produce a new single every month. It’s amazing. I’m hoping that when my EP is done I might be able to get into that sort of rhythm as well, because I think it would be so helpful.

      I think the key to growth is that you try new things, and always try to improve as you’re doing your productions. The fact that you do follow blogs like The Recording Revolution and Home Studio Corner is great, and if you consistently try to apply what you learn to your productions, then I think you can’t help but improve.

      Since you’re doing so much work and are on the “P” side (most people get stuck too far on the “PC” end and don’t get any work done), then I think the most important thing is to not get stuck in a rut. If you find that you’re starting to do all of your productions the exact same way every time and you’re not learning and applying new things, then maybe it’s time to change things up a bit. It’s important not to just produce consistently, but to always be learning.

      I will definitely say that Dueling Mixes has been the single most helpful thing that I’ve done for my mixing. But as you say, you definitely need to be careful with your time. For me, I spend about 4-6 hours on each mix. On top of that, there are two training videos, each about 30-45 minutes in length, and then there’s the time spent listening to the two mixes, voting, and interacting in the forums. So I would say my overall monthly commitment is around 6-8 hours. Which is quite a bit. And actually, I haven’t been keeping up for the last few months because I’ve been working on my EP. So I’m going to have a lot of catching up to do this fall!

      I hope that helps. Again, I think it’s really awesome that you produce music so consistently. If you learn and apply something new every time, then you’ll never stop getting better!

      Alex

      Like

    1. Thanks man! It definitely is a struggle. Many of us spend a lot of time on the PC side of things, but don’t get a lot of work done. It’s tough to find that balance. But when you do, it will put you on a continual “upward spiral” of creating and learning 🙂

      Have a good one!
      Alex

      Like

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