How I changed my Morning Routine with Music.
In another recent article (Is Facebook Poisoning Our Relationships), I discussed how changing up my morning routine has greatly improved my productivity and overall state of mind.
I replaced TV and Social Media (Facebook in particular) with listening to music. Sounds simple right? It was actually a bit harder than it sounds.
My normal morning routine consisted of coffee, CNN and posting on Facebook.
Not just posting though.. sometimes arguing, trolling and generally just wasting my time.
Not only was I wasting time I could have been spending doing something productive, I was filling my brain with the constant stream of negativity in my news feed. Negativity from Facebook and from the news I had on in the background. It was getting ridiculous.
The combination of news and Facebook was fueling my own posts and comments on other peoples pages. Instead of posting something positive, I found myself just looking for trouble.
Not a good state of mind to be in. Certainly not a state of mind from which to start your day.
Over the past few years my wife Celeste and I have added quite a bit of exercise into our day. We’ve both lost weight and are generally pretty healthy for folks in our 40’s.
Exercise in the Morning?
It’s just tough for me. As a working musician I’m typically up late. Mornings have never been the best part of my day. Although I do some exercise nearly everyday; alternating Yoga, Treadmill, some weights etc, I’m not doing much of anything until after my 2 cups of coffee.
I do envy those of you who can hop out of bed and onto the Yoga mat or treadmill.. someday maybe.
2 Cups of coffee doesn’t seem like much, but I can stretch that out to over 90 minutes sometimes when I add in Facebook and TV.
Since I don’t typically have to be anywhere until the afternoon or evening gigs I play, I can get into this weird slump of fooling around for too long in the morning.
Changing Up My Routine
The first thing I did was stop commenting on Facebook. I would browse my news feed, maybe check out the gigs my musician friends were playing, ‘like’ a few pics and close it.
After getting use to that, I found it easier to just not even check Facebook in the morning anymore. Now I’m checking emails, researching material for new writing, checking out new music, and being a little more productive overall in the morning.
Turning off the TV
I’ve always been kind of a background TV watcher. I’m probably giving it less than 10% of my attention regardless of what it is I’m doing. So why is it even on?
If you’re like me and are watching news in the morning, you know its just filling your head with negativity and creating more stress you don’t need. So turn it off!
Once I got rid of these 2 soul-sucking morning habits I immediately felt better.
What am I really missing? Telling the 50 people (47 of which I barely know) happy birthday today?
Jumping in on some political argument? Liking some cat pictures? Enough.
If it is really important, you’re going to hear about it eventually. Why are we so obsessed with constant updates on social media and the 24-hour news cycle?
Switching To Music
Once I got out of these morning habits I found myself behaving a bit differently too. Instead of being parked on the couch glued to some App or TV, I was suddenly walking around the house more.
I would take my coffee and go out on the porch with the dogs. I was more engaged with them and things around the house I had ignored until after my old routine. Maybe for you its kids or family members.. doesn’t matter because its all better.
My morning porch buddy Princess Leia
Now that I’m up and mobile in the morning I might empty the dishwasher, do some dinner prep, throw in a load of laundry or other light household chores. There are an endless number of better things we could be doing with our mornings than blowing an hour on Facebook right?
The funny thing is, I could do all of these other more productive things in the same amount of time, or less than my old Facebook/TV routine.
For Me, I just needed a soundtrack.
Before I get into the “Vinyl” aspect of this article, I think its only fair to say that if you don’t have a record player you could easily adapt this change using whatever it is you do have.
Some earbuds and your phone or a decent Bluetooth speaker will get you there too. If you have a smart TV you could switch it over to Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, or Spotify. I have an Apple TV, and it is nice having my entire music library in my living room on the big screen.
It really doesn’t matter as long as you’re jammin’!
Morning Vinyl Logistics
I’m going to attempt to make a case for vinyl records here.
They DO sound better. It’s just science. There are some things to consider though.
You might be thinking, oh I don’t have the space, they’re too expensive or my old turntable doesn’t work.
You can get into a nice turntable for under $100.
They can easily can fit into any entertainment center type setup or TV stand or you can put one in your home-office somewhere out of sight.
I chose an extreme transformation. After years of not using my blu-ray player (because I have a PS4), I just got rid of it. I already had decent speakers and a stereo receiver as well as a TV stand with shelves that held all of these devices.
I had been putting off wall-mounting my TV for a while. After I mounted the one in our bedroom and realized how easy it was, I decided to proceed with the living room TV as well.
Mounting the TV opened up the space for my new turntable on the top shelf. Here’s a pic of my current setup. Wife approved. Yeah!
Choosing a Turntable
If you’re of a certain age or older, you may have a working turntable lying around somewhere in your attic or garage collecting dust. If it still works, awesome! If not, you’ll want to look into getting a new one.
If you dig that old thing out of storage and it looks like something out of ‘That 70’s Show’ then you’re probably due for an upgrade anyways.
Modern turntables can be stylish and blend in well with your existing home theater components. You can find a turntable in just about any color you’d want. I chose a black one because all of my stuff is black. Simple and again, wife approved.
You can find a really nice entry-level turntable for under $90 bucks from name brands like Audio Technica. I went with the Audio Technica AT-LP3BK for just under $200 on sale. I chose this option because it comes with a great needle/cartridge setup and the cartridges can easily be upgraded or replaced in future.
Now, I’m no audiophile but I’m pretty impressed with this setup. After years of listening to music in the car, MP3 players, iPhones and even CD’s I was pretty blown away with how much better everything sounded on vinyl.
The Science of Vinyl
Vinyl is the only consumer music format that is completely analog and 100% lossless in terms of quality, compression and file size. In fact you’re not listening to a file at all.
Before digital recording techniques, musicians made records direct from the original master tapes they recorded to in the studio.
This explains the initial ‘warmth’ you’ll notice, particularly on records recorded prior to the mid 1980’s… but trust me, the remastered newer records sound better too.
Does it really sound that much better?
There are some factors to consider. Your receiver, speakers, the cartridge that came with your turntable and the condition of the vinyl record itself.
The good news is, even if you don’t have an expensive multi-input receiver or stereo system you can grab a nice set of inexpensive powered bookshelf speakers. Good ones start in the $200 range although entry level speakers can go for much less.
I could write a whole dissertation on the science of why vinyl sounds better or why nearly every audiophile record snob in the world agrees with me.. but the bottom line is you’re just getting a little more of everything.
This was a huge life upgrade for me.
Vinyl records have about -20HZ to +20khz frequency advantage over other formats. In lay-terms this means more bottom end on the bass side and more crisp, clear highs in the treble. It’s genuinely agreed on by audiophiles that the mid-range is fuller and warmer too.
It’s Just More Fun!
Back to the age thing.. I really miss the giant album covers and inner-sleeves. It makes me sad that kids who love music may never know the joy of holding that big 12” disc in their hands and checking out the sleeves with big pictures and lyric sheets inside every vinyl record.
Recently I bought my wife Celeste Prince’s Purple Rain remaster on 180 gram vinyl. It includes the original sleeve art and a big poster that came with the original 1984 pressings. She was floored!
Celeste said she hadn’t seen that inner sleeve and poster since she was about 16. We listened to the whole record and marveled at the sound quality and good feelings it brought back from our youth.
Admittedly I’m not the biggest Prince fan but even I was blown away by how good it sounded on vinyl. I’m more of a Van Halen guy, and all my old records somehow survived my childhood and guess what? They sound better too.
In fact, my record collection (a modest 50 or so records) is one of the only things that DID survive my childhood, teen years, adult-hood and into our house 1000 miles away from where I grew up in Canton, Ohio.
When I dug my little crate of records out of the closet I was a bit worried about the condition of the records and how they might sound compared to new ones. I hadn’t listened to any of them in about 30 years!
I was pleasantly surprised that they all sounded pretty good and they all worked! (Even my Dad’s original copy of Led Zeppelin III).
I bet you have a few somewhere too. Go look!
Why do Some Records Sound Better Than Others?
My 40 year old copy of Van Halen I sounds so much better than a newer copy I have. Why?
Back to science for a minute, the early copies that were pressed sooner retain a higher level of sound quality compared with those that were pressed later when the master disc was worn.
This can be explained by taking a new band in 1978 (Van Halen), getting a low pressing of their debut that year and then 5 years later after they blew up and sold 2,000,000 records, getting that crappy copy that doesn’t sound as good. Theres a bit of luck involved there.
Do the 180 and 200 gram records sound better?
Not necessarily, but they are worth having. They are much heavier than a standard 120-140 gram pressing and they will withstand a bit more abuse. They feel great in your hands too. That extra weight also tends to keep the record a bit more stable on your turntable mat.
The Forgotten Joy of Record Stores
I really miss record stores. I used to spend hours as a kid hunting for a good deal or rare record.
All we have are Best Buy and Wal-Mart these days and the selections are slim pickin’s. If you can find a non-chain Record Store with some used vinyl, you’re in for a real treat.
I’m lucky that I have access to Atlantic Sounds in Daytona Beach. It’s on my way to a regular gig there so I try to stop in a few times a month. The smells and vibe in that place are great. They have 1000’s of used records and some fancy new 180 gram pressings as well as new releases.
Yes new releases! Vinyl sales are up into the 10’s of millions in 2018. Most artists are putting their stuff out on vinyl again. I’m happy about that trend although there’s just something special about hunting for a used copy of that old record you want and then finding it for under $10!
My New Routine
Nowadays I wake up, start some coffee and put on a record. Sometimes I listen to a few. By the time I’m done with my coffee and a record, I’m in a great mood and ready to get on with my day. The dogs seem to like it better too. 🙂
Sure, I may check Facebook later on, but its not dominating my morning along with the TV. I’m happier and its a fun and inexpensive way to de-stress that everyone in your household can enjoy with you.
Next time I’ll get a bit more into the needles, care and cartridges as well as share any cool new records I’ve found.
Viva La Vinyl!
Craig Smith is a professional Guitarist, Teacher, and Writer living in Sanford, Florida. Craig has taught guitar lessons, performed 200+ gigs per year for nearly 30 years, and published 4 guitar instructional books. When he’s not gigging or writing, you may find him by the pool with his wife Celeste, 4 Chihuahuas, and a drink. 🎸