Stress From A Sound Engineer's Perspective.


Let's Talk About Stress Baby!

As musicians we deal with stress constantly, whether it's physically being on the road for a long tour, mentally juggling all the things it takes to actually make it a viable healthy lifestyle or emotionally dealing with more rejection in one week, than a lot of people will deal with in a lifetime. Stress is the feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from a variety of events or even just thinking about them that can leave you feeling nervous, frustrated or angry.

Stress Is Normal... Sort of

Stress is your body's reaction to a challenge. It's played a major role in the evolution of our species. When we experience stress in short bursts like avoiding physical danger, meeting a deadline at work or working out it plays a positive role in our lives. However, when stress is constant and persists long after the event has passed it can be detrimental to our health.

Stress Vs Anxiety

A lot of times we tend to think that "Stress" and "Anxiety" are synonymous. While they are related to each other, they are two separate situations. A "Stressor" is what we call an event that induces physical or emotional stress. "Anxiety," is when that stressor has passed but the feeling of stress remains. Marshall McLuhan defined the feeling of anxiety as "Trying to use yesterday's tools for today's problems." Anxiety is when stress is no longer useful.

Stress According To A Sound Engineer

There are two types of stress: Acute and Chronic. Because we are musicians and producers we can best explain it with an analogy using a sound engineering tool called a Compressor. Compression is an audio signal processing operation that reduces the volume of loud sounds or amplifies quiet sounds, thus reducing or compressing an audio signal's dynamic range. If that sounds confusing, think of it as one person that turns up the volume of a song to a comfortable level and another person that quickly turns it down when something gets too loud and then returns the volume knob back to normal once it passes.

A sound engineer will tune how the compressor reacts to sound using different sets of parameters based on what type of sound he or she is compressing. Two of these parameters are what sound engineers call "Attack" and "Release." 


Attack is most easily defined as, "How fast the compressor will engage with sound when it 'hears' it," and is usually measured in milliseconds. Think of it as how fast the "virtual engineer" will turn down the volume knob as soon as he hears that something is too loud.


Release is essentially the opposite of attack. Think of it as how quickly our "virtual engineer" will return the volume knob back to normal when she hears that there are no longer any sounds that are too loud for the listener.


Our bodies' stress response is very much like a compressor in a recording studio. Acute stress is short term stress that goes away as soon as the stressor is no longer present. Acute stress is like slamming on the brakes when someone pulls out in front of you. Your heart will race and you might even honk your horn and yell out few choice words but the stress subsides rather quickly. This is like a compressor that is working well. It only turns the signal down when you need it to and it returns it back to normal levels once it's no longer needed.

Chronic stress is like a compressor that won't release properly. It 'hears' a sound that's too loud and quickly turns it down but when the spike in sound is no longer there it doesn't return it to normal quickly enough or even at all. With sound, engineers often describe this as "squishy" or "pumpy." The compressor did it's job attacking the sound but now it's cutting into things it shouldn't be. Chronic stress is like this. It may help you deal with the stressor but it negatively affects other areas of your life that don't need it once the stressor is gone.

What Happens When You Have Chronic Stress?

Your body reacts to stress with a variety of chemicals that cause your brain to be more alert, your heart to pump faster, your blood pressure to rise and your muscles to tense. When this happens briefly, it can tip your odds of survival in your favor. When it's chronic it can lead to:

High Blood Pressure
Obesity/weight gain
Heart Disease
Cycles of Depression/Anxiety
Menstrual Problems

Signs of Too Much Stress

Not all the signs of chronic stress are written in bold ink. A lot of them are hidden and you may not realize that too much stress is causing some minor issues that can turn into much bigger problems. Common chronic stress signs are:

Digestion issues (constipation/diarrhea)
General aches & pains
Stiff neck or jaw
Tiredness, Lack of energy, focus or will
Sexual Problems
Sleeping too much or not enough
Needing substances to "relax"
Upset stomach
Problems maintaining a healthy weight 

If you're having issues with any of these things it may be a result of chronic stress. Many times it can be remedied by a change in perspective, healthy diet and exercise, identifying and taking time away from stressors and learning to say "No." We'll go over a few things that have worked for us in tonight's vlogcast on stress on our Youtube Channel so be sure to subscribe and tune in tonight at 8pm/est. Get in the chat. We'd love to hear about how you've been dealing with stress, if you have any advice or if you just need a community to connect with on the subject. We're here for you!

However, as wonderful as it is that we're often able to take control of stressful situations, sometimes these problems can be an issue with your body's actual physical stress response and you may need to talk to your doctor. A lot of times we think we only need to go to the doctor when we think we've caught a virus or have a bacterial infection (we're guilty too). We might tell ourselves that, "It's ok, there's nothing actually wrong. It's just in my head." When in reality, it may be that there IS something wrong and ignoring it can lead to severe and needless life threatening problems. If you're not ashamed to go to the doctor when you have plaque in your throat you shouldn't be ashamed to go when stress becomes unmanageable... or Hell, uncomfortable.

It's Personal...

We're chatting about stress this week because it hits home. We've dealt with chronic stress a lot this year. There are so many stressors that it seems like we're not able to take a break from. The state of the music industry, balancing responsibility & economic recovery from Covid 19, the current political climate and so many other things. We appreciate every single one of you that have continued to support our art and message throughout this year by supporting us on Patreon, purchasing music or apparel or by sharing our content with your friends. We're so grateful. We couldn't do this without you!

Special Thanks!

A lot of people ask us what they can do to ensure that we're able to keep going. The easiest thing to do is share things that you've enjoyed from us with your friends. That alone gives us more support than you can possibly imagine! However, if you're looking for a way to support us even more, consider supporting us on Patreon. Even if it's just $1 a month, it goes a really long way. There's a few tiers with various monthly features. If you donate $5 a month you'll get a special music video based on your requests sent directly to you every month as well as access to a tight knit community of music lovers.

Special thanks to our Patrons:
Nancy B, Renne T, Steve B, Rachel E & Nadia M!

click to visit Patreon

We love you! You're the best!

Kyle & J from Roshambeaux


Leave a comment

Add comment