The tool VS the job

I've spent a lot of time making music (or noise) in the past 18 years and I noticed a sort of inevitable progression that ended in the inevitable lack of inspiration for me.

I started off with a simple software sequencer, the music was crappy, but it was fun to play around with the technology and be creative at the same time. I never had much of a background in music theory, never learned to play the piano before, only had a few years of guitar playing in my pocket.. But it was cool to share music with friends and see what they come up with. The whole thing was totally lo-fi and there wasn't such a thing like software synths. It was really just messing around with samples, recording samples of your own, ripping samples from anywhere.

Soon, things like Cubase, Logic Pro and VSTs showed up and that's when it started to become way more technical. Dealing with latency, CPU load, et cetera.. Jeskola Buzz was somewhere in between, very minimalistic but still did the job. Didn't care about reverb quality or sample bitrate. Just made some funky tunes with a lot of noise, breakbeats and distortion.

At some point, I started to collect samples from commercial sample discs. Quality became more of a concern. And the whole periphery war.. that's probably where it started to get troublesome. While working on a track, I spent way too much time browsing samples, minding the downmix even before a track was halfway there. I was hunting for plugins all the time, new sample libraries, even bought some NI collections at some point. But I never used them, really.

It was about at the same time when I think I got less and less inspired and spent most of the time trying to do something that's not my style. Which is where I lost interest. Inevitably, I'm a lo-fi, minimal guy and huge arrangements with multichannel 192khz classical instruments really aren't my thing. Give me a saw, a filter and crunch that thing and I'm essentially happy!

I was thinking a lot in the past few months how I can bring back music as part of my weekly routine since I'm working way too much. Then I start browsing online shops to check out new audio interfaces et cetera.. And I spend way too much time thinking about the tools, rather than the job.

I think it's really easy to get caught up in the tool-war. Way too easy. I think I have to knowingly go completely minimal. Time to delete the GBs of samples and high end stuff and start from scratch.

Funny enough, this provides food for thought for other fields. Working on a large software project, I know how easy it is to get caught up in tooling discussions, rather than actually pushing for product features. All the frameworks, boilerplates, yeoman recipes.. It all adds to a huge intransparent jungle of workarounds and tweaks that ultimately make things a lot more complicated than they have to be.

Photo by Moritz Mentges on Unsplash

Published: 05/26/2016

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