Less gear - better focus?

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Less gear - better focus?

Post by naturligfunktion » Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:04 am

Do you think that excessive gear can clutter your focus, hamper your creativity and create a general feeling of dread and despair? Is it possible to seduce your musical muse by cutting off what you do not need, and only focus on what gives you joy?

I want to hear your thoughts on this. For me, it started like this:

Little more than two weeks ago, I temporarily moved to another apartment. As I couldn't bring my entire studio, I only brought a guitar and an amplifier. Contrary to my initial belief, the last two weeks have been filled with music, inspiration and song writing.

It is nice to only play the guitar. It has been one of my “to-do”-thing this year; getting better at the instrument. Yet time is limited. Each day I choose to play the synth, or the bass, or to do some production, maybe record vocals, or make a dj-mix, or to play the guitar! During the course of a week, I might have only played the guitar one, two times. Naturally, these times where just me doodling around, not really practicing. So when I went to bed, I had this feeling of “man, I really should play more…”.

Reading the thread “the dwindling world of specialists” I’ve been thinking more and more about this – I maybe have too much? Out of nowhere, Junkie XL announced that he will sell most of his gear. He does so because he feel stressed that he cannot play all his instruments.

Now, I don’t have a collection like Junkie XL, far from it. But I am thinking about how to maintain this wonderful world of focus that I am currently living in. Obviously, this cannot go on forever. I do thoroughly enjoy working in Ableton, recording sounds and to produce. Making albums is a wonderful thing. But when I move back to my apartment a month from now, I plan to re-organize everything. Making it smaller, more compact. Cosier. More like a place to practice and have fun, rather than a place of serious music making.

I am very interested to hear your thoughts on this. How do you balance having enough to capture the music inside your head, from having an access that stands in your way? Is this even something you wrestle with? Is bigger actually better?

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by BugBrand » Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:09 am

Totally! KISS!
But it is SLOW getting rid of gear acquired (often impulsively) over a 15yr period!

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by Voltcontrol » Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:12 am

Most definitely. I've been forced to sell everything once and found so much fun and inspiration instead of desolation afterwards - have purposely sold (nearly..) everything again a couple of times later in life to find that same blank canvas and experience the yearning. That's where most inspiration is to be found for me. I think.
Last edited by Voltcontrol on Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:46 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by Daisuk » Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:14 am

Absolutely. My productivity go way down if I get too much stuff. I've had a room full of synths and drum machines and what have you, but they just disabled me more or less. It felt overwhelming. Now I only use my eurorack for everything, and while it admittedly is quite huge, it helps to have it all in one box - it makes it "one" instrument, so to speak. Love it. During the 4-5 years that I had a massive studio with tons of stuff I recorded way less and almost didn't finish any tracks what so ever. But the years where I've only used the eurorack, productivity is through the roof. I record 3-4 sessions every week more or less.

Too much gear isn't good, it just gets overwhelming, but channeling it all into one fully operational interconnected box works for me. :)

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by IEC » Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:33 am

yeah, I have been buying too much shit lately, and my productivity has gone way down...

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by Kawouddd » Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:41 am

I work with subsets. But I'm not sure I'm creative, I'm a 'spam some stuff at bits and OH MY GOD that is amazing I can't even believe I started that' kinda person. Usually start with the intention of using x, y or z unloved or under-used module and trying to make them into something I love much more. Erica code sources have featured prominently there, and recently came in as a total win.

When I've taken abbreviated racks elsewhere I have felt stuck. (Though I do love my small / bedside rack). I do lack creativity though! :miley:

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by Paranormal Patroler » Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:43 am

An issue that comes up with gear is that we may think of it as such, but in reality they embody much more: possibilities, hopes, aspirations, future plans. As such a multi-faceted thing, they can be in equal parts inspiring, yearning, disappointing, unforgiving.

The more of it you have, the more possibilities for any of their facets to come forth and reflect what you throw at it. So there is no end-all catch phrase to encompass whether owning lots of it is good or bad. Yes and no.

In medio virtus, to quote Aristotle's phrase (in Latin).

What is worth meditating on, is how you feel when considering selling something you own.
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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by naturligfunktion » Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:10 am

Voltcontrol wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:12 am
Most definitely. I've been forced to sell everything once and found so much fun and inspiration instead of desolation afterwards - have purposely sold (nearly..) everything again a couple of times later in life to find that same blank canvas and experience the yearning. That's where most inspiration is to be found for me. I think.
Not that I have sold anything, but I think I feel a glimpse of what you must have felt during these times! When everything is taken away, you are also free to pursuit whatever you please. But I have to ask, how do you manage what you have today? Is it a smaller setup or something else?
Daisuk wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:14 am
During the 4-5 years that I had a massive studio with tons of stuff I recorded way less and almost didn't finish any tracks what so ever. But the years where I've only used the eurorack, productivity is through the roof. I record 3-4 sessions every week more or less.
Evidently it works much better for you to concentrate on one instrument! :)

One thing I feel with the guitar is that I am able to write the bare bones of a song start to finish. When I did make music connecting synths and drum machines, it was a looser approach, centered around recording a lot, choosing good takes and basically pasting together parts until I got a song. That was really fun! But now I am into this other mindset, and I am thinking how to easiest capture the sketches of songs I have made with just one instrument. Maybe I need to get a band :hmm:
Paranormal Patroler wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:43 am
An issue that comes up with gear is that we may think of it as such, but in reality they embody much more: possibilities, hopes, aspirations, future plans. As such a multi-faceted thing, they can be in equal parts inspiring, yearning, disappointing, unforgiving.

The more of it you have, the more possibilities for any of their facets to come forth and reflect what you throw at it. So there is no end-all catch phrase to encompass whether owning lots of it is good or bad. Yes and no.

In medio virtus, to quote Aristotle's phrase (in Latin).

What is worth meditating on, is how you feel when considering selling something you own.
I really think you are hitting the nail on the head here mate. I am actually, contrary to what it may seem, not so keen of selling anything at this moment. I do use everything, almost on every song I make. So everything has its place (except a distortion pedal that is gonna get sold soon hehe).

But I am interested in simplifying everyday practicing when I move back. Whether that means to draw a line between practice and recording, or to integrate recording and producing into the "fun" practice, I am not sure. Meditate on this, I will :zen:
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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by naturligfunktion » Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:12 am

IEC wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 5:33 am
yeah, I have been buying too much shit lately, and my productivity has gone way down...
I am sorry to hear that :( Maybe try to play only one of your things for a week and see what happens?
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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by Paranormal Patroler » Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:37 am

naturligfunktion wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:10 am
I really think you are hitting the nail on the head here mate. I am actually, contrary to what it may seem, not so keen of selling anything at this moment. I do use everything, almost on every song I make. So everything has its place (except a distortion pedal that is gonna get sold soon hehe).

But I am interested in simplifying everyday practicing when I move back. Whether that means to draw a line between practice and recording, or to integrate recording and producing into the "fun" practice, I am not sure. Meditate on this, I will :zen:
One more thing that may also be worth pointing out, that I recently came to realize myself, is that the idea of having to do anything, including "use everything, almost on every song" is but another story we tell ourselves. The gear has no expectations of you.

It is obviously genuine, and yet illogical, that we have this tendency to feel that things go to waste if not utilized to their full potential, or the innate obligation to use things we've bought. Why? Why really?

This gets balanced out by our need to hoard things for future use, which is clearly evident when it comes down to gear and GAS. And you have to take into account, for better or worse, that this is a really really difficult age to restrict yourself from your urges to buy stuff.
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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by naturligfunktion » Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:09 am

Paranormal Patroler wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:37 am
One more thing that may also be worth pointing out, that I recently came to realize myself, is that the idea of having to do anything, including "use everything, almost on every song" is but another story we tell ourselves. The gear has no expectations of you.

It is obviously genuine, and yet illogical, that we have this tendency to feel that things go to waste if not utilized to their full potential, or the innate obligation to use things we've bought. Why? Why really?

This gets balanced out by our need to hoard things for future use, which is clearly evident when it comes down to gear and GAS. And you have to take into account, for better or worse, that this is a really really difficult age to restrict yourself from your urges to buy stuff.
Yeah that's true, but there is some logic that one feel something is gone "to waste" if is not being used. Mainly as it is such a big investment in many cases, resources that could be spend otherwise. But maybe that is just another story I tell to legitimize future buys?
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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by tIB » Thu Dec 03, 2020 12:24 pm

I have a slightly different approach - learn the gear you have (fairly) deeply, rotate around as you see fit and ignore the spells when certain bits of kit aren't being used.

I've gone from a 'studio as an instrument' approach where I had everything playing nice to focussing on on one or two bits of kit these days. I retain some bits of kit that don't get used often but that I know my way around well enough to be able to return to them at any point without feeling like I'm having to relearn them again.

I've dialled back my buying too, largely due to circumstance, but also because there's not too much I see that I need now, in that there's lots of different nice kit, but not much that would make me want to move on the pieces I've retained, which is something of a rule these days - one in, one out of the same sort.

Would I be more focussed with less? Maybe, but I don't think I'd be more creative, and I'm not sure what 'focus' lends exactly when it comes to creating? Perhaps it just means deep learning, which I think you can do over time with multiple instruments, especially those of the same sort... It just takes time.

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by MisterJ » Thu Dec 03, 2020 6:32 pm

I think I have a lot of gear then I watch some Youtube videos and see how far into you can go into excessive gear and my setup seems quite modest again. The best thing I ever did was my great keyboard purge of 20 years ago. I kept one good poly keyboard synth, the Prophet VS and one good mono keyboard synth, the Pro one and sold all the rest and have had all my other synths be modules ever since. We only have two hands and can at most play two keyboards at the same time and having a rack of keyboards like I see in some setups is just a waste of space. Midi is a wonderful thing.
I tend to use just a few things at once and have several different work flows I rotate. The simplest one is a flamenco guitar I bought in Spain which I practice regularly with nothing more than a corner with a heater and good acoustics as accessories. Then I can go up to a bass guitar with a small mixer, spring reverb and cheap stereo amplifier I modded for bass and guitar. I can play bass for hours on end when I'm in the mood. With the full studio, I'm more in a composition headspace and will get things sequenced and then focus on mixing. Having purged keyboards, the one thing I've gotten excessive about is drum machines and I'm up to three of them but I find that each one is unique in some way and does something the others can't and I have it set up so any one of them can be the master and play the others and, via Midi sync, control the timing of the sequences that play everything else.

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by Kattefjaes » Thu Dec 03, 2020 7:28 pm

Paranormal Patroler wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:37 am
One more thing that may also be worth pointing out, that I recently came to realize myself, is that the idea of having to do anything, including "use everything, almost on every song" is but another story we tell ourselves. The gear has no expectations of you.
Please repeat this occasionally. I struggle with this urge. "Look at this lovely rack of things- some of these are really fancy and were hard to find, and you're just using a few of the obvious ones here" is something that haunts me. Then I use too many, things get too crowded, hilarity ensues.

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by KSS » Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:58 pm

I'm just going to be blunt and amplify part of what Paranormal Patroller said a few posts up.

Stop mind fkg yourself.

It's NOT the gear.

If you lack discipline to use what you have productively -regardless of its quantity or lack- that's on you.

Trying to make it about having too much -or as we see in other threads, too little- is a mind fk you're playing with yourself.

Do what you want and let the 'rational lies'-ing fall where it may. But don't pretend it's about how much gear you have. Because it's not.
Getting a bunch of people to agree with our own conclusions is a thing now. I've got followers! I've got likes! But even having a whole slew of me too's doesn't mean much when it comes back to what you do in your space.

It's. About. You.

Maybe that's uncomfortable to admit. Maybe having a group in your corner to agree it's the gears' fault makes you feel better.
That's fine, but don't confuse it with the underlying truth.
-----------
That said, it also true that if you don't have your gear set up for immediate use, you won't. use. it.

A guitar -or synth- in a closet is rarely used. Bring it out and put it -in its case- by the door and you will use it more. But still less than if it's sitting on a stand and can be picked up at a moment's notice. Synth equivalent being easy to turn on <--if digital. And if analog, already on and warmed up.
-----------
And I have to say, this modern notion -thank Marie Kondos<--NOT! that one must use everything -within some arbitrary timeframe- or get rid of it is sheer madness. I have a suit I rarely wear. It doesn't spark joy and it doesn't not spark joy. It's a suit. For use on occasions which demand it. I don't get rid of it if one of those occasions hasn't happened in awhile. Some gear is like that too.

The letter X isn't used as often as the letter E. Does that make it less important?
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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by mutedial » Fri Dec 04, 2020 1:23 am

Sure, I completely agree it's "about you." People can have positive, negative, or neutral emotions connected to individual instruments or pieces of equipment, or to them collectively. People do report --- quite often! --- having strong cravings focused on the acquisition of things which can reinforce stress or anxiety. These sorts of craving for gear are often connected with identity formation (what Paranormal Patroler wrote above) and can be deeply rooted.

If people are feeling stress in their relationship to their possessions, to their music instruments, to their "gear", it can be a signal that they may need to investigate what is causing this stress. It's probably healthy to pay attention to these signals and not to ignore them. It'd probably be healthier to be kinder to yourself in relation to these negative thoughts or feelings about our "gear".

Some people may be in a place where they are positive or neutral about having a wide variety of things. That's great!

Others feel more positive about having less. That's also good!

And there may be non-emotional reasons for getting rid of things! Moving, kids, finances, change, whatever.

Outside of "the gear" and people's emotional relationship to them --- isn't there also a long history of people reporting the positive benefits of restrictions (even self-imposed, relatively artificial ones) in making music, whether it's restrictions in equipment or style or approach?

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by naturligfunktion » Fri Dec 04, 2020 2:43 am

KSS wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:58 pm
If you lack discipline to use what you have productively -regardless of its quantity or lack- that's on you.

Trying to make it about having too much -or as we see in other threads, too little- is a mind fk you're playing with yourself.

Do what you want and let the 'rational lies'-ing fall where it may. But don't pretend it's about how much gear you have. Because it's not.
Getting a bunch of people to agree with our own conclusions is a thing now. I've got followers! I've got likes! But even having a whole slew of me too's doesn't mean much when it comes back to what you do in your space.

It's. About. You.

Maybe that's uncomfortable to admit. Maybe having a group in your corner to agree it's the gears' fault makes you feel better.
That's fine, but don't confuse it with the underlying truth.
-----------
That said, it also true that if you don't have your gear set up for immediate use, you won't. use. it.

A guitar -or synth- in a closet is rarely used. Bring it out and put it -in its case- by the door and you will use it more. But still less than if it's sitting on a stand and can be picked up at a moment's notice. Synth equivalent being easy to turn on <--if digital. And if analog, already on and warmed up.
-----------
And I have to say, this modern notion -thank Marie Kondos<--NOT! that one must use everything -within some arbitrary timeframe- or get rid of it is sheer madness. I have a suit I rarely wear. It doesn't spark joy and it doesn't not spark joy. It's a suit. For use on occasions which demand it. I don't get rid of it if one of those occasions hasn't happened in awhile. Some gear is like that too.
Ok, but I think you are overreacting a bit. I thought it was interesting to share how a dramatic change of scenery impacted how I currently make music. Evidently it stirred some emotions.

This doesn’t mean that everything must go, or that more must be inquired, or anything. It is just a fun mental exercise to be mindful about what makes the creative muse happy.
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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by KSS » Fri Dec 04, 2020 3:17 am

naturligfunktion wrote:
Fri Dec 04, 2020 2:43 am
I thought it was interesting to share how a dramatic change of scenery impacted how I currently make music.

This doesn’t mean that everything must go, or that more must be inquired, or anything. It is just a fun mental exercise to be mindful about what makes the creative muse happy.
:tu:

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by gruebleengourd » Fri Dec 04, 2020 10:47 am

KSS wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:58 pm
I'm just going to be blunt and amplify part of what Paranormal Patroller said a few posts up.

Stop mind fkg yourself.

It's NOT the gear.

If you lack discipline to use what you have productively -regardless of its quantity or lack- that's on you.
No, electronic music is entirely about "you & the gear." You can't make electronic music without gear. And gear dictates what electronic music you make to a large degree. Someone can make music with almost anything, but you are constrained by what that anything is -- what sounds it can make and how fluidly you can interact with it.

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by slumberjack » Fri Dec 04, 2020 11:42 am

You always can do less with you have. I mean training to use just two pieces of gear / instruments for a song is a good excercise, or restrictions like to use only a certain amount tracks. If you're able to restrict yourself without selling the stuff the reward will be more lasting (you can sell stuff anyway later on).
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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by Power Mic 3K » Fri Dec 04, 2020 1:12 pm

I have quite a collection of stuff. Part of the fun for me is thinking about how I am going to connect everything and get them working together on a track.

I do sell things off from time to time. If I haven’t thought to use it, then I probably do not need it.

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by naturligfunktion » Fri Dec 04, 2020 1:56 pm

slumberjack wrote:
Fri Dec 04, 2020 11:42 am
You always can do less with you have. I mean training to use just two pieces of gear / instruments for a song is a good excercise, or restrictions like to use only a certain amount tracks. If you're able to restrict yourself without selling the stuff the reward will be more lasting (you can sell stuff anyway later on).
Yes, I think that is a fun restriction to work with :)

One thing I have noticed is that if you force yourself to do something completely differently, you will get new perspectives on music in general!
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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by IEC » Fri Dec 04, 2020 6:09 pm

KSS wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:58 pm
I'm just going to be blunt and amplify part of what Paranormal Patroller said a few posts up.

Stop mind fkg yourself.

It's NOT the gear.

If you lack discipline to use what you have productively -regardless of its quantity or lack- that's on you.

Trying to make it about having too much -or as we see in other threads, too little- is a mind fk you're playing with yourself.

Do what you want and let the 'rational lies'-ing fall where it may. But don't pretend it's about how much gear you have. Because it's not.
Getting a bunch of people to agree with our own conclusions is a thing now. I've got followers! I've got likes! But even having a whole slew of me too's doesn't mean much when it comes back to what you do in your space.

It's. About. You.
I do not interpret what people are saying as "the gear is (literally) stopping me from being productive"

its the mindset of acquiring things

so yeah its mostly about ourselves, but with hardware you do actually need things in order to produce sounds... sometimes this can be good, for example you get a new sequencer that you click with and you create a bunch of stuff with it. or it can be bad, in my case recently I bought a bunch of items that i felt might be useful in the future, and ended up not patching for a while, because all those things could arrive at anytime so I thought it best to wait until I had them to do a big rearrange of my setup and after that I could make more, better stuff with them. its really a form of creative procrastination I think, tinged with a dopamine consumerism rush and the vague memory that buying new things leads to better outcomes. reminds me somewhat of an addictive drug in some ways, "just buy another drum module, its only a few hundred, its going to give you some sort of fairly unspecified positive thing". so hence the name eurocrack i suppose. its damn fun though and once your dead no one is gonna remember how many mortgages you paid off or whatever anyway, so have at it i say.

well at least with modules you can sell it later if you want :lol:

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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by authorless » Fri Dec 04, 2020 8:47 pm

No, I don't think more gear decreases creativity. I also don't think it increases creativity.
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Re: Less gear - better focus?

Post by Gringo Starr » Fri Dec 04, 2020 9:00 pm

I don’t get what’s distracting to be honest. If I’m focused on my modular system I’m not gonna be distracted because I’m not playing the synths on the rack on the other side of the room or my guitars. That’s just me though.

To me what’s much more distracting is always looking at and reading about gear I don’t have.

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