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Simplicity vs Possibilities vs Time for Music
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next [all]
Author Simplicity vs Possibilities vs Time for Music
deltaphoenix
Hi All,

Long post ahead!

I decided to post here instead of a particular format forum because i have modular in several formats. While I am requesting feedback, I am hoping for some folks actual experiences (opinions and ideas are definitely welcome though).

So, I have an abundance of gear - not the most here for sure but definitely more than the average bear. Yet, I work a fairly demanding job, have 2 kids with one on the way as well as side business ventures, etc. I have one project that is with a friend and we intend to play out - Modular isn't the most important part of my contribution to this project. I expect to play out a few times a year with my friend and I expect to play out solo - with modular a few times a year. I have played out with modular/electronic instruments in the past (as well as playing bass in bands).

What I have:
12 space Buchla 200e - critical to my plans of playing out. Not going anywhere.
Fenix 2 Awesome modular system but I am thinking of letting it go (if I had a Fenix 3, that wouldn't be a consideration).
TTSH + 1601 Sequencer I really enjoy the TTSH - great for bread and butter sounds plus it can get a little freaky.
Knas Ekdahl Polygamist Awesome semi-modular, nice form factor - can be controlled but it does lend itself to chaotic explorations.
9-12u of Euro i have 12u of rack space and have cut back from 15u. Looking to continue to slim just because I have too much stuff it feels like. In my mind - a 3u skiff focused on my Monome modules and modulation in order to do more with the Fenix, TTSH and Polygamist and a 6u with interesting digital modules and sound processors would be enough to build out a cool ecosystem with the TTSH/Polygamist and Euro.
Other stuff I have an Elektron Analog Rytm mk2, a Synstrom Deluge, Bass, pedals, iPad, mixing board, way to record etc

I tend to spend more time with the Buchla than anything else. I like the sound of the Fenix 2, it is unique and can sit well in a mix but isn't quite able to do bread and butter sounds as well the TTSH (or else one of those two would already be gone). The TTSH is really enjoyable to use, the polygamist is fun. once I went back to a Buchla - the Euro has lost some of it's appeal and I show it no love. I do think that I could have a fun studio environment that involves Euro but I little interest in trying to play out with with it, the TTSH or Fenix which leaves the Polygamist and of course Buchla for that.

If time were not a constraint, I would not be writing this. With another (and final) child joining us in 2 months or so, I am really seeing that I have too much stuff and a smaller set-up would allow me to have more focused/productive time when I make some music. The 200e's preset system allows me to pickup where I left off, make "edits" and continue to refine my work overtime, so I already know that is my #1.

Here are my thoughts:
1. Sell a bunch of stuff and get a Synthi. It has a nice portable form factor, could be utilized live. One idea I have is to get a Digitana Matrix interface so I could use my Monome stuff and a few select Euro modules to interface with the Synthi for sequencing and maybe a little extra modulation or processing so, say a 3u skiff. To do this I would have to sell the Fenix, TTSH + sequencer, a lot of euro. I would try to keep the Polygamist because it is fun and unique. I would lose some bread and butter sounds but if really felt like that mattered, I could get a small monosynth. I like the idea of really paired down set-up, I have enjoyed the bit of time that I have spent with a Synthi before. What I don't like is the cost of the Synthi.

2. Just sell the Fenix and reduce the Euro. I could probably take $10k (geez...) out of my music room and use that money to further some of side business endeavors and eventually have way more synth money (and other money). I know I would walk into my music room in sit in front of the Buchla way more than the TTSH/Polygamist/Euro ecosystem. The advantage is that when I have more time for music, I will have more options. I would hate to see such a pile of gear not being used much though.

3. Sell all the modular except the Buchla and Polygamist. Maybe I would pickup some Ciat-Lonbarde for a little extra weirdness/fun and I would probably get a Moog mono for more normal sounds. I am sure I would pull the 223e out of my case and fill those spots in so that would be fun.

4. Do nothing except clean-up the Euro a bit. I have awesome stuff, why nuke it because I don't currently use some of it much. At some point, I will maybe be a little more studio focused and all of these nice synths/modulars will come in handy.

So far, I am leaning towards #1 and #2. I could see myself getting into a #3 frame of mind after the baby is born. #4 isn't bad, but I can't shake the thought of thinking why do I have totally seperate modular systems: Buchla, Euro (and Euro compatible) and the Fenix's Bananas. I have a buyer lined-up for the Fenix.

Anyone have great experiences by down-sizing and focusing? What is your experience with a Synthi? Ever used the Digitana stuff with a Synthi? Am I crazy? (I feel better already just typing this all out)
lisa
If I may be blunt; people who say they want to focus on making music and then go on talking at length about what ger they should get (rid off) are usually focusing way too much on gear.

The notion that having loads of stuff will hinder you from focusing on music is a bogus construct. If you decide to make music and you really mean it you will. Really, what would stop you? Your own attitude, nothing else.

That said, I've recently downsized quite a lot. I got into eurorack a year ago and immediately found myself less interested in most of the rest of my hardware studio. The reason for this was simply that I had so much fun making music with my new instrument that I didn't want to use the old ones anymore. No big deal, I was making music and that's the only crucial condition.

So, I can't tell you which option is the preferred one out of the ones you mentioned. Pick whichever one will devour the least amount of music making time in favor of BST time (BST time is fun but often an enemy of making music).

Imho, naturally. Miley Cyrus
deltaphoenix
Thanks, I appreciate the bluntness. I think I am pretty upfront that I have too much gear and I would agree that BST has impacted music making time here and there. I believe I called out that my growing family, crazy career and entrpreneurial endeavors are what is really eating my "me time" which typically is music making time.

Maybe I should have made it clearer, What ends up bothering me, is having a ton of stuff I don't use. I don't use all of these tools because of the time constraints mentioned above. I really get bothered when I think about the $ value of stuff just sitting there. So, I walk in my music space, play/patch the Buchla for an hour and walk out. Do the same thing 2 days later, etc. Why do I hold on to all of this other stuff (it's "rare", I might need it later)?

I guess I am looking for stories where folks jettisoned stuff, felt relief and did get more out of what they kept.. Oh and also would like to hear about Synthi with Digitana because if I did decide to go that route - would it work well with Euro sequencing?
synkrotron
I am curious as to how you can have "too much gear."
Futuresound
lisa wrote:
If I may be blunt; people who say they want to focus on making music and then go on talking at length about what ger they should get (rid off) are usually focusing way too much on gear.

The notion that having loads of stuff will hinder you from focusing on music is a bogus construct. If you decide to make music and you really mean it you will. Really, what would stop you? Your own attitude, nothing else.
:


I see what you mean, but I don't think this is always true.

If a person has time but is spending it thinking about their gear instead of making music, then sure, the problem is that they're thinking about gear.

But if someone has very limited time for music to begin with, the question of 'will a simpler setup help me optimize my time?' becomes very very relevant.

I've had little time to play music over the past few months, like no more than probably 3 or 4 hours, it's been exceptionally busy. And I'm very much considering reducing the extent of my studio so that when I do get time in there, getting started and finished is as simple as possible.

There is also the idea (I'd say it's fact) that limits promote rather than hinder creativity. If you have endless options, and very limited time to spend exploring them, it's easy to get nowhere. Presented with a limited set of options, it's possible to explore them in more interesting ways even if you only have limited time. So why not consider downsizing to promote productivity and creativity?

Personally, I get hung up on option 4, because I'm a hopeless optimist and think 'some day I will definitely use that 4th reverb unit, and I already own it, so why not just keep it?'

Anyway, deltaphoenix it sounds to me like you enjoy the Buchla + Polygamist the most, I'd say you should temporarily physically remove everything but those from your workspace and see how you feel. You'll know pretty quickly what you miss.
deltaphoenix
synkrotron wrote:
I am curious as to how you can have "too much gear."

I guess that is different for everyone. If I were a professional musician/sound designer, etc. This would not be more than I require, but alas I am a hobbyist who feels guilty when too much stuff sits around. I try not to be a collector.

@ Futuresound - exactly and I like that suggestion. Thanks!
ranix
if you have too much gear you need to make new friends, your band needs more people
cptnal
Many good points made here already, but try this one. Start with the notion that few people would care if you never made another tune.

If that's the case, why do it? A few comments above have focused on end results, but you'll probably spend more time making this stuff than it has a lifetime in the big bad world. So concentrate on making that process as happy as possible. If loads of gear makes you happy, have loads of gear. If you find it a distraction, or feel guilty about having too much, get rid of the passengers and keep the stuff you enjoy using most.

From your proposed options I would choose #3, because it's the only one in which you use the word "fun". This is fun!
rlevine
cptnal wrote:
So concentrate on making that process as happy as possible. If loads of gear makes you happy, have loads of gear. If you find it a distraction, or feel guilty about having too much, get rid of the passengers and keep the stuff you enjoy using most.


Love this.

Obviously the desire to purchase more and newer equipment is always ever-present for me. But so is the thought that I don't actually *need* anything new.
But this? This idea is a reminder that if it brings joy, do it. "Too much" or "not enough" are constructs that distract us from what actually matters: enjoying whatever it is we're doing.

But to answer the specific question...
deltaphoenix wrote:
So, I walk in my music space, play/patch the Buchla for an hour and walk out. Do the same thing 2 days later, etc. Why do I hold on to all of this other stuff?

Maybe that's your answer then. Keep the Buchla, ditch the rest.
synkrotron
deltaphoenix wrote:
If I were a professional musician/sound designer, etc. This would not be more than I require, but alas I am a hobbyist who feels guilty when too much stuff sits around. I try not to be a collector.


I understand that.

I would like to suggest that you should not feel guilty, however. Unless, of course, you have needlessly wasted your hard earned cash while neglecting the everyday needs of you and yours.

Apologies for not being able to offer any real advice here.

Cheers,

andy
sandettie
Amateur here, not out to make recordings but just ad-hoc performances/explorations for myself. I have limited time each week to do this.

I found that when I had a lot more random gear, it exerted a cognitive load on me even when I wasn't using it, if that makes sense? Like, I have N hours to make patches and enjoy them, and simply couldn't make use of all the stuff that I had.

While that was the case, I spent bandwidth fretting about how I wasn't gaining deeper understanding of the less-used gear.

So I got rid of most of it; I have two modulars now, both in portable cases, and a minimal set of stompboxes for reverb/delay. I am able to focus and go ever deeper on the equipment I have, and not burn mental energy on the kit I'm "neglecting". This is fun!
cycad73
All that matters is that the magic happens. I don't think anything but the art and the very real constraints on your financial or time resources should matter. And a real commitment to art means that other aspects of your life, may be kind of screwed up.

But if you're trying to look better to yourself, then you're bringing in things outside the art and there and only there you really should feel guilty. The best art is made by people who don't consider themselves at all who let the art more or less drive things.

But OK, we've all experienced "addition by subtraction.' If you scale down a system you'll get more out of what's left. This is because the habitual possibilities of the big system, I mean what it is in how you use it, conceal the possibilities of the small system. At the same time, you lose the possibilities of the big system. Neither one is better or worse than the other, the point is what feels right to you.

You can't take a picture without a frame. Which means, you can't reveal stuff without other stuff being concealed. Revealing and concealing always go hand in hand, there is no position where you can have everything in clear view. The enshrouding mists are what frees. The artist is he who protects the mystery. A wall of modular is hence NOT the sum of the individual modules. It is simply a wall, with its own possibilities that you disclose by using it. Maybe a lot of the nuanced possibilities of individual modules get covered up, and that's OK, you should accept this and not fight it. But the idea of "getting more from less" can also be concealing. Maybe the wall (I'm thinking of Leo Kupper) really IS what works its magic for you. Each has to work this out in their own way.
lisa
Futuresound wrote:
But if someone has very limited time for music to begin with, the question of 'will a simpler setup help me optimize my time?' becomes very very relevant.

But the OP isn't talking about an intricate setup. It's not like there's a complex signal chain that could be simplified. He/she has a bunch of instruments and feel bad when they're not being utilized. That's a purely mental thing. And I really can't see how many instruments could get in the way of making music. It's like saying that you have to sell some of your cars because you can't keep showing up late for work. Why would you show up late for work just because you have more than one car? You don't have to drive them all at once, you know. wink

In my experience this line of thought about optimizing the studio to get more music done is often self-deceit and an excuse to put a lot of time into (thinking about) buying and selling stuff.

Futuresound wrote:
There is also the idea (I'd say it's fact) that limits promote rather than hinder creativity.

Alright then, sell all your ger and get a set of claves. You'll be infinitely creative. hihi Seriously though, that limitations = creativity cliché has much going for it. There are great examples of people with small means making fantastic art and there are tons of sad examples of people with tons of stuff making nothing. However, if you can't be creative when you have unlimited possibilities then that's in your head. There are many others with tons of stuff that still make tons of great music. Obviously it's fully possible.

If what you meant was that you get mentally blocked by too much gear or too many possibilities then I get that.
deltaphoenix
Interesting responses and observations in here.

@ cptnal - I now see that wrote fun twice on option 3. That does lend some extra consideration to that option. I did sell/trade the Fenix for the exact 3 Buchl modules that I was hoping for + a little $. So that piece of number 3 is happening.

So I am landing on a modified option of 2 & 3. I will keep the TTSH, Polygamist and trim the Euro down a bit. I figure I will have 2 work stations: Buchla Land and 1/8” Jack Junction.
Dragonaut
I prefer a small setup because it allows me to really get to know my gear which makes me more likely to come up with something original. I have two softsynths that I use and only know one really well. I've made a lot of great sounds with this synth (Bazille) and it took me a couple years to really be able to predict what would happen when I programmed it in a complex fashion.

My eurorack is small but feels out of hand sometimes as I have a lot of options for timbre shaping based around four oscillators and an FM Aid. I also integrate my softsynths with my eurorack so the possibilities are already daunting. I feel that with 208hp and my laptop I can be experimenting for a long time. Luckily for me I quite enjoy using a computer to make music but if I didn't I would definitely invest in a sampler so as not to grow a monster of a euro system.
Eichburger
These more 'meta level' type threads are always really interesting.

My situation was very similar to yours deltaphoenix. Two young kids, building my own small businesses, limited time, playing out from time to time.

I went completely the other way. Basically I sold everything that wasn't euro so that I wouldn't have all the issues of getting things to co-operate. I did keep my Koma sequencer but that is very much a euro module in conception but with its own rack and psu.

Now I have synth voices (mostly semi modular or modules organised into single manufacturer functional groups) sequencers, controllers and effects all integrated together.

I built all the racks myself and I designed one to contain my live rig for playing out.

No reason for that to work for anyone else but I'm really happy with it.
PolyBen
This is a great discussion.

If you have equipment you're not using, it absolutely comes with a series of costs. It's costing you space, which has value. There's a possibility that it's depreciating by just sitting there, and there's a non-zero chance it could somehow get broken or dropped. You're missing out on the gear you could buy if you sold it and got something you WOULD use. There's also the less selfish idea that you're depriving someone else of an instrument they may want to buy and use by keeping it in your rig if you're not doing anything with it.

Also, having a clean setup with equipment you enjoy using and use often will absolutely help you make more music. If your space feels cluttered or filled with stuff you're not using, it can feel like a chore to sit down and work with it. Simplify, keep the stuff you used wired up and ready to go, and see how it impacts your productivity.

It really sounds like option two is the way to go here. I think the human brain is really good at stopping us from getting rid of stuff we're not using, but slimming down the stuff we have to just the stuff we use has all sorts of positive outcomes. It keeps more gear in circulation, it makes us money, it cleans up our studios ... all good things.
JES
You could just focus on part of your setup and have a goal of making X number of tracks with it. Then switch to something else, repeat, etc.
lisa
JES wrote:
You could just focus on part of your setup and have a goal of making X number of tracks with it. Then switch to something else, repeat, etc.

Apparently some folks can’t focus in the way that you are suggesting. They have to use everything they own all of the time.

Personally I think your suggestion is great though.
deltaphoenix
Hi Lisa,

I went back and read this thread and I do see a few sentences out of the several paragraphs that I wrote which do lend themselves to supporting the way you are framing this thread. The piece you seem to be missing is that the time I have available to make music is limited, that is the linchpin in this situation.
If I could reasonably spend even 2 hours a day in my music room, I wouldn’t have made this thread. Between travel for my job, a 3 year old, a wife that isn’t having the easiest pregnancy, side businesses, having meaningful/fun time with my family etc. - I get an hour here or there, several times a week to make music; plus one 3 hour jam/practice session with my band mate. I am not complaining, I have made all of the choices that have led me to this very position in life and I am happy. After the baby is born, I will likely have a little less time for music and that is okay. I know I am not the only busy person on here so I decided to reach to here from folks in, or that have been in this situation. The hope is that the side businesses continue to grow and I get to leave my job and stop traveling so much - at that point - this situation changes.

So, I have decided to cut back from 3 to 2 formats of modular. I ended up trading the Fenix for several Buchla modules and I think that was a great move. I still am going to slim the Euro down a little. I don’t need many Buchla-esqe modules in the Euro rig when I have a real one. I think the TTSH/Euro/Polygamist system gets to be sampled and used in my band and/or solo sets. I am fine with them being used sparingly for awhile, I know I will need a resonate 24db resonant LPG sweep at some point and the Buchla just can’t do that.

Cheers
Pelsea
Time is your most precious possession. Modular synthesis is probably the most time consuming way to make music there is, since you have to design a new instrument (patch) for each piece and learn it before can you record or perform.

Just about every piece of gear beyond the classic modules is designed to simplify instrument design by encapsulating a set of functions that work well with each other-- this is a more efficient way to build patches than figuring out how to achieve the same results with separate and slightly incompatible modules.

If a piece of gear saves you time, even occasionally, keep it around.

(Also, remember it takes time to sell gear-- time that may be better spent patching.)
lisa
deltaphoenix wrote:
I went back and read this thread and I do see a few sentences out of the several paragraphs that I wrote which do lend themselves to supporting the way you are framing this thread. The piece you seem to be missing is that the time I have available to make music is limited, that is the linchpin in this situation.

No no, I'm well aware of the premise for this thread. You say that you are thinking about selling (and buying) stuff to better being able to utilize the music making time that you have.

My point is that it's all in your head. You are not hindered from focusing your time on one instrument/setup for a while without selling (and buying) any stuff. And often when I've taken part in discussions like these they have turned out to be thin veils for focusing on buying and selling stuff instead of making music. Not saying that's the case this time but it's worth considering.

But it's up to you, of course.

Cheerio
rob909101
applause
mousegarden
lisa wrote:
If I may be blunt; people who say they want to focus on making music and then go on talking at length about what ger they should get (rid off) are usually focusing way too much on gear.

The notion that having loads of stuff will hinder you from focusing on music is a bogus construct. If you decide to make music and you really mean it you will. Really, what would stop you? Your own attitude, nothing else.

That said, I've recently downsized quite a lot. I got into eurorack a year ago and immediately found myself less interested in most of the rest of my hardware studio. The reason for this was simply that I had so much fun making music with my new instrument that I didn't want to use the old ones anymore. No big deal, I was making music and that's the only crucial condition.

So, I can't tell you which option is the preferred one out of the ones you mentioned. Pick whichever one will devour the least amount of music making time in favor of BST time (BST time is fun but often an enemy of making music).

Imho, naturally. Miley Cyrus


I'm with Lisa on this one, I've been through the downsizing upsizing sidesizing whateversizing routes, it just wastes time. If you have music in you and the desire and talent to make it it will spew out all over the place with little effort no matter what equipment you have a mouth organ, or a giant studio, it makes no difference, that's what I've learnt along what can be a very long journey and learning curve.
I've neve had more equipment then I have now, but I just use what I want to use, you don't have to switch everything on.
JES
To be fair, I get the OP’s point. Most of the gear talk around here assumes it is inspiration. But then sometimes (often? if you buy a lot at once) it turns out to be a distraction or a dead end.
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