LIMITATORS – An Introduction
This is a series focusing on music production; and how limitations can inspire creativity. For each article, I will create a scenario and attempt to produce a piece of music within the rules I have set.
My aim is to generate some discussion on the topic and hopefully inspire you to have a go yourselves!
So, why are limitations a good thing?
Modern DAWs offer the user a huge range of options to choose from; this is great, but can sometimes make it difficult to decide just where to start. I think it's nice having a large library of sounds to choose from, but spending 30 minutes scrolling through menus trying to find the "perfect" kick drum can often burst your initial bubble of inspiration.
Compare this to the days when all you had was a drum machine.
Here's your kick drum, there you go, now go make some music!
There's nothing wrong with having lots of options, but when it distracts you from doing what's important (making music), it can sometimes be better to just choose a sound you like and stick with it.
It also has the advantage of creating a "signature sound", if that's your thing.
Kid in a candy store
By the time I discovered that you could make music with nothing more than a computer and some software, there had already been huge developments in the field of music production.
Upon opening a Daw for the first time, here is what I was greeted with:
A massive library of loops & sounds, an infinite number of tracks, a sequencer, infinite sample times, numerous soft synths with hundreds of pre-sets and unlimited polyphony, compressors, equalisers, and blah blah blah.
This was my first experience making electronic music; I was 13 years old and essentially had a full production studio in my bedroom. To say that I was spoilt for choice would be a bit understatement.
The mountain of features was great for a beginner, but I never really had the chance to make mistakes and discover things for myself. The workflow was already pre-determined for me, I was told "This is how you make music" so I said "ok, cool" and went along with it.
For those interested: I was using fruityloops 3; capable, but not exactly what I would describe as advanced, even for the time.
I was surprised to hear that Burial, simply uses Soundforge to create music. Most wouldn't even consider it a "proper" DAW, less flexable than fruityloops even, yet he manages to make some of the most unique and interesting music I've ever heard.
How could he make music like that?
Why would he do it like that?
The answer is simple, because he didn't know any better. He just wanted to make music, so he just...did; and as a result, he discovered his own individual way of doing it.
Limitations are useful because they make you become familiar with your creative environment; they allow you to more fully understand the ins and outs of your equipment and appreciate what you have. Being restricted makes you experiment more; which in turn, provides a chance to find new and alternative methods of doing things. You'll make mistakes and be rewarded with unintentional results.
In the first episode...I will set the challenge of creating a song using nothing but sine waves.
Please share your thoughts in the comments and let me know if have any ideas for future episodes or if you'd be interested having a go.
Ian Afflec is a musician, filmmaker, composer and engineer from Manchester, UK. Somewhat experienced in holding a camera and strumming a guitar; "I've taken the probably not-very-smart approach of learning everything I want to do, all at once". His work consists of: short films, promos, music videos, and the odd tune. Ian enjoys pretty much anything to do with "media" and hopes to inspire discussion by sharing his thoughts on the creative process.
Write for Sonicstate