Why you should strip down all your equipment to the bare minimum
The Power Of Less
I have a lot of students that have loads of hardware and software equipment, and they’re still not finishing songs. The fact of the matter is most of the equipment they have, they don’t really know how to use very well. So the less you have to think about, the less choices you have. The less choices you have, the faster you’re going to move.
That’s why a place like In and Out Burger only got like three choices. You’ve got, a burger choice, fries and a drink. That’s pretty much it. They have a secret menu, but the main menu is very simple for a reason. It gets people to make decisions quicker. When people make decisions quicker, they can move through more people.
If you get to making decisions quicker, you get to move through more songs, more quickly. If you’ve got a 10 great bass sounds to choose from, instead of 1000, how much faster do you think you are going to get your bass written?
Just a Mouse & Keyboard
I’m suggesting that you strip everything down to just your computer and your mouse & your computer keyboard. If you’ve got a keyboard, with the notes or something set up and you know how to use it, great. If you don’t yet know how to use it and just use your QWERTY keyboard or just enter in the mini notes. Less choices means that you know exactly what you’re going to do. You don’t have to think about, “well, am I going to do it this way or this way or that way” or whatever. So once again, less to think about less choices, faster movement.
Secondly, there’s no need to learn more equipment in front of finishing your songs. If you’ve got a piece of equipment and you’re telling yourself “well, I bought it, I’ve got to use it”, you’re spending all your time trying to figure out this piece of equipment, which may or may not improve your workflow. So that’s getting in the way right now, if your goal is finishing songs. I recommend you take all that away. Take all those options away so that you are just using the bare minimum.
Less Choices, Less To Learn
You don’t need to learn something new. If you’ve got a thousand synthesizers or even a hundred synthesizers. Most of those, I guarantee, you don’t know how to use, and you probably haven’t dove into any of them deep enough to really get the most out of them.
A lot of the tools you have, you might not even need, you might actually be able to do more with one or two pieces of gear than all the other stuff. By producing without all these decisions, you get to figure out how far you can go before you really feel the need for something new. You might not be finishing perfect songs yet, but you’re finishing and using the tools you have, and every time you finish a song, you’re learning something new.
Your job is to take the song from start to finish. Everything else is be a distraction. If you’re not finishing songs, you’ve got something in the way. That’s a distraction. You need to strip that away. Another thing is, you’re going to discover which tools are actually useful for you, because what you’re going to do is you’re going to find a gap when you’re using less stuff.
Only When It Has A Specific Purpose
There is a time & place for upgrading or adding to your producing toolbox. There will be a time when you’re going to find yourself saying, “Hey, you know, it’d be really cool if I could do this. This would really speed up my workflow.”
Coming from that angle is much better than you buying an Ableton Push and thinking you’re gonna produce everything with the Push now. You might find that you move faster with a few different techniques than that 1 piece of equipment. You might actually find, like I do, that 80% of the time a mouse and a QWERTY keyboard actually is faster for you.
A lot of times you want to use a piece of equipment because you feel kind of cooler using it. That was my problem for a while. In the beginning, I bought all kinds of controllers. I think I wanted to look like I had more & look busier. I first got these controllers for deejaying.
So I show up at a gig, I’ve got these three controllers and not a clue what to do with them. It was actually kind of overwhelming and it actually hindered my ability to DJ. I’d gotten pretty good at just deejaying with my CDs and Ableton for certain things as well. So the controllers actually slowed me down and I didn’t like that.
When I was performing live there wasn’t really much I could do with the controllers, so I decided to rethink things. What I did was I stripped away all the controllers, everything. I just DJ’d one night with only the laptop, literally having to hit buttons with my fingers and type in keys and stuff, which is not too cool to look at. It’s not really what you want to do in a live setting, but I knew I would learn something from it.
What I did is I made a list of things like “it’d be really cool if I could do this with a controller. This would be a lot faster.” and then when I had this list of things that I wanted to do, I figured out which piece of equipment was going to be the best tool to do those things. So a couple of weeks later I brought in one piece of equipment and I knew exactly what I was going to do. I set up some of the knobs and stuff at home & essentially I figured out what I needed it for and I used that piece of equipment just for that thing.
I didn’t try to learn it top to bottom. I tried to figure out what I could do with what I needed and then after a few weeks of deejaying, with one controller, I started thinking, “Oh, you know, that’d be really cool if I could do this 1 thing”. But the current controller I was using wasn’t capable of that. But I had this other controller that I could do that with. So I figured out a purpose for the next piece of equipment, before adding it to my setup.
That’s kind of the way that you want to look at your production. You want to find a situation you run up against and you think, “it’d be really nice if…..” and then you can figure out what piece of equipment will actually do that job for you. That way you’re not just scrambling and grabbing everything that looks cool to you and never figuring out how to use it (or if it’s even relevant).
Add Tools slowly
It’s important that you add tools slowly, so that you can get used to what they’re best at doing. Then once again, when you come up against something you need that a certain piece of equipment is capable of, that’s when you should learn it. If a piece of equipment you have is not capable of what you need, or it’s not as efficient as what you are already using, considering getting rid of it.
If you haven’t run up against a problem, then you should just be focusing on finishing your songs, because no one cares what you do behind the scenes. All people care about is what you finish.
Stay Aware & Avoid Temptation
My goal is that you become much more aware of what pieces of equipment are actually a crutch. In other words, if you’re procrastinating on finishing your songs and you’re making the excuse “Well, I can’t finish this work right now because I got to learn this other thing”. Or If you think “I’ve got to learn the Maschine or I’ve got to learn Push, or I’ve got to learn my Native Instruments Bundle & all the things inside it. Whatever it is, you’re using that as a distraction for finishing songs a lot of the time.
So you want to make sure that you’re not unconsciously getting new equipment as a crutch because you’re trying to avoid finishing songs. You’re probably not even aware of it, but maybe me mentioning this help you recognize this kind of thinking.
The Most Important Studio Tool
The next reason is that this teaches you that the most important tool you have is your own brain. Whether you’re using a lot of tools or only a few tools, your sound is your sound. You’re still unique without that specific keyboard, without all that stuff. You have your vibe and your sound.
There may be pieces of equipment that will assist you with your sound, but you won’t know until you strip everything down. I hope that if are struggling to finish songs that you really consider stripping everything down and starting with a bare minimum. There’s a lot of big producers that still don’t even use controllers and they have very little equipment or they’re still using just a keyboard and mouse. More is not always better.
Just something for you to think about.
Thanks for reading! If this resonates with you, make share this with your friends & any producers that could use this sort of information. It also helps me greatly & is much appreciated.
Also, don’t forget that you can read my best selling book, “The mental game of electronic music production” for free, by going to MusicSoftwareTraining.com/thementalgame. You’ll also get my Song recovery kit and my 101 Ableton tips video totally free.
If you’d like to connect with me more directly to see how I might be able to help you personally, you can schedule a free 15 minute session with me by going to MusicSoftwareTraining.com/application and answering a few quick questions.
Happy music making!