Tools, Options, and Process Flow

There is a thought that too many tools = too many options = more process = less instinct = over complication = wasting time in creating art.  Like most artistic mediums, electronic music is a culture of gear heads, of seeking out impossible-to-find analog equipment, or perhaps a rare VST produced by a genius programming recluse.  It is also a culture of shareware and free applications and the ability for children to produce music from their pocket.  However, there are many collectors of tools out there that I know who produce very little work – their process is in selection of the exact sound, or effect.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with those who have the resources and time to devote to acquiring such tools.  Moreover, many enjoy the process of selecting the tool – sometimes more than the output itself.  Again, nothing wrong with this.  But a question should be posed to any artist – at what point does the artist’s pursuit of the tool and tool selection interfere with one’s natural ability to create and produce art? I.E., do you get bogged down with the burden of choice/selection? One could say that choice is a Western problem, but it’s one that is pervasive with art in many mediums, and one that could inhibit creativity.

There are talented artists who produce with myriad tools/equipment/techniques, and there are those who produce amazing art with few tools, who spend less time allocated to process.  There was a time when I personally had a lot of gear. For various financial and life reasons I downsized considerably and changed my process flow from banks of synths, sequencers, and interfaces to a laptop and ear phones.  I noticed my process flow streamlined and my production increased. I found, personally, that too many physical tools inhibited my ability to just create using the unconscious mind. At the end of the day, process flow is personal, subjective, and varied.   One can slave over plugin settings (no pun intended) or modular cables.  One could be inhibited, delayed or stifled by anything.   But there is something to be said about being able to produce with minimal stress/struggle, and without allocating time into process.  While all artists have their own methods and techniques, shortcuts and lessons learned, I think we could all benefit from examining our own process flow. What inhibits creativity?

By Dave B.

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