You Can Go Your Own Way

Being a “composer for media”, man i do hate that bland title, you will no doubt be searching for all the nifty latest tools, the USB and Wireless controller options to map your favourite libraries. You might be listening in on mixing/ mastering tips, hawking video casts to glean new ways to work and improve your skill set. You may even spend so much time in a community, and in various groups, that you start to really soak up a lot of ways to work.

I don’t have a problem with that, it wouldn’t really make sense to take issue with improving your average day at the office. But their is certain point where it starts to feel a lot like duplicating someone elses setup, or their work management and less about what actually suit you.

Its very easy to just go and buy the same software and hardware controllers and emulate another composers method. I’ve watched a lot of guys first hand at work and im always reminded that, despite all the tools and sounds we have in abundance, we are at our core, so very unique. But something strikes me about using a LOT of the same gear and methods, in that its sometimes diluting an instinct and gut feeling.

Let me explain best i can on this one.

If you have say, 10 composers all using Logic, Mac pro,a few controllers mapped for essential editing tasks, CC input etc. We all share the same short cuts and we now go about organising the same way. We all had endless discussions and came to the conclusion, we all like Omnisphere and 2-3 string libraries. In fact, in this example lets keep the structure nice and tight to make the point.

During a long series of late night procrastination chats, ie: after 11pm via FaceBook, we whittled down so many ways to go about our work and what our preferences are, those personal choices just become more and more blurred. In seeking a favourable starting point, we diluted some actual personal decisions.

Now that’s a broad stroke, but its a valid one i feel. Not in a random looking into the sky, dreaming random thoughts kind of way, but through years of conversations working with lots of people. One thing i noticed was that many years ago, ‘pre internet’, their was far less cross talk. Less exchange.

So we had to learn a very specific route all to ourselves using all manner of choices that rarely imitated anyone elses. Walking into one studio or setup, was drastically different to the next.

Its one of the many reasons i re embraced hardware again. We had a LOT of it. Not always through choice but purely because we just simply had to run like this. Their were a rack of Akai S series samplers, a few Roland synths, tons of expensive, room engulfing outboard and lest we not forget  the true sea of cables and a big desk devouring the room. I pause to say “studio” as its one cool parallel about back then, as to where we are today.

We all built something from nothing and every choice was even more considered due to the far greater costs to run. Like run anything at all. Outside of an Atari ST, a sampler, Mackie desk and some tricks up our sleeves, most of us were only buying exactly what we know we needed. I mean really needed. Each purchase was more considered and one false step, led you back to a long road of saving. Professionally, no one can afford to just buy a 2 grand synth or a 5k chunk of outboard and hope it all pans out.

But that’s where we have changed in our approach, our perceptions and we have forgotten what a little personal choice was like based on restrictions and just making up your own bloody mind.

I love and hate in each measure how easy things really are now. From gaining work 5500 miles away, buying a full orchestral library that cost hundreds of thousands to make, to having a very high production value is but a plugin preset away, you know who you are Ozone user!

The people whos work tends to excite me the most, are those who aren’t always wanting to follow the trends right now. Those who can play instruments and don’t want to lose that valuable connection, that strong musicality they came into all this with in abundance.

I mean, when the power is down, can you sit and strum a GUI?

Its just as valid to know who you are when you make music of any kind. I know guys with walls of Mac, some with very basic home PC’s, some who have never booted up a computer and create wonderful music minus the ones and zeros. I know very successful guys who are using some famously tired and out of date gear, but still make astonishing music under awful limitations by todays standards.

Where i feel worried, is when we listen a bit ‘too’ much. Take too many tips, start to emulate too many other creatives. When you are all just using mainly one synth in your work and you know a million other guys are too. When your just finding ways to get that sound <

Its worrying for sure. Again, its where i found a slice of personal freedom buying more hardware again, playing more bass guitar when i can, pick up interesting real instruments you can have a tactile relationship with. When every decision is, i guess i must buy that type of computer because everyone told me to. I would be a fool to use XXX Daw down to the lower than average opinion poll in the group i use.

Its most certainly cheaper than its ever been. For newcomers, trust us tired old dogs, its a damn sight cheaper and easier to run a typical writing, recording session than it was 25 years ago.Its also very easy to come about work. But that’s saved for another rant in a different blog, some other time……

Id just say to anyone who is writing “music for…(pauses to sick a little)”, just remember who you are and the very unique set of ears you have. How your interpretation to writing music is as perfect and unique as your listening experience. No one really hears the same thing. Outside of the sonic foot print of any music, we all write our own story, relate to the personal experiences we have, the life we have lived. And does this translate into how we sound like others??

Yes shamefully for all that unique emotional living, we can come out dangerously mono. In some musical genres, i fear this is approaching a big crunch point where trend based emulation is getting ridiculous to the point of a bad photo copy running over and over.

When someone sticks their head above the noise and you discover they are just doing it completely as it feels to do so, its such a big breath of fresh air. I mean you don’t have to run your Ukulele through a Pittsburgh modular, or adopt a weird bizarre hipster lifestyle.  It really is just spending some time investing in a few less GUI’s, and taking some time to be you and enjoy your own interpretation.

The risk long term isn’t one of, we didn’t quite keep up with the trends, its just that we simply did, and too our detriment.  Be yourself, learn to enjoy your though process, dont listen to any of the nay sayers. Just enjoy.



2 thoughts on “You Can Go Your Own Way

  1. To add to your point – the nature of the selling of the modern software we’re deluged with is to infer that “Our plugin is what (enter A-list producer) uses and your productions will sound just like his”. This sales tactic is also contributing to the impulse to emulate others. I’m just as guilty of this btw.

    • yes very much so. I think influence within the community is stronger though by comparison, we do tend to gravitate towards our peers. we seek advice, approval and we take all our leads from what we perceive as referred introductions when we hear others using big name products.
      I think its a little too easy to say, we buy because we are under sales pressure. get it, and partially i do agree, but no amount of life affirming makes me want to buy other big brands in my daily life.
      you have to make better personal ,unique choices and i think we allow ourselves to be underestimated, to take the easy road. we are at our core, so utterly unique and in the early stages of learning music, picking things up, we take much bigger risks. i believe we make our own circles smaller with each pass because we simply drink a little more coolaid each time we delve. the tactic being emplyed is certainly valid, but i wonder how much of that is whats causing that type of sheep, laziness and how much comes down to our own perception in the company of others -(peers) etc

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