Making music should feel good, right?
I recently received a great email from a reader and a fellow producer, Richard Anderson. I wanted to quote his email here (with his permission), as it really hit the mark for me.
“since the summer I’ve got myself a macbook, running live 9, using a maschine, a midi keyboard and a couple of other midi controllers. moving away from cubase and getting in to the live production. its the best move i ever made. i just love the intuitive way it all works, to be hands on. instead of slaving over a mouse and keyboard, i’m now using my mind to come up with endless ways to file my loops, samples, clips etc so that i can access them quickly to perform it all on the fly. I feel like a different part of my brain is being stimulated and i’m beginning to remember why i decided to dedicate my life to music.”
Thank you Richard – I couldn’t have said it better. I’ve been through the same process myself in the past years and it really does feel like physically engaging a different part of the brain when making music now. Without knowing much about how the brain works, I would even argue that this is actually the case.
There is something deeply gratifying about physically engaging yourself into the act of making music. I try to cultivate this way of working these days and evolve my environment accordingly.
It has become clear to me that the methods we use to make music make a big difference on the outcome – both the quality as well as quantity.
To me there are three key elements contributing to this kind of workflow at the moment:
- Ableton Live 9. It’s like a sandbox for music producers. It invites you to play and get creative. It’s very clever and it really shows that it’s designed by electronic music producers. And no, I’m not affiliated with Ableton in any way, I just think they’re great.
- Controllers. You need a good way to get your hands on the music. Something that feels good and allows you to do many different things. I’ve been using the Native Instruments Maschine for a couple of years soon. Ableton also has their own controller, Push, which I haven’t had the chance to try but I’m sure it’s great. There are also many other good ones out there so take your pick.
- A standing desk setup. This might sound a bit surprising. I originally switched to a standing desk because of back pain issues and other health reasons (we all know sitting too much is not good for us). But I quickly realized how liberating it feels to stand and be able to move around while you make music. It keeps me awake and alert. Somehow it relieves me from the screen, helps me focus and maintain creative flow – I just feel much better doing music like that. I’ve had the standing desk setup for about 8 months now and I wouldn’t have it any other way anymore. Surprisingly I’ve found out recently a bunch of my friends have also independently switched to a standing setup and everyone seems to be loving it.
We must not also forget about external elements such as a distraction-free environment and a healthy lifestyle that allows your body and brain to function in an optimal way. I even think having a drink of good coffee or tea when making music is good because that also stimulates the senses. There are many things we could list here ranging from healthy diet to quality sleep and a stress-free mind, but that’s a different discussion. But do think about these things because they do make a huge impact on the way you perform when making music.
As a curious exception, when mixing I still prefer my old, more rigid way of working (I usually prefer to mix in Logic and work with pure audio). It makes sense to me as mixing is often more about being analytical rather than creative. There definitely is a time and place for everything, but it’s clear to me that when doing creative work, we should try to find ways that engage those creativity-stimulating feel-good mechanisms.
What do you think? How do you stimulate creativity?