As has come before; many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…Please bare with us as we traverse the abstract canals of audio musings.
Minimalism can mean many things, in this SST I’d like to think about minimalism in relation to workflow & how a minimalist approach & limiting your tool set can inspire creativity & productivity. Bear in mind that none of these ideas are new! I didn’t come up with them & I’d like to invite everyone to share how you incorporated minimalism into your work in the comments!
“Less is more.” — 1886. Mies Van Der Rohe.
I used to have one of these digital amp simulation rack amplifiers a couple of years ago. It was awesome. I could tweak every little thing I wanted. Finally I could create the guitar sound of my dreams! But then something unexpected happened. Due to the many options I felt the urge to keep changing my presets & never felt really happy. I spent more time tweaking amp presets than actually playing guitar. It wasn’t fun anymore. That’s when I decided to replace it with a simple 1 Watt practice amp which only had 3 knobs. I’ve never played that much guitar before.
In a way, having too many options created a barrier that was hindering my creative process & output.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — 1452. Leonardo da Vinci.
Today we have access to thousands of audio tools/plugins and it can at times feel quite overwhelming to decide which one to use. There’s so many choices that it too may have a paralyzing effect & shift the focus away from the actual job or creative process.
After my little epiphany with my guitar amp I began to re-evaluate my tool set & workflow & started to simplify things. Over the years I’ve hoarded countless plugins. Many I’ve used only a couple of times or never at all. But every time I saw them listed in my DAW I thought that I ought to really check them out & use them at some point. It never happened.
So I simplified my toolset significantly. For each type of plugin I now have one & at most maybe 3 which I use regularly. This has sped up my workflow in that I spent almost no time having to decide which <PLUGIN OF TYPE X> I should use for a certain task. Of course there are exceptions to this, but in general this reduced setup has helped me shift the focus back to the creative/productive part of my job.
“Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in this world; it is the last limit experience and the last effort of genius.” — 1804 George Sand
But keeping your toolset intentionally limited is just one way of applying minimalism. A common method is to limit yourself to a certain fixed palette of source material or set of tools (think microphones, amps etc.) for a specific project. If you want to take it to the extreme, you can only use a noise sample from which all other sounds are created (which is a good exercise). You could also limit yourself to only use a fixed number of tracks in your DAW, or a particular set of instruments before starting a new music project.
In the end all of these are ways to shift the focus back to creative process & productivity by reducing choice.
How do you incorporate minimalism into your work. Let us know in the comments!