I’ve been making music with computers for years now, but only recently have I discovered their limitations, and how they can bog down the process.
When I was scoring Oddbods, and Disney’s Jake and the Never Land Pirates, it was all about speed and workflow. You can see from this photo the carefully arranged tools that allowed me to plow through a couple of minutes of finished orchestral-based music per day: the ipad for controlling instrument articulations, the keyboards, multiple monitors (you can only see one here), and the coffee.
These are the kinds of tools you need when you’re making music for hire, instead of for yourself. But lately I’ve tried to slow down the process and use fewer tools, less quantization, less computer time, and less perfection.
In fact, it was Austin Kleon, the author of Steal Like an Artist, who inspired me to set up an alternate computer-free desk for writing music (below). It sits across the room, facing away from my computer workstation. I’ve been finding that nothing beats scissors, glue sticks, and pencils for editing my scraps of journal entries into a cohesive lyric. When I need to hear notes or chords, I pick up a guitar or play a small Casio keyboard. And being away from the mesmerizing glare of a computer screen sharpens my focus and lengthens my attention span.
Another computer-free exercise I’ve been enjoying is charting out pop songs and playing them on piano, along with my son who plays and reads music for upright bass. Last week it was Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel.
It’s such a great feeling to use paper and pencil as a tool for creating music. And it’s almost embarrassing to rediscover the obvious benefits of working off-screen. Writing lyrics and melodies outside of the realm of Cubase helps me concentrate on what music is all about: human interaction.
I’m not giving up my 2009 mac pro yet, but I just may find myself spending less time in front of it as the year progresses. That’s all for now!