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Sounds of silence

2014/04/12 No Comments »

How really listening to the sounds in your head and keeping away from your studio can actually improve your creative output – and, even more importantly, your input.

So, I’ve moved into a new house, I haven’t sorted out my Internet connection and my monitors are taking in radio signals. I could do just fine without being connected (although the – at the moment of writing – latest Live beta has apparently fixed my biggest peeve: CPU spikes and audio crackles when you move MIDI notes in Arrangement view, according to the change log, an issue with 3rd party VSTs), but the radio signals issue really bummed me out. I tried padding my monitors with tin foil (i.e. I popped them open and lined the inside with foil – based on a piece of advice only the Internet would give you; probably not reall recommendable). Now, this actually worked really well on my right speaker, but not on the left one. When I’d also made a “house” of cardboard and aluminium without completely eliminating the noise, I just decided to take a break and not bother for awhile.

And that’s when ideas started bubbling. I’m getting ideas for all kinds of melodies and sounds and effects, and it hit me that being removed from the tools that can actually realise all these ideas can in fact be a good thing. It allows the ideas to mature and change over time, and it forces me to keep focus on the present idea, as opposed to being distracted by all the possibilities of a DAW. Trying to synthesise a sound you’ve previously only imagined can very often actually ruin the original idea.

So how do you keep track of ideas when you can’t jot them down in a MIDI clip? – You use your mouth and your mobile phone. Having an easily accessible audio recording app or device is arguably the most important tool of the modern musician. Over the last month, I’ve recorded a huge amount of humming, whistling, beatboxing and weird, squeaky noises. Your mouth and your vocal cords are amazing, flexible tools that, once you lose a bit of inhibition,  will allow you to “save” your ideas a lot faster, and possibly even more accurately than a synth can.

One thing in particular that I’ve learnt and which has perhaps surprised me the most, is that glitches and FX are a lot easier to conceptualise if you beatbox them first. This makes the whole thing a bit more thought-through and well-founded than merely “glitching shit up” randomly.

I’ve since noticed that there are apparently periods when the offending radio station is not broadcasting; in fact, I’ve had my monitors on three times without any interference whatsoever (I’d like to hope that the problem just magically vanished). Now my biggest fear is that I’ll find it hard getting into the groove again, after an involuntary hiatus.

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