There is a very common tendency among artists of any kind to occasionally become delusional about the source of their artistic power. During periods of creative slumps, writer blocks, stagnation, and depression, artists tend to focus too much on their tools, and often shift the responsibility for unsuccessful artworks onto them. In 95% of situations, of course, the tools are not the problem, but the illusion that they are is very convincing. So artists go on the internet or to a store in search for the next big magical thing that will automatically, simply by nature of its expanded capabilities, make great art possible. “If only I had this… or that, I’d be selling records by now.” Nothing is further from the truth.
SKILLS COME FIRST
Searching for new tools, in 95% of cases, is nothing more than concealed responsibility shifting, fear avoidance, and procrastination. Getting a new toy feels good. Learning how it works makes us feel productive, makes us feel that we are learning something, that we are moving forward. But all we are doing is learning how to use the tool. Not how to make something with it. And so once we have a pretty good handle on how it works we are back at square one - staring at the blank canvas, with our great ideas obstructed by even more technical nuances and learning curves that come bundled with the new equipment. We face renewed depression, having achieved nothing over the course of two weeks that were spent obsessively researching, acquiring, and learning the new tools.
So why do all artists fall in this trap? Because the illusion is very, very believable. Look at how the tools are marketed. “Get that pro sound!” “Capture the best moments!” The ads show you the tools and then some amazing shiznit made with these tools by real pros, so we think hmmm great tools = great results. It gets under your skin to thin your wallet.
MAKING SPACE FOR GREAT IDEAS
How does one beat this problem? It’s not easy, but conscious acknowledgement of the illusion is the first step. Step two - you take zero action on the buying impulse it creates. Take a break from thinking about the new tools and, most importantly, try to find enormous satisfaction in 100% dedication to the craft and not the tools, 100% dedication to practice with the tools at your disposal. Find satisfaction in knowing that progress takes time and that you have all that you need, because remember, we rarely max out the capabilities of the tools that we already possess. Learning new tools only dulls our skills, spreads us thin between too many things, removes us further and further from making our brilliant ideas a reality. Like they say - keep it simple, stupid.
But yeah, ok, I am so smart, but when I switched from Logic to Reason it was not logical, nor reasonable. Logic is an extremely powerful DAW, and so is Reason. With either one stellar results could be achieved. You could make all your music in one or the other, and it could sound great. No doubt about it. Look at Trifonic who uses Logic, and Stromae who uses Reason. But I convinced myself that the workflow of Logic wasn’t working for me. Minor things would irritate me and I thought that they were preventing me from making good songs. If only I had spent some time learning Logic properly instead of watching every Youtube video about every other DAW on the market, then maybe my music would have been better by now and I would have avoided the learning curve of the new tool. But no, I had to get Reason. I just had to. And so I did. My music didn’t improve even by .000001%. I learned some things about the tool. I learned how to route some signals, how to tweak some presets, but my music, my art - they were as dry as before.
I only have one complete track made in Reason. I made it for the Electronic Dance Music Production subreddit’s sample challenge out of the provided samples and nothing else. The track is ok, but clearly far from anything great. Take a listen:
So to conclude, yes the tools are all different, and some are more suitable and intuitive for some people and not others. It’s a matter of preference. It is a good idea to try out many tools using their trial versions and choose the one that just feels right. Once that is done, don’t convince yourself into geting a new tool unless you know why you need it. If you want a magic pill to make you better at your art, the tools are not the most direct way to get there - they are but a cherry on top of your practice, experience and skill.
But if you fall for it and get a new shiny toy - don’t beat yourself up about it either. All artist do this. All of them. I don’t know a single one that doesn’t. So have fun with the toy and learn how to use it, and then learn how to make it work for you creatively, incorporate it into your workflow, squeeze its potential out of it! Now that you have a great tool, make something great with it.
Good luck and see you next time!