Thursday, March 18, 2010

Using all 5 senses when making music (via ableton)

When we make music, we are mostly using our sense of hearing. When one thinks of music scientifically, they probably think of waves, ear drums, and things they learned in 7th grade biology diagrams mixed with 11th grade physics videos. Sure, one can argue that a music listener is mostly using their sense of hearing to utilize music...but this can not go as far to describe the artist making it. A good artist knows how to understand all of their senses when making music, to help trigger inspiration, create a schedule, or just set themselves at ease. Finding ones creative balance is obviously different for each person, but you should not be afraid to explore your other senses while making music. Here, we will talk specifically about finding that peace within yourself & your home studio while making tracks (and a little bit about ableton live).

Lets break the 5 senses down and talk about each of their roles in the track making process. Remember that the importance of each is how it reflects on your brain....triggering the creativity.

1. Hearing - Obviously important, so important that I will not go into to much detail about it. You are totally stimulating this sense during the track making process. Depending on your preference, great audio quality via headphones or monitors can make a difference in how your ears feel. Other than that, your ears are being pretty selfish and getting most of the enjoyment over your other senses while making tracks.

2. Sight- When sitting at your computer and working within a sequencer, you are limiting your visual senses to the same (repetitive) stimulation. Sure you can change between different programs within your DAW, and look at different effects....but these are not nearly the things that maximize your eyes excitement. 1st off, obviously situational, but set up your studio near a window, or somewhere you can get a view of the real world should you choose to. Letting your eyes be treated to normal, everyday stimulation can help your brain get out of that sequential zombie mode you can sometimes fall into. That can be a good thing, but especially when moments are feeling not so "creative"...just a minute looking into the real world can really change your perspective on the track. If you dont have this luxury to be near a window, making your work station as visually friendly as possible will really help. If you are like me, tons of art around your studio can help to spawn ideas. Since my wife is an artist, I love to put her mandalas around me, tapestries, posters, whatever. If you are more of the "clean" type, having a perfectly clean station with all chords taken care of can be just the visual stimulation you need to help your creativity though the process. After all, having a nice workstation while working is one of the most important parts of getting in a musical routine. Dont forget, candles can make the mood JUST perfect sometimes. Lighting can also be very important.

Now, on a tech note, dont ever forget the importance of abletons color and screen size changing options. Our brain are very responsive to colors, so changing the feel of live can help your visual brain trigger ideas differently per color. I specifically like the midnight setting like this -

Also, dont forget that you also can change the size options...which can serve more like a tool sometimes than a creative thing, but it can make a difference. You know how sometimes if you go to someone elses house to make music on their computer, and it feels totally different...and therefor you make different music....well, it can work like that. Here are some views of it bigger and smaller -

Totally different feel. Anyway, play around and find something that is nice for you. When it gets dull, change it. I find the midnight one gives me a nice darker feel, and makes me feel a little more serious about my art. I also love the frosty one on a winters day. But anyway, its always fun to change.

Also, sometimes, just a quick walk away from the computer for a minute or two can really clear your eyes up. After all, we all know that staring at a computer screen for hours on end is not a healthy thing. Take care of your eyes, and maybe it will reflect in your music.

3. Touch - Another important element to your creativity. Simple things really. Be comfortable. Have the heat or AC (or nice window breeze) just how you like it. Make sure you are sitting the way you want to be sitting. (in my case, i sit on a block because I constantly stand up and start dancing a little while making a track, then get back down and be serious for a few minutes, and then do it again. If there was a time lapse of me track making, I would look fucking crazy) Also, have some comfortable clothes on. I hate anything tugging at my balls....pajamas and Thai pants are my style. Also, back to dancing...dont be afraid to let that body shake when its feeling it. Sometimes, to really get the feel of how a track is going to be, you need to get up and move like you would in the club. This is natural, but on a more technical side, it can help you find nice swing timings for your snares and high hats. Just get into ableton, and use the swing buttons (or find your own groove). When you shake your hips, you can really tell the swing of a track. Also, making your hearts rate go up can help you feel more energy, which will show within your track. Play with your sense of touch while track making, because in the real world, it is one of your most important senses.

4. Smell - Now, this one may seem a little bit odd...but hear me out. I think, your sense of smell is one of stronger (if not, THE STRONGEST) sense of them all. Its amazing how well your brain can remember certain smells from a certain point in your life. Sometimes a certain smells lets you know what time of day it is, or what is about to happen to you. This sense, scientifically, is hardwired to the brain like no other sense. So why ignore it when track making. Something as simple as opening a window can let a breeze of fresh air into your studio and spawn new ideas. Maybe tobacco is your thing, and the smell of a nice lit cigarette just gets you in the mood for music. Rock it! In my case, im an incense guy. I love the smell of Nag Champa. Once that smell kicks into my brain, I think "MUSIC TIME". I never start a session without lighting one. Also, thanks to my friend Sam, I have gotten into oils in the past year. Essential oils are amazing for setting your bodys creative tone. I love the smell of hard peppermint...just makes me totally relax and helps re-center myself. Play around with your nose, and it will have great effect on your music.

5. - Taste - Most would say this doesnt apply much, but I beg to differ. Everyday, when I start my session (around 8:00am...yes, im a morning person)...I always start with a coffee. As soon as that coffee is finished brewing, I pour a cup, and turn on ableton live. Every weekday, no matter what. Now, not only does it help put my morning in perspective, but it also helped me to make a routine out of my somewhat procrastinating habits. Now, dont let it go too far like I did when I drink like 2 pots a day sometimes when making music...but it is really nice to start a session with. Helps clear your throat, and works with your sense of touch in making your body feel comfortable. Taste and touch are interrelated in my opinion. If coffee isnt your thing, having a drink beside you when making tracks so you can easily quench your thirst without leaving can help you from "losing the groove". And, this goes without saying, but a few beers, a glass of wine, baileys & coffee, a shot of whiskey....all of these can be nice additions to the creative process. After all, your brain is like a stretch armstrong can stretch the fuck out of it....but it always comes back....well, unless you really fuck it up or something.

By utilizing all of your senses during the track making process, you can help to assure that you are doing everything in your power to set the creative stage. If you try to use your other senses besides hearing, you will find your self saying "I just dont feel creative"....LESS! This can be the bottom line of all producing, "Just not feeling it". But, the best producers have found ways to overcome this...because they know deep down, that they love MUSIC more than anything in the world...and there is nothing that will come between them, and making that music everyday. Its what gives you passion, what gives you satisfaction, challenges, and pure enjoyment. If there is anyway to cure the "day to day life" disease, such as using all your senses to overcome these uncreative moments....well, you should at least give it a try...if you love music.


1 comment:

Orge said...

Interesting post! Made me think of James Holden's 10 Greatest Studio Items:

He seems to be torn between geekery and fluffy toys. I'm sure he would empathise with your post though (and he's a genius!). :)

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