I often think about the creative process: how it works and how to find your personal sound.
Especially when things don’t go exactly the way I want them to. In fact, I’ve often found that I can’t finish songs without knowing why.
Maybe lack of inspiration, maybe little desire. In reality the reason is almost always the same: the difficulty in finding the right sound.
I am the first to admit that I have gaps in my personal creative process.
It is absolutely natural and normal for everyone. Even for the most established artists.
I come from a “classical” background, I studied guitar and piano (the classical music I appreciate so much now, I wasn’t so impressed when I was 10-11 years old), I got excited trying to emulate the great jazz pianists and then, on an old Fender guitar, playing on Jimi Hendrix records often with hilarious results.
The great thing about guitar or piano, though, is the fact that they are “immediate” instruments.
There wasn’t much work to do to recreate what I actually had in my head.
Sound Design, as an electronic musician might understand it, was absolutely negligible.
Once you get a timbre you like, yours, then the rest comes pretty automatically.
My first step in electronic music was a second-hand Roland keyboard, which had BEN 128 presets inside!
At that point I found myself with my guitar and 128 sounds that I could use in the way I liked most.
Nowadays they may seem few, if compared with the current infinity of choice between software and hardware, but for me they were an infinity.
From then on my love for electronic music began: so many possibilities, so much to learn, so much to do.
But what seemed like a dream at first, turned into a small problem: so much choice, so difficult to find the right “vibration”.
The immediacy I had playing the six strings suddenly disappeared.
Creating electronic music is very different from playing a guitar in a band: the fact that the riff of a synth is fantastic in itself, does not automatically imply that within a complete song, it can work.
In fact the choice of the right sound, personal, has become over time a key factor in the success or failure of a piece.
Choice of Tools
You can have all the best ideas but if you don’t get the right choice of instruments, your piece will probably be amateur or school.
For guitarists it’s simple: a ballad with an acoustic guitar is that, a nice round of chords, the sound of fingers flowing gently on the strings, ghost-notes, glissati. There is not much more to add and your sound palette is ready.
1 guitarist = 1 preset.
If the guitarist is particularly talented you can have some small variations in the preset, but in the end his work is that one.
With electronic music this is not the case at all.
In electronic music you have to find 3 things: the right sound per se, what works globally with all the other instruments and what makes the song special and memorable.
Also, there is always the temptation to emulate someone famous, but this becomes your disadvantage in the long run. It will make you look like the “low-cost” version of the original.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in over twenty years of music, it’s that you have to choose what you really want to excel at and not lose your focus.
You’ll realize that you’ll seriously start to improve only when you stop switching from one style to another, maybe following fashions or maybe fucking an artist you particularly like.
I’m not saying you don’t have to have an inspiration, but then concentrate and focus on finding that distinctive sound that characterizes you the most.
If this work seems particularly difficult for you, I suggest you create your own sound module. The only instrument on which you will make music.
That is, find those few sounds that work better together. Try 3-5 until you get to the right one. If something doesn’t work then a few minor corrections will be necessary, but with experience it will become a natural thing because your ear will be trained for these situations.
At this point you will be able to produce music much faster, knowing that your choice has worked and will continue to work over time.
Let me give you one last example:
Try to think of a DJ who only uses vinyl. Each night can only bring a limited number of records, right? So what does he do? He brings the records he knows well and only those he believes, in that particular situation, can best express his identity.
Where are you at? Have you already found your sound or are you still navigating the ocean of software and presets or changing synthesizers every week?