As musicians, engineers, producers, songwriters—for all of us, it is so easy to geek out on gear. I love gear, and it has been a long time since I have purchased anything significant aside from the occasional plugin (until today, but I will share that in a future post ) The thing about gear is that it’s all shiny, and like my dog, I tend to chase after the next shiny thing that I find. I love diving into gear and figuring out what it can do and what it can’t, and even more importantly how I could use it. The problem is that I chase that shiny thing down a deep rabbit hole, and before I know it I’ve spent all my time focusing on gear when I could have been spending it actually making music. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need to do that. But, if you’re like me, limits need to be put into place.
I also have a tendency to look for just the right app, or combination of apps, to help me be more efficient in the music creation process. But what I have figured out over the years is that there are some things that technology just can’t replace. One of those things for me is my Moleskine notebook and a pen. Over the past couple of days, I have had 3 tunes finally settle in and form in my head out of a ton of different ideas around riffs, melodies, progressions, etc. It is in these moments when an idea comes to me that I need to just get it down and out of my head so it doesn’t get lost. With actual pen and paper, I don’t have to worry about a computer or device crashing, being out of memory or waiting for the thing to boot or the app to start—I just open it up and write. I have been carrying that notebook around with me for the past few days, opening it up, scribbling and editing my ideas as they form into songs with arrangement and structure.
My point is this: find the simplest tool you can to get the job done, then build out from there. A healthy balance of technology and organic tooling (i.e. pen and paper) has allowed me to get more done faster. Technology is awesome, but it can easily distract and take away from the focus of actually making music. A set sheet scribbled down with a Sharpie on a piece of paper can’t crash (unless someone spills their beer on it—even then you can probably still read it) during a gig, and that is arguably one of the most important tools when playing a live set.
As I mentioned above, I just made my first pretty significant purchase in quite some time as I start rebuilding my studio. This piece of tech along with all the other gear are great, and necessary to get things done, but it’s not about the toys—without my notebook and pen, I would not have the type of material to record. It all starts there—from the head, through the pen and onto the paper. Technology is incredible, but there are some things that are timeless and cannot be replaced.
What types of “organic” gear do you rely on in your process? Share in the comments below!