To The Limit

My wife and I recently sold our house, and with it, my studio space. (Long-time readers may remember that I have trouble staying in any given residence for longer than a couple of years. Must be Gypsy blood. . . .) The movers showed up bright and early, wrapped our lives in paper, and shuttled everything off to a st
Author:
Publish date:

My wife and I recently sold our house, and with it, my studio space. (Long-time readers may remember that I have trouble staying in any given residence for longer than a couple of years. Must be Gypsy blood. . . .) The movers showed up bright and early, wrapped our lives in paper, and shuttled everything off to a storage space, where it will remain until our new place is ready.

In the meantime, we're hanging out in an extended-stay hotel. I kept just the bare essentials out of storage, including my laptop, an acoustic guitar, and a set of headphones. I've been truly amazed at how much power I have at my fingertips with such a compact system. Despite not being surrounded by racks of cool gear and multiple fire-breathing computers, I'm managing to be very creative . . . in some ways more so than when I have tons of toys at my disposal.

It reminds me a bit of my first "studio": a Commodore 64 computer, Casio CZ-101 keyboard, Yamaha DX100 keyboard and RX21 drum machine, and a 360 Systems MIDIbass module. I ran everything through a mono Peavey XR600 PA head, which drove a pair of Radio Shack PA columns. A JVC cassette deck did the honors at mixdown. A Sholz R& Rockman served as my amp "modeler." High-tech and fancy it wasn't. But somehow I managed to write a ton of music on that rig - it didn't seem all that limited to me. (Okay, the mini-keys on the CZ and DX seemed very limited, but aside from that. . . .)

Hopefully my new space will soon be ready, and I'll have all my powerful studio tools once again at my beck and call. But I'll be taking something away from this brief experience: Limitations can be a good thing - maybe not all the time, but every once in a while.

Being "limited" by your tools or your circumstances can remove option anxiety, force you to think outside the box, make you get the most out of your gear and yourself, and force you to focus on the task at hand, which is making music, not playing with equipment. These positive results can then be carried over to situations where you do have plenty of options and high-tech miracle boxes at your disposal.

Try it: Force yourself to do a project using just a few select pieces of equipment. I'm betting you'll be surprised how creative you can be.

—Mitch Gallagher