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Monday, 16 June 2014

On the Importance of Habit

Last week we took a look at how playfulness, and breaking habits, is a vital way to stay interested in the process of making music. However there is also something to be said for sticking to a particular technique or set of techniques, or perhaps limiting the number of VST plugins you use, or having a strict set of time management habits. While not exploring new methods or breaking out of the set of habits you have developed every now and again will lead to boredom and frustration, it's also imperative to have a small amount of really well developed methods and some intuitive tools to help you polish a sound once you have finished with the creative aspect.

The truth is that every habit can be a positive or negative habit.

A time management habit is positive. For example, I try and complete one piece of sampling or sound design per day when i'm not sequencing or arranging (on weekends). This is positive in the sense that it doesn't put any limits on my creativity, there's no set way or ways of working here. Where a habit becomes negative is where conversely it is putting real or imagined limits on the method you are using and by extension what you create as an end product. Another example of a positive habit could be the method you use to program drums, since it's quite laborious and time consuming to get a full, loud drum sound, having set ways of working and templates to work from can be very beneficial to your workflow, but this still allows you to vary the end product. Conversely, if this method extends to composing basslines or melodies and you have templates for these purposes, then it becomes less beneficial because it gets you into the habit of only using these tools and set ways of working to come up with musical ideas which is limiting. This will in the long run cause boredom and reduce the enjoyability of producing music in the first place.

In summary, have a strict set of habits for repetitive tasks and things like time management. Discipline, hard work and perseverance will allow incremental improvements over time, which is particularly beneficial for things like mixdowns and the like. You'll also find ways to speed up your workflow through the use of habits and templates. For creative tasks however, never limit your scope for innovation and exploration. Beg, borrow and steal sounds. Process them in unusual ways. Break the mould in any way, shape or form that you can. Avoid habits and templates or methods you've used in the past to come up with melodies and sounds if you can.

Push yourself to constantly expand your scope and methods.

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