Why Limiting Yourself Continues To Breed Creativity, Productivity, And Better Sounding Tracks

2016 Feb 01, 2016

When will we let go of this idea that the more options and time we give ourselves in the studio, the more creative we will be?

For the past 6+ years I’ve shared a simple message: limitations set you free to make music, good sounding music.

And nowhere else was this true than the past 30 days, where thousands of you joined me in the One Song One Month Challenge. Today I want to break down three powerful lessons I’ve learned from watching this challenge unfold all over the world.

Embracing The Magic Of The Deadline

It’s funny how as creatives, musicians tend to hate the idea of putting a time limit on their work.

The concept of setting a deadline to write, record, or mix a song (or album) seems off putting and somewhat foolish. Won’t that simply make me rush through my creative process and deliver subpar work?

Not in the slightest.

In the fact the opposite is true if you DON’T set a deadline.

If you keep all your studio sessions or project goals open ended on the time frame, the chances are much higher that you will NEVER get around to actually finishing things. Especially if you don’t make music as your full time gig.

The deadline makes you accountable. Even if you don’t actually meet your deadline, you’ll likely finish not to far off, which is still an effective way to work.

Even a missed deadline can make you more productive than no deadline!

But deadlines (like the 30 day time limit in this recent challenge) do more than simply help you finish projects – they help you deliver a BETTER SOUNDING project.

And there are three distinct reasons for this.

Reason #1 – Deadlines Force You To Stop Focusing On The Gear

When time is short, you need to move.

When a deadline looms large, it forces you to zero in on what you really need (key word being need) to achieve your desired result.

If you have an open ended window in which to record some drums for your album, you make it super easy to get off track with microphone testing, over experimentation, and endless searching online for “the best microphones to record drums”.

All of that is energy wasted that could have been channeled into actually recording great sounding drums with the gear you already have.

During this 30 day challenge, many of my students realized they didn’t have time to go out and buy that preamp, microphone, or plugin they’d been eyeing. Instead they shifted their focus from gear to music creation, and they were rewarded for it.

Remember, the more time you play with your “limited” set of audio gear, the better you will know that gear, and the better sound you will likely get.

Reason #2 – Deadlines Help You To Focus On The Song

When you’re on a tight deadline, and you give up the idea of focusing on the “perfect” gear setup, a wonderful thing happens: you can no longer lean on gear as a crutch for a bad song.

Your attention is immediately diverted from equipment to the music. You can stop asking things like “Is this the best DAW to record in?” and instead begin asking “Is this song actually any good in the first place?”

Marty is focused on the most important part of recording – the song!

80% or more of what makes a great recording sonically has to do with whether or not the song itself is a great song. 

Bad (or mediocre) songs that are masterfully recorded and mixed still sound lame.

What does this reveal? That the most important element of any recorded piece of music, is the music itself!

The more brain power you can shift away from gear decisions to songwriting and arranging decisions, the better off your song will be. Which means the better off your final recording and mix will be.

Reason #3 – Deadlines Help You Take Your Craft Seriously

Potentially one of the most important reasons to work on a deadline is that it changes the way you view yourself as a musician and engineer.

If you simply walk into your home studio and fire open your DAW whenever you feel like it without a written plan or deadline, you are creating an environment that screams hobbyist – this is a place where you come to dabble.

Instead, if you have a date on the calendar that you want to have a song written, or an EP recorded, then when you step into your studio you will view things (and yourself) differently.

Now you’re operating on a timetable, like a professional studio does. They have time booked for bands. Now YOU have time booked for bands (i.e. yourself).

The psychology here is powerful as it makes you take yourself and your craft more seriously.

The result? A better performance, better recordings, and a better mix. All because you are more focused and it is no longer just a game, but something that is “for real”.

Be More Creative And Productive This Year

Here’s the deal: if you want to make more music this year, and you want it to sound better than ever, then do yourself a favor and embrace some limitations.

Limit the gear you use. Perhaps start by narrowing down your mic locker or even by deleting some plugins on your computer.

Limit the time you give yourself in the studio. Put some “studio sessions” in the calendar and set goals for what you want completed when.

Limit your distractions. When you go in to your studio to work, just work. Don’t have Facebook or Twitter open. Don’t check your email. Just do music. Humans can’t multitask anyway, so give up trying.

All in all, limiting yourself will actually set you free – helping you do what you stumbled on this website to do: make more (and better sounding) music in your home or project studio.

If you want to know more about how limiting your options in the studio can actually help you make better sounding tracks, then read my popular eBook The #1 Rule Of Home Recording. It’s absolutely free and jam packed with practical tips you can use today.

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