In this installment of guest blogger Frank Klepacki’s series on music production Frank extols the virtues of recording new-gear experiments. If you missed Frank’s previous post, you can read it here.
Creative slump? Hit a wall? Tired of the same stuff you are using? Maybe it’s time for a new sound. Any sound. Something that excites you. Inspires you. It will make you want to create.
As a composer I have gotten in the habit since my early years of using some new piece of equipment or sound on each project. In the beginning it was out of necessity and technological advancement while working in the evolving video game world. But invention of better quality instruments, devices, and newer, easier ways to do things, brings forth the desire to create, no matter what part of the industry you’re in.
For example, it’s why guitarists want so many different guitars, pedals, amps, or effects. It goes beyond what they need, and becomes more about experimentation and creative inspiration. Each thing has its own characteristic, and tapping into that when first acquired is arguably the most crucial time to take advantage of that inspiration and record every idea you mess with.
Composers in this day and age rely on virtual instruments and sample libraries. Thankfully there are so many out there that you’ll probably never run out of new options to explore. But whether you’re on a budget or not doesn’t matter – what matters is your priority. Ask yourself, “What genre am I most interested in right now? What project am I being asked to do right now? What instrument or sound set am I lacking at the moment?” Those are the places to start looking. Then it’s a matter of listening to audio demos, YouTube walkthroughs, and start narrowing down quality of sound vs. quantity of presets, ease of use, and price point. Then make your purchase!
When I do this myself, I load up that instrument or library and start composing ideas immediately. Whatever that instrument makes me want to do right then off the top of my head will yield some of the best results for my future compositions right away. Even if I don’t have a use for these ideas now, I’ll save them because I know they will come in handy later for something.
Same goes for physical instruments. If you get a new amp, for example, you’ll just want to play through it all day. Set up a mic immediately on it before you even play one note, and record anything that is remotely interesting. These could be key riffs to something brilliant or the start of a good song. You never know. The idea is to capture the natural exploration you are going to do with a fresh instrument, sound, or piece of gear.
By doing this and saving each idea, over time you will revisit them and the cream will rise to the top. With an objective ear after spending time away from them, you’ll instinctively know which ideas are the strongest. And it’s part of the creative process that is enjoyable. Just knowing you’ve got good ideas in the pipeline already, from allowing that inspiration to be documented at the time it was fresh on your mind, is very gratifying.
And it’s all from whatever single new thing you decided to add to your arsenal.
Frank Klepacki is an award-winning composer, sound designer, audio director, recording artist, touring performer, and producer. He has worked on top video game titles such as Command & Conquer, Star Wars: Empire at War, and MMA sports television programs such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Inside MMA. For more info, visit www.frankklepacki.com