Tools of the Trade

I watched the waves that make up the music pass by at 102 BPM’s. They made a sound that hadn’t always been me, but was becoming me. I was exploring and finding that, actually, maybe what I once was isn’t what I always have to be – that maybe the tools I was using were the things that were actually defining what kind of art I created. 

The process of making music, writing songs, and wearing your heart on your sleeve always varies, but more often than not, it starts with some sort of instrumentation – and the lyrics come after. It’s a beautiful thing because you can get wrapped up into a hook, singing gibberish to a melody, and the seed grows from there. But, like it or not, the seed is the starting point – that zip line that guides you to the other side, and you pretty much hold on until you get there.

In other words, the tools a musician has at his disposable inevitably influence the final product. In my case, that tool is an acoustic guitar – it’s practical, I’m good at it, and I can write songs to it. Why branch out? Well, it starts to become a box, and no matter how big that box might be, the end result is confined to it.  It becomes habitual, and because I have a guitar in my hands ninety percent of any given day, it was just natural that songs sprouted from what I would play. But, just because you know something, doesn’t mean it’s the only thing – it might not even be the best thing, and before you try something else, you’ll never know what could have been.

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been diving into Logic – recording software that’s sworn on by some and shrugged at by others. For me, it was recommended and relatively cheap, so I thought, “Why not?” What I didn’t realize was how much the creative process would be widened by simply being able to layer tracks, add a percussive element, and simply see a song to its relative finish over the course of a few days. Whereas normally, I would write a song and have it professionally recorded over the course of years at a time, I’m now writing and producing on a daily basis, adding layers to a skeleton of vocals with tons of software instruments at my disposal. Sure, it’s not professional quality, and sure, my “studio” is nowhere near “studio quality,” but it does the job in that I’m able to know a song more intimately.

Don’t get me wrong. A song should be able to be stripped down to an acoustic guitar and vocals, and still be able to stand on it’s own.  For some songs, a stripped down acoustic guitar and vocal track is all you need – all you want. But, other songs (and I’d go as far to say most songs) need more that just a skeleton to start moving. Sometimes, it takes more tools than you’ve been using to make something great, but you have to take a step back from (or a step beyond) the habit to realize it.