My Journey with Hardware Synthesizers

Updated: May 14, 2019

The journey of getting away from the computer to create music has been rewarding, fun, confusing, frustrating, hopeless, and every other emotion you can think of in between. In 3 years I went from owning nothing but a cheap $50 MIDI controller to thousands of dollars’ worth of music equipment. At first, the gear brought me happiness; to know there was more to music than editing notes with a mouse opened up a world of possibilities of what I could potentially create with hardware. After the obsessive accumulation of synthesizers, eurorack, drum machines, and any other small gadget that made it into my bedroom studio I started to feel uneased with myself. I avoided this feeling for a while and would always justify another purchase by selling or trading to get closer to that “perfect setup”. But the more I preoccupied myself with what else I could add to my studio, the less time I actually spent playing the hardware I already owned. 

It became an obsession to check Ebay and Reverb daily for deals on used gear, on things that I had no need for. Facebook was also another distraction, the biggest one for me, with the many (including my own) music groups where people talked about the latest gear and shared their music. One thing I realized about the members of these groups was that those that posted rarely produced the best content, they didn’t need to spend all day commenting on posts for people to know who they were, they would spend little time on social media and use their time to create something worth sharing. Then there were those who were real quick to tell someone how crappy their music was, and who contribute little to the community. 

I never have enough time to get anything done. Between life responsibilities and checking my phone constantly there was little time left to do the things I actually enjoyed doing. I was driving home one day and saw a bumper sticker that read “If it’s no fun, why do it?” Such a simple sentence, but it hit home HARD. Why do we do things we don’t like to do? No one is forcing us to, it literally it’s our own choice where our free time goes. I worked an album for a whole year in 2018, not because I was making music for it, but because I put it aside to focused on other things, things that held no value.

I normally sell something before I decide to buy something else, it’s kind of my rule for keeping the world and my wallet balanced. But that wasn’t going to work this time, I knew I had too much gear (yes, that’s a thing) and it was impeding not only on my workflow, but on my musical output. I made a decision to live my life as minimal as possible this year, including the music equipment I use. No, this doesn’t mean I’m gonna sell all my stuff and make music on Volcas and Pocket Operators, but I did trim down drastically. 

One Analog Synthesizer, one Digital Synthesizer, one Eurorack case, one Drum Machine, one sampler, one looper, one portable studio (OP-1), and some guitar pedals. The only other thing I couldn’t get rid of is my TT-303, cause I love that thing. After getting everything plugged in and running I felt a relief I hadn’t in a reallylong time. I felt decluttered and like I could breathe again. I wasn’t worried about my mixer reaching the opposite corner to plug in more synthesizers, MIDI connections, ground noise, etc. I slowly started to declutter the rest of my house.

It’s easy to become aware of our shortcomings and where we need improvement, but it’s hard to actually make changes and not fall back into our vicious cycles, we are creatures of habit after all. Knowing this, I’m determined to replace my bad habits with new ones, ones that will bring me happiness in the long run. I started the year by quitting smoking, and have a lengthy list of bad habits I want to tackle one step a time. If you’re unhappy with your life, don’t just take it, don’t allow yourself to be miserable, you are the crown of creation after all. With that being said, don’t be afraid of change and letting go of material things. 

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Dawless Jammin'


Dawless Jammin'

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