BARE BONES

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Written by: Ryako
Posted on: 2018-07-24

Hello, human.

I'm not sure if you're interested, but I would like to tell you more about how I work.  

I like looking at other musicians'/producers' setups during FAWM.  In case you don't know, FAWM (fawm.org) stands for February Album Writing Month.  The challenge is to write 14 songs in the 28 days of February. It's been integral to my growth as a musician these last few years.  There is a thread, usually, where people post pictures of their setups and their gear. And the variation is amazing. 

Everyone has their own system, their own way of working.  Some people like to have clean, minimal spaces with nothing on the walls.  Others work at a tiny desk in a tiny corner of a tiny room. Some people like it very dark, and some people prefer the opposite.  Some spaces are neat and some not so much. My friend, Chris, works under a lofted bed in his guest room and he has tons of cables and instruments everywhere.  That's his jam and it works for him.

I prefer color.  And cats. And stuffed animals.    

My workspace is in the attic of my house.  I live in a very small, traditional house in Brugge and the attic is right underneath an a-line roof.  The attic also serves as my bedroom. Normally, this kind of thing would bother me, but, because of the desk's location, it all works out and I'm quite unaffected by the bed's presence.  My cats will hang out sometimes, judging my work silently from the snuggly comfort of a duvet.

The walls of the attic are covered with cat posters that I bought from the Katten Kabinet in Amsterdam, a museum dedicated to—you guessed it—cats.  There are various strings of colorful lights and paper lanterns hanging around. Lots of stuffed animals sit motionless on the shelves. And, of course, I keep the beat-up Enterprise piñata from the “Starfleet Boys” music video on its own shelf because, after all the time I spent on making it, I couldn't bear to throw it away.  There are two, giant plush Cthulhu masks that sit at the rear of my upper level of my desk. I made them for Halloween one year in, like, 5 days. I didn't know what I was getting myself into.

My office chair is old and well-worn, but I also can't bear to throw it out because 1) it has the impression of my butt in it, and 2) I can cross my legs and sit in it yoga-style.  So, I covered the chair with a blanket, added a cushion for comfort, and wrapped an oversized cat sweater over the top for fun. Yes, it's all very ghetto, you say. I'll be the first to admit that I don't have any money to redo the whole space.  I make do, mend, and try to brighten up the area as best as I can.

I am sentimental.  Or maybe just mental.  I like being surrounded by things that bring me joy.  I like things that hold good memories. I like items that feel comfortable and safe.

My music setup is bare bones.  It really is. I have a pair of white KRK Rokit 5 G3 monitors that sit on the upper level of my desk.  The only computer I use is my old 2011 MacBook Pro installed with Ableton Live 9. I hook it up to a larger screen so that I can see the program better.  My laptop always has stickers on it, and I swap them out when they wear down. Currently, the stickers are kawaii food-themed. I keep a lot of pens on my desk for writing.  I write most songs in large, but oddly-sized, hardback notebooks made by Aurora. At this moment in time, I've got almost three full notebooks. I write a lot of songs.

I have an old, bulky Yamaha keyboard that I bought whilst living in Seoul 10 years ago, and I still use it as a controller.  There is an AKG Perception 200 condenser mic on a stand with a vocal shield. A dark red Epiphone electric guitar stands in the corner.  Her name is Alice. Add in a typing keyboard, a pair of Philips headphones, an interface, and a mouse and that's basically it. It sounds like a lot of stuff, but it isn't much at all.  

Why do I work like this?  Limited finances dictate that this must be my setup.  I don't have the resources to work on the best equipment in a space that is soundproofed to hell.  I can't afford to buy a new computer, so I work with the one I have in the hopes that it won't crash on me any time soon.  I deal with it. I work with it. If I had to buy one new item now, it would definitely be new computer, probably a decent desktop one.  Plans for the future.

There is a silver lining in all of this, human.  I have chosen to look on the bright side. My setup is so limited that it has forced me to learn how to use all my tools effectively.  I may not have the best gear or the newest computer or the most comprehensive sound library, but my desire to create bolsters everything I do.  What I have isn't fancy, but it is mine, and I use it and take nothing for granted.

I know people who have big, professional setups.  Beautiful workspaces. Lots and lots of gear. Expensive instruments.  They buy new toys whenever they want. They spend a ton of money. And I'm happy for them (and also a wee bit envious) because they're in a position where they have fewer limits and far more options.  They can afford to live out a producer's dream.

But there are things no money can buy.  A shit producer is a shit producer, big setup or not.  Of course the nicer gear helps. The quality of things at your disposal definitely helps, but it won't change the amount of talent you have inside.  And it certainly won't make up for having less passion and motivation than someone else. Nice gear does not replace work ethic, nor does it automatically make you the best at anything.  More doesn't always equal better.

So, if you're trying to create anything, whether it involves writing, music, photography, art or something else, don't wait until you have all the best things and all the best toys.  Pimp your workspace so that you feel comfortable in it. Add stuffed animals if you love them. Keep a tiny fish tank nearby if that's your thing. A good workspace should allow you to be yourself.  No one else matters in that space except you.

Start with something you've got now or something you can afford.  Spend the time to understand it and learn to use it very well. Use all your tools effectively.  Then, when you can finally upgrade something, go for it. You don't need all the expensive things to begin creating something worthwhile.  

You just need to begin.  

And then work on it A LOT.

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