A new film has recently been released based on one year in the life of writer Allen Ginsberg when murder took place and affected his life forever. The title is drawn from a quote by William Faulkner “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” His quote warns of the over use of personal elements when writing.
Presets in music production are a relatively modern part of the production process, previously it was china graph markers or bits of paper with settings for outboard or synths drawn on, in some cases producers and musicians would create elegant preset template sheets and photocopy them.
For those of us old enough to have lived through the 1980s and onwards the over use of presets soon became apparent and one would often be listening to a track and say “DX7 piano” or “D50 Fantasia”. In fact some sounds have become so indicative of a musical genre or period we reach for them when trying to recreate those periods, they act as musical markers to the period. The same goes for artists and producers, be that the Phil Collins drum sound, or as James has been showing so well, the guitar sound of top artists.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having a signature sound or technique, most of which came about by accident, I have my personal favourites, we all do.
However, if we simply rely on our favourite sounds and presets then we are in danger of limiting our creativity and painting ourselves into a corner that we can’t return from. I find there is nothing more satisfying than sitting down with a synth, drum machine, sampler or outboard and come up with a new sound, just for that track. Furthermore, plug-in presets can be a great starting point when producing a track, but the basic failing of them is that every track is unique and a preset designed in a development lab can’t possibly take any account the material you are throwing at it.
So I encourage you to take the words of Faulkner to heart, kill your darlings, start from scratch and make something orginal. It may not make your production process quicker, but in my opinion it will give a better result and prove a lot more rewarding. Discuss.