I'm having more and more conversations with fellow professionals in recording and mixing who are simplifying their recording and mixing workflows.
Let's be honest it is easy to get caught up in owning more and more studio gear, both hardware and software - who doesn't like new stuff? Who doesn't want to try something that might sound or work better? But let's not confuse owning lots of stuff with a productive, creative workflow. Owning a lot of studio gear may not make you a producer merely a collector.
We all like the idea of the 'just-in-case' gear, you know the specialist microphone we own just in case a bagpipe player wants to hire the studio. Or the plug-in we own, just in case the other 70 EQs we have in our plug-in collection don't fix the issue. On that one, if even 7 EQs you have in your collection don't repair the problem then re-record the track!
Vanity or Sanity?
I guess that at least half if not two-thirds of the gear in most studios lies unused from year-to-year. Vanity plays a large part of contributing to the problem. For many of us, myself included, who wants to have their friends round to their studio and they see just an audio interface, a Mac and a couple of bits of hardware?
And yet workflow is such an essential part of the creative process, and even more so a simplified workflow.
I came to this conclusion some time ago when I started to use TextEdit to write in rather than software applications like Word and Pages. While they offered me lots of additional features, I realised they often made the process of writing harder not easier. The extra time to boot the application and the feature rich environment were less not more helpful for the task at hand. The same applies for many software applications, in an attempt to woo buyers, developers offer almost endless features, often to the detriment of a clean workflow.
This more simplified workflow has found its way into my studio life too. Opting to streamline my recording and mixing with fewer options, choosing to work with mics and hardware I know work when tracking and limiting my plug-ins choices to ones I know deliver rather than disappearing down a rabbit hole of experimentation.
Surely this approach is less creative? Not at all.
Rather than letting the equipment I use take up my creative energies, I'm reserving as much of my creativity to the actual ideas and not the process.
Cutting Up The Credit Card?
Does this mean I've stopped trying new things and buying new gear? Of course not, but what it does mean is that if something new is coming into the toolbox, then I have to decide what is going to make room for it. The Japanese have a word 'Kaizen' which roughly translated means 'change for the better' and intention is for this to be a cycle of continuous improvement.
I think it is essential to keep an open mind to new technologies that may assist us in our work and may improve the quality of the sound. However, if we are not careful, we hoard instead of curating and in my experience do not benefit from the improvements new gear can bring.
Simplicity has become something I've found helped in my creative process; perhaps it may assist you with yours too?