The value of primitive tools

As written before I’m devoting January to learning my Arturia Microbrute. It’s a small cheap synth. Compared to what’s out there it can in many regards be seen as primitive. Crude, rude and well … a brute. It doesn’t automatically make sounds that come out as lush, ambient, lovely and beautiful. It forces me to work. To find ways around its constraints.

The good thing with doing this work I believe is that there will be more Me in the music. For a year or two I’ve lusted after an analog polysynth, especially the Korg Minilogue XD. Pricewise, it’s absolutely affordable. But so far I’ve withstood the impulse. Partly because I’m fearing that in my hands it will end up a preset-machine for pads. Making all the lovely lush atmospheres that never fail to impress me.

Exploring the Microbrute has already taught me a few things. Understanding how it works in itself, but more importantly understanding how it could work for me. I’m beginning to see how I could fuse simple Berlin School step sequences with my acoustic singer-songwriter music and maybe arriving at something that I could find interesting. Transposing a step sequence up and down to fit different chords also leads to interesting “mistakes” and forces my melody-composing (which I always do singing) to handle or include notes foreign to the scale etc. This might force or ignite new solutions that I wouldn’t come up with if I had a tool capable of everything. Which I suppose I have in my digital audio workstation, Ableton Live.

An acoustic instrument, like a guitar, is actually really primitive. Tensioned strings vibrating over a resonant body. And still building a great one is infinitely complex. Getting good at playing takes work. And yet it allows for so many different expressions and styles.

I also think there’s great value in staying with one tool. Digging deeper to let it reveal itself. I have often run around with my shovel and put it in the ground for a single-take. Trying a technique only once, only to forget it. This of course resonates with the popular/famous Bruce Lee-quote:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

So, it feels good to stay with this crude little synth. I probably need to come up with a list of challenges to explore it in a few different directions.

PS. In the last few days I have only made small voice-memos on my phone for my Jamuary entries. And yesterday only one with acoustic guitar. Sometimes you have to put your family before your synth. 😉

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