As a modern-day producer working ‘in the box’, it’s easy to lose your sense of spontaneity. Features like unlimited versioning, recall, and undo provided DAWs, can lead to a tendency towards a mechanical and overly cautious approach to writing and producing. In my case, particularly in the earlier part of 2016, this was not helped by the fact that I’d transitioned to full time production from building software for risk management… a discipline which is inherently cautious and planned, rather than spontaneous and instinctive.
Although I’m far from being an accomplished DJ, I’ve always enjoyed DJing in a large part because of its contrast to ‘in the box’ music production in terms of spontaneity… i.e. you have to think fast and make quick decisions (e.g. when beat-mixing from one track to another). The benefit of applying this spontaneity, and quick-thinking to production, is that it can help you capitalize on and enhance your creative flow.
I have become a big fan of the Korg Volca synths. I originally bought the Volca Bass as it was ridiculously cheap for an all-analogue bass synth, and my original intention was just to use it occasionally for synth parts in tracks. Since this I’ve also bought the Volca Beats and Kick. But, what I never expected was how beneficial the Volca synths could be to exercise spontaneity. Just using a couple of these synced together, you easily create pretty much full, pro-sounding tracks (as evidenced by numerous examples on YouTube). Because of the pattern-sequencer-like workflow on the Volcas, it encourages you to come up with ideas quickly, and think on your feet to adjust and modify the patterns whilst still maintaining a smooth overall progression. I tend to have a couple of short Volca ‘sessions’ (i.e. a ‘live jam’ using the Volca synths synced together) each week, and I’ve actually come up with several solid ideas from these sessions which have grown into complete tracks.
I guess it showed me how beneficial it can be to occasionally step outside the very ‘safe’ and structured workflow imposed by computers and some DAWs, and exercise your creativity by working with tools which require you to be more spontaneous.