Restriction Liberates: A New Series of Articles by Paul Nolan


By Paul Nolan I love a contradiction in terms... "Bombing for Peace" is a good example...

It's funny, because of its built in futility. However, not all is as it seems.

Restriction Liberates

"Restriction Liberates" is not quite the contradiction it initially appears to be. It's something I've discovered as I've developed my skills in music production, DJing and audio engineering.

It's also something you can put to work in your own development.

We are sold in this constantly connected culture of smart phones, mobile internet and 1000 TV channels, that choice is a good thing. Complete freedom to do what you want to do, when you want to do it.

Yes, choice might be a great thing, and we enjoy choice in many different ways as we are still living in a (partly) free country. But what if too much choice isn't a good thing?


What if complete freedom to choose is bad for our productivity in the studio?

What if too much choice results in being overwhelmed? If complete freedom to do anything, anytime results in you not knowing where to start? When is openness actually inefficient and a barrier to you fulfilling your potential?


In my experience, too much freedom in the studio can actually be a bad thing, especially with computer technology developing as it is today.

We have endless choice of plugins, effects, synths, presets, instruments, samples, loops, you name it...all in the box, all at a touch of a button...what you don't have you can easily download, and it's incredibly easy to get to a point where you have a folder full of stuff you have no idea how to use, and that basically stands between you and your idea becoming a reality.

All the virtual gear, and no idea...

Another example is a music keyboard. If you're sat in front of a MIDI Controller keyboard with the full 88 keys, or even a simple 25 key model, where do you start to write your riff?

At this point, having complete freedom to do whatever you like isn't helpful, it's more like a hinderance.



So what's the solution? How can we take this situation and make it more inspiring, more efficient, more fluent and ultimately more productive, as well as fun?

The answer lies in self - imposed restriction.

Or to put it another way... #RestrictionLiberates

In many different contexts, the act of self - imposed restriction has helped to liberate the creative potential of many great artists.

A former student of mine once said that "an art form is defined by its limitations".

I find this statement to be almost undeniably true. How can you define what an art form such as painting, sculpture, scratch DJing or electronic music production actually is, unless you know what it is restricted to being?

This is the trouble as well as the beauty of modern music production: anything is possible, any time. For me, that can be terribly daunting and inefficient.

Therefore, the only sensible route to take is to impose your own set of boundaries about what to create, how to create it, and the tools, processes and techniques involved.

With a decreased list of options, the clear and right path becomes easier to spot, and more efficiently exploited. It also liberates our minds from the fog of constantly reacting to circumstances, and allows us to think even more creatively when the mind is not being constantly bombarded with choices and information.

Too Much Analysis = Paralysis

So, how can we halt the slide toward creative limbo? This is to be the focus of a series of blog posts and tutorials, demonstrating how when we have fewer choices, we can create and achieve more, in an incredibly diverse number of areas music production, DJing, and also in the world at large.

However, here's some starting advice:

1. Multitasking is a myth. It's the easiest route to being completely overwhelmed with far too many plates spinning in the air at once. We are all busy, but the most effective and efficient way forward is to restrict your focus to the task at hand, in the present moment. It's the only way anything ever gets done properly.

2. Musically speaking, you'll derive far more creative potential from a limited set of tools than you ever will from having everything at the tip of your fingers. Just consider some of the all time classic records made with equipment that the phone in your pocket probably has more processing power than today.

Practically speaking, you might look to disable any plugins that you don't use, or seldom do.

Think very deeply and honestly about what you ACTUALLY do when you produce, and refine your tool set to reflect it. After all, a plumber wouldn't bring 'the kitchen sink' with them unless they needed to fit one

So I encourage and challenge you to THINK. Consider how your workflow could improve. Being honest with yourself about where you are, against where you'd like to be, is the primary way you will improve yourself and your skills.

Less Is More...

How are you going to liberate yourself by restricting yourself? Please use the comments at the bottom to share how you have done this, or intend to. Sharing is incredibly powerful, and means we will all learn faster. As always, you can contact me for 1-2-1 Training, and if you'd like to have me cover something specific in a future blog post, you can contact me.


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