Why New Gear Doesn’t Always Spark Inspiration

NAMM 2020 is finally behind us and the latest technology at the industry’s biggest trade show is creating a ton of excitement.

If you follow a lot of music producers on social media, you’ve probably seen a lot of flashy new gear on your feed lately.

If you’re an instrumentalist or a sound engineer yourself, maybe you even got a little envious. You pictured how far you could get in your career if you just had all the equipment you’ve ever wanted.

So many musicians, especially those of us who are technology-oriented, can get fixated on owning new gear.

So many musicians, especially those of us who are technology-oriented, can get fixated on owning new gear.

Some of us think new equipment automatically breathes new life into our music. Sometimes it can.

Sometimes you might try a new audio effect and feel like it’s a breath of fresh air.  This doesn’t always mean that the latest and best gear will lead us to the highest quality music we’ve ever created, though.

Everyone is obsessed with Billie Eilish and FINNEAS’s intimate creative space nowadays. It’s a room in their house with no sound absorption panels in sight.



They still record, write and produce in that very room. Kind of surprising yet inspiring at the same time, isn’t it?

From the way FINNEAS talks about their setup, it’s obvious that all he cares about is having the tools he needs within his reach.

Essentials vs excess

I’ve been walking the thin line of deciding between what’s essential and what’s excess in my home studio for a while now.

I see the new Valhalla Delay, and I want to get it, but with so many other amazing delay plugins I own already, I can’t justify purchasing it.

Still, the temptation I feel is not so different from that of a little kid in a giant candy store.  On the other hand, I find following the updates in music technology genuinely inspiring, too.

The recent announcement of UAD’s console/DAW hybrid LUNA is especially exciting.

I’m almost giddy thinking about how much this program could increase the sonic detail of my takes and streamline my recording process.

There’s a healthy middle ground between the essentials and excess, just like there is one between rejuvenation and hindrance.

There’s a healthy middle ground between the essentials and excess, just like there is one between rejuvenation and hindrance.

Learning a new instrument or purchasing your dream microphone can get you excited to create. But obsessing about how your music is going to sound when you buy your dream gear can hold you back.

Essentials can lead to happy accidents

When Skrillex took over the music industry a decade ago with his aggressive sound, many sound engineers called him out.

They claimed his masters sounded like they were clipping and suddenly, he was a proclaimed front runner in the loudness war.

Today, we know he was onto something. We’ve gotten used to grittier sounds over the years and Skrillex has undoubtedly played a huge role in that.

I keep coming back to this video where he breaks down how he followed a strategy that many would have called “insane” back in the day.

He describes how he has created an organic synth out of Justin Bieber’s voice for “Where Are U Now.” by degrading its sonic quality.

Skrillex can certainly afford to work out of a state-of-the-art studio today, but it’s clear that he doesn’t always feel the need to do so.

Inventions beyond music tech

Resisting the temptation to purchase new plugins has already done wonders for my music this year.

Drawing inspiration from new gear is complicated. On one hand, you can get carried away going on a shopping spree.

On the other, if you don’t open yourself up to new tools, your approach can get stale in a long music career.

There are several artists out there who are known for re-inventing themselves for this very reason. Björk is one of them. In fact, she has gone as far as commissioning several new instruments for her recent albums.

And it’s not all that surprising when you think about it. After experimenting with so many arrangements, she must have wondered, “what else is there?”

There are five instruments that were specifically designed for “Biophilia” alone. One of the most prominent instruments on the album, gameleste, can be heard all over the single, “Crystalline”.



More recently, Björk has taken it even further by offering the handmade birdcall flutes featured on her album, “Utopia”  in a box set. Now her fans can get one step closer to hearing the album from Björk’s point of view.

My New Year’s resolution

The list of every piece of equipment I want in my studio continues to grow. But my biggest revelation of the year so far is to expose myself to the “new” in moderation.

I’ve discovered that sometimes being an observer alone is enough to inspire me.

I don’t think I’ll unsubscribe from the mailing lists of my favorite music companies anytime soon. However, resisting the temptation to purchase new plugins has already done wonders for my music this year.

As I’m surrounded by distractions, I value the moments where I’m laser-focused on my craft now more than ever.

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