Acknowledging limitations

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@cblack

So, I haven't participated in 50/90 very much so far. It's my first time with my home studio, and I expected I'd be hyper-focused on making music... But instead I've not done much.

And I think I know why. Limitations.

I have some e-drums, but aren't good enough on them to write proper drum parts. The drum music I want to make, I'm not skilled enough for.

I also don't have a bass, so I'd need to use my keyboard for those. But I'm worse on keys than I am on drums...

This leaves guitar and vocals. I'm good enough on both to make songs. But I don't have an acoustic guitar, so can't do the guitar+vocals thing. Electric guitar and vocals, sure, but that's not as robust as I'd like.

So basically, I'm writing this to acknowledge my limitations. Rather than an excuse to do less, I'm looking for advice on how to do more.

How do you all overcome limitations? Are you still trying to figure it out?

Thanks.

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i think i would trade the e-drums for a more useful acoustic guitar, and use midi drums for bigger productions. I splashed out on Addictive Drums 2, which is pricy but has affordable options. Sometimes i feel a bit like that's cheating but I am not a drummer so it helps loads to realise songs. (the midi beats are played by professional drummers and i mix n match to tailor to my song - very flexible). But main thing that seems to be a limitation is not having an acoustic guitar - you could pick up a cheap guitar and be away! good luck

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@cblack

Oh, I'm not selling my e-drums. I may not be a great drummer, but it's ridiculously fun!

I have an electric guitar I'm trying to sell. If that goes, I can afford the acoustic I have my eyes on.

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Limitations are only limitations today if you are performing live. There are so many ways to make music in your bedroom today that didn't exist when I was starting out in the 1970s. There is a lot of free software and plug ins available that help you get the sounds you are looking for.

As for an acoustic guitar, I would recommend a Yamaha Folk Guitar. I bought one in 1973 (an FG 180) and it has just got better sounding as it ages.

If budget is a consideration, there are lots of great acoustic guitars at Thomann. I bought their folk guitar Harley Benton CG-45 NS (then €45 - now €69) as a throw away for a touring holiday in Europe. I figured that if it was stolen or got broken I wouldn't be too upset. It has its limitations strummed (sounds a bit muddy) but as a fingerpicked guitar it is fabulous and I wouldn't part with it now).

I have also been impressed by the quality and build of Baton Rouge Instruments. Made in Vietnam, they offer a lot of bang for the buck. They might be imported into AU (is that Oz or Austria?)

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@chldomn5

perhaps a different approach may help ?
not saying this is the solution but
i have a small selection of instruments to choose from. mostly small, uncumbersome: guitarlele, melodica
i have two dictaphones, and my phone to record quick raw takes
and i have audacity / fl studio - this version allows import of the files from dictaphones, also importing old files ive made for samples or old songs i wanna use somehow
my approach overall is to get something made within 5mins to 2 hours, depending on what time i have. i pretty much get an idea, roll with it, stick it on dictaphone, upload if i cant be bothered to edit or if it doesnt need it. or ill mess around in fl studio or audacity to have fun, basically
i know im not good at any instrument, or the vocals i do. im experimenting, not performing most times.
all this to say - its all very accessible at a moments notice. ive set up my space so i can just quickly on the fly jump straight into making a song/idea by just loading up my pc/dictaphone/insturment and just going for it!
perhaps this may be seen as unconventional, but its how ive been so prolific in my music making for the last 3 years.
i kinda realised early on i wouldnt have space for a studio, plus i dont like having too much clutter or excess. my possessions are mostly creative based in this space.
and finally, i opted to improvise and edit around those, rather than sitting to compose a song purposefully. thats exhausting to me, i only do that once or twice per challenge
mostly i use this approach to make cr*p art albums, experimental, improvised, and anything i am inspired by
as for limitations in abilities, im very much a jack of all trades, i just got functional at what insturments i had an interest in, and i go with whatever i can come up with.
i dropped perfectionion. done is better than half done perfectly
maybe something to think about ??

i purchase something every now and then cheap from a thrift store or a generally cheap instrument

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@mahtowin

@cblack Oh, I am limitated in many ways: I can not sing, I am learning e-bass since 6 months, I am not an native English speaker and I am getting more and more to the limits of my DAW.
But: I love to use my fantasy and my curiosity. I can not sing - so I mostly do spoken word tunes. I play my bass on my low level as often and as good as I can. I often do instrumentals or German tunes.
I think outside the box: for example take sounds from freesound.org and use them in my music. Also I use everything in my flat to make music. And I love to do experimental or ambient music - thats where I can do everything far away from music theory.
Beside all the usefully things mentionend from the other FAWMlers here - use your imagination and ignore the limits!
Thats my little advice to you 😊

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I had grand plans but my limitations come from the non-music side, ref #ikeabondage which still continues... A lot of good suggestions and advice in the preceding. Ref. the drums, I have a MIDI drumming sequencer, excellent, and as real as whatever samples can be got, and...I hardly use it. I'm all out of time so when drums are called for, well hey, it's a live tam. And a hand drum. And cardboard boxes!!

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My limitations are time, creative energy, and spatial/recording/technical.
Time - On average I have 10-15 hours per week to spend on 5090 after work, family, and home duties as I don't stop other life activities for a songwriting challenge, except that I limit other hobbies to have more time for songwriting. For writing and recording to get 50 I have maybe 8 hours in a week or 1-2 hours per song. To get around that limitation I write down ideas before the challenge starts (or during) on a piece of paper or type them into a phone app. Also I do mostly one hour writes and one-take recordings on mostly one the instrument I know best, guitar. Sometimes the one-take recording is me singing while playing (acoustic or electric) guitar plugged into a practice amp recorded by condenser microphone.
Creative energy - In 5090 I was not working in 2020 and most of 2021 and thought I would write a lot more songs because of it. I did in spring of 2020 (in 100/180 now known as 5090 prequel) and then in 5090 2020 I learned the lesson when I ran out of creative energy and time was not a limitation. The lesson was that in one day I can create music for 4-6 hours (less total for art), and then I need a mental break. I really only can sustain 5-10 hours of songwriting per week over a long period of time. I have to pace myself. One sign of my creative energy drain is a sort of headache that tells me it is time to do something else.

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Spatial/recording/technical - I am blessed to have a room where I keep my instruments, this computer I am typing on, a drawing table, CD's/albums etc. However, part of that room is now setup for work from home. It is a pass-through room and I can't leave things set up that block a path or that the cat may get into harm. Also the room is certainly not a noise proofed studio so sounds from outside or adjacent rooms bleed in. Due to the prevalence of acoustic-one-take-recordings and the space limitation, I use a USB condenser mic. To save time, I use Garageband pre-set effects to get into the neighborhood of sound. However, I occasionally play music at a local farmers market or other small gatherings where it is me, a guitar, and a small PA with reverb and or chorus, and no other effects. The recording and space limitations get me to focus mostly on writing songs that I can reproduce with my voice and one instrument.

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@sbs2018

Definitely feeling my limitations and why I’ve been bouncing around to see where my strengths are, and to work on my weaknesses. I think everybody feels their limits and why it’s a neverending journey to improve.

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@fuzzy

I have many limitations, but I approach them as challenges or borders in which to make music. I really try to live by this quotation from Brian Eno; “Regard your limitations as secret strengths. Or as constraints that you can make use of.”
Don't despair about your limitations; instead, figure out a way to work with them.

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Knowing your limitations is key, because then you can promote your strengths!
You can always work to improve your weaknesses and they may become a strength later.
I am an Old Fart so I have most strengths and weaknesses worked out by now.

I happen to be a pretty good drummer, but if I'm doing a Folk type song I use a very simple beat or just use a Kick Drum or Foot Stomp. You can do that unless you want a full Rock Band sound.

Remember this is more about songwriting and the song... there is everything here from Vocal and Acoustic Guitar into an iPhone to Full on Pro Tools songs that sound like a major label album.
Just have fun and go for it!!!!

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yep i was also meaning to say what @fuzzy said.. limitations can necessitate creativity

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... and if you don't feel like respecting your limitations, look at all the wonderful musical abilities this community has to offer! I'm always ready to lend a hand if I can be of assistance, and I bet others here are, too. 😄

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@cblack

Thanks all. Lots to think about. 😀

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@cblack

Okay, here's where I'm at.

I can't afford an acoustic guitar unless I sell one of my electric guitars. That one's been on sale for a month, and no real interest. Otherwise, I can't get an acoustic before 50/90 ends.

I'm also not buying a cheap acoustic online. I've been burned that way before. I want to play it in-person before I buy. And I don't want to spend, say, $150 on a cheap acoustic short-term, then need to spend $650 for the one I actually want later (played it in-store, and it's gorgeous). That $150 would be a waste.

So yeah. Unless my electric sells, no acoustic for me. Not this 50/90, anyway... Before next FAWM, yes.

So... I think I'm stuck with electric guitar and vocals. Not much point adding drums if I don't also add bass, and both are limited right now.

Maybe if I chuck on loads of delay and reverb on the electric, it'll fatten it up enough?

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@cblack

Thinking outside the box a little...

Ukuleles. My local store has a lot of them, and I think a quality one would be affordable. Could then do uke+vocals stuff...

Hmm.

Learning uke should be easy if I already know how to play guitar. This may be the best option for Right Now.

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Ukulele, is a good option.
Decent ones are at least $200 and up.
Concert and Soprano ukes are pretty small. Tenor size is what most folks like.
Baritone uke is larger and tuned like a guitar, but they are a little pricier as well.

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@cblack

Tenor ukulele: Acquired!

Fun instrument. Will take some getting used to, especially with the volume of my vocals, but I think I made the right call. Hopefully recording a bunch of songs over the next few weeks. 😀

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Low G or high G @cblack.

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I really have nothing to add to all the fabulous advice in this thread. Apart from maybe exploring the idea of collabs? For example, @nadine got me to play bass on a track of hers from FAWM. And that led to my own creativity taking a boost because of the challenge of working in a genre that is not really in my personal portfolio. So collabs can have a positive impact both directions when working around "limitations".
I'm always a little wary of the new gear, new energy approach, but changing instruments DOES work. Beaming you loads of success with your tenor uke (I love mine). 😄

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@cblack

@dragondreams Collabs make up about half of my output right now. I still need to lay vocals on one, then do all the audio for another. With collabs, I always worry my contribution won't be good enough...

@coolparadiso Yes. One of those 2 options. (I have no idea. The top string is high?)

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That's the high G. Both have there places. I have both but like low G best as you have longer scale length and it's easier to improvise for me.

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I acknowledge my limitations, Volume 1 or 2 available on request! :-)

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@cblack I play most of my bass parts on guitar then convert it to MIDI and use a bass plugin. There's a free converter called DODO. All MIDI converters take a bit of cleanup of the file after conversion but playing it on guitar it comes out as if I were playing on bass.

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Hahahahaha @coolparadiso beat me to it

I have to admit to plenty of limitations, from not currently being able to play my banjo to hearing sounds in my head that I can't coax out of my computer. I might as well admit to them, because many of them are glaringly obvious. One of my personal development goals, to sound a bit new age-y, is to learn to work within those limitations to produce something good enough if not perfect, and then to push back those limitations and get closer to the kind of music I want to create.

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@cblack

It's taken a couple of days, but I think I've figured out the uke enough to start doing basic songs. Hopefully have something done within 24 hours. Need some lyrics, mind. Been kind of uninspired lately. I don't want to choose someone else's lyrics, because this first attempt at uke+voice is likely gonna be super rough lol.

Lyrics, lyrics... Wherefore art thou lyrical inspiration?

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Nice post @cblack! I really like what @resonut123 has to say:
“Knowing your limitations is key, because then you can promote your strengths!
You can always work to improve your weaknesses and they may become a strength later.”
Berklee College of Music professor, Enrique Gonzalez Müller, inspired me because he says the MOST important thing you have as a creator is your EAR and not your gear. Use your imagination and EAR to create something new. He says, “Resourcefulness and having great ideas will get you much, much further than gear and the price tag on something,”…
“When the resources aren’t available, it creates fear,”…FEAR is a 4-letter word to creators and tries to steal our joy in the process. What I enjoy about FAWM is it brings fun back into the process. The skills you may not possess, others can provide through collabs OR bounce ideas off on ways you can improve.

I didn’t go to Berklee. I did a few of their online courses which led me to my favorite quote of all by Enrique:
“The embrace of a limitation is your signature”.

Without a proper music education or background, I often felt limited. Perhaps that’s my signature? Sparse arrangements and connecting with cool people to flesh out ideas by using their strengths. Things to ponder…and a great thread to have come across!

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@lowhum

Well, you work with what you've got at the moment. With some nerve you can make an empty beer can sing.

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Hey, nothing like a long-term pianist struggling with violin/viola to not only know limitations, but shout them to the world at large! Shoulda been content with electric conduit whistles!

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@mahtowin

@katestantonsings what a wonderful post! Thank you for that! ❤️

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@chldomn5

this quote = Enrique:
“The embrace of a limitation is your signature”.
really makes me think. very good, that.
its making me rethink possibilities for things i have dismissed as not possible for me before.
reminds me of the ( perhaps a lil shady, but still a useful technique if used ethically ) technique some online viral vids used of piecing together a guitar solo bit by bit to create a smooth flowing stream of guitar soloing- while not authentic in the traditional sense, is an actual work around for lacking the skills to be able to perform fast trills and sweeps etc on a solo. considering that, what else can we do to get the desired effect ? other than to outsource
to me thats a creative approach within limitation. of course others may see the bad side, which i can also understand.

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50/90 has been an exercise in minimalism since having surgery in July. I'm primarily a bassist and a drummer, and I couldn't safely play either of those instruments for over a month. My usual songwriting process left me exhausted and frustrated.

For this month, I focused on duets or trios of instruments that don't wear me out. Deliberately limiting what I track for a song has led to some really inspiring sound design and gear combinations I wouldn't have done otherwise. Most importantly, it's been a lot of fun.

****TL;DR- if you aren't happy with your bass, keys, or drums, shift your focus to other things you feel good about :)

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i had some thoughts about this topic:
= we wont all be great at every instrument we play. sometimes the basics is enough. i barely can play the basics on drums but my little knoweldge i have is enough to produce something unique, and even more polished when i feel ready to jump into programming drums better
= specialization is underrated - this is a perspective im considering lately. when it comes to this debate, theres consesus to be able to do lots of things, wear lots of hats. however, time availability, sunk cost, losing the chance to do more of what youre good at/ want to do. by focusing on one thing and doing it well for a while you could maybe make more progress ? also, knowing one thing really well does open doors that being a generalist doesnt
= it could be the way you approach music is different each time, rather than being able to play lots of different things. this opens so many doors especially when programming on a daw. you dont have to know drum theory, you can simply place the snares at different patterns and locations, mess around, it doesnt have to sound like a song would conventionally!
= limitation. example. i put together a way to play cello, trumpet, drums, keys, etc and mapped it out in sections on the keyboard, but only using a piano preset. it was more what the sound of the instruments do, as if each section plays a certain way mimically, rather than the actual change in sound. it did work for a new perspective. i dont know how else to explain it other than looking at making a model in your head to influence what happens. the good thing is its not evident what youre doing to a listener, but a good way to frame it to make something new sounding
= drop expectations that youll be good at everything. being amazing at 3 things, or good at 1-2 things depending on importance, is sometimes a good way to focus on getting confident at music. you can be great at soloing and okay at keys and drums, and thats enough to make a great song

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@chldomn5 Good thoughts! 👍

For me, it always helps to picture an orchestral composer: How could one person ever excel at playing the violin, the viola, the cello, the bass, the flute, the clarinet, the oboe, the bassoon, the trumpet, etc etc. at the same time? Each of those instruments takes a lifetime to master! The composer's field of expertise is the composition, orchestration, explaining the ideas, and maybe guiding the orchestra as a conductor. That doesn't diminish the composer's value - quite the contrary, they are often the most prominent and visible representative of the orchestra. Programming the DAW for me is simply a very interactive way of composing.

Also, it helped when I changed my perspective regarding virtual instruments. At the beginning, I saw them as mimicking real instruments, and often falling short. Now, I see them as instruments in their own right. They are played in different styles and can produce different sounds. Like any other instrument. That's all. Some sound (very) similar to instruments in reality, others like things that you could never build out of physical wood and metal.

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@nadine

@florianhoffmann Thanks for your words. I couldn't write better.

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agreed @florianhoffmann , this is more my thought line these days
also, you dont have to play the drums *that* way, because countless others have. how about using your fingers ? elbows ? other household objects ( be careful you dont damage the skins !!)
it was on this forum a year or so ago i saw something about David Lynch who plays guitar on his lap, it creates an interesting dynamic to his music. i dont think he would consider himself a musician, more playing around with a different art form. hes probably more an artist in the sound world i guess ? someone else may know more than i do