Computers getting in the way of creativity


The biggest problem with computer, to me, was the midi jitter. It’s okay when everything is ITB but as soon as you introduce midi HW, things start to drift randomly. I spent hours (and literally years) trying to fix timing of midi notes, adjust audio clip warp points, track delay, and so on and on. I eventually gave up (the process has too much in common with office work, things I desperately wanted to get away from) and went completely OTB but you can do only so much at the same time with two arms and two legs. It took me a while until I finally discovered two essential hardware to connect the two worlds seamlessly - A&H Zed R16 and E-RM Multiclock. Now I simply use the computer as a giant portastudio with unlimited storage. Every jam I do on HW always gets recorded to audio. I do go through the session phase during summer and generally leave anything recorded until winter, a period of listening and finding things that are interesting to work on.

A tip: When you overdub, insert a "short spike noise"at the beginning of the song, do DA-AD via your sound card, and record it back to DAW together with overdub parts. Select the recorded spike and overdubbed elements, and align two spike positions. You get your latency compensated. No need to fiddle around with the driver latency compensation values.


Very good read … keep on going … seems to lead to success eventually.

I do some studio gear practising from time to time … just to keep my muscle memory online, I take something from the shelf, which collected too much dust recently, and try to learn it new … funny that often I learn something new too :smiley:


I gave up on midi syncing hardware with computer as well, not ready to throw down for a clock device yet so I’m just doing manual sync. The spike tip is very useful though, will definitely be trying that out. So much time wasted dragging stuff like shaker loops around, thinking I was badly out of time when actually it was latency fucking me over.


I break up my studio into separate zones, each with a different purpose. They are all wired together and synced. I have an area of my studio away from computer screen with all synths, samplers, hardware fx etc ergonomically laid out and all within reach. I can stand up while working on these instruments. These are all MIDI’d into my DAW through a MOTU MIDI patchbay - which works wonders. Can send MIDI from any piece of gear to any other piece of gear, or the DAW, with advanced filtering. Can track 16 channels at a time into my soundcard, using a patchbay, can route anything anywhere into the converter or into outboard fx. Works like a charm.

I have a piano against the back wall that is great for ‘breaking’ away from screens and flashing lights of all kind. The only thing on my desk is my computer and outboard gear for mixing/mastering.

The computer only enhances my creativity, but that’s because I’ve been using DAW’s for 20 years, and I can get things done there, whether it be arranging or mixing, with very little fuss. Takes practice and trusting your gut. Some people can’t handle unlimited options so they simplify, which is fine. I don’t like technical limitations on my creativity, it bugs me. But that’s just me lol. When I’ve had enough of one thing I move to a different task or have a beer.

Don’t blame available tools for lack of focus.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully." - Steve Jobs

Just say ‘no’ to the computer when it’s not the tool needed. If you can’t do that, then you need to work on a mindfulness practice. Meditation, exercise, proper diet…something.


Hardware tends to get in the way of my creativity these days.
Software and DAWs are so good and have NO limitations.
Nothing kills creativity for me more than hardware with its various limitations.
The last thing I want is any form of limitation when I’m writing music.


Software is still hardware!


It seems so weird to prefer hardware.

I hate staring at a large screen that contains plenty of information-I’d rather reference a tiny screen with a mere fraction of the information. Also instead of of paying a 1/10th of the price of an instrument that can be infinitely replicated you can only use 1, I’d rather pay the larger sum of money so that way I get the bonus of limitations.

I can say that because I’m still a hardware user at heart


I spent years trying to avoid the computer because it felt uninspiring and bland, and got in the way of creativity and inspiration. I just wanted to easily do things, with tactility and instant feedback, and without worrying about CPU or compromised sound quality or feeling like I was “at work” instead of “at play”.

But lately I’m getting full-steam into combining hardware with software and being super productive and excited about both. For me, the key is - sound generation should be primarily coming from hardware (physical synths, drum machines, modular, etc.). I haven’t invested anything in effects or mastering boxes, though, and that seems like an endless black hole of money if I allow it to be. Sequencing, too - sometimes physical sequences (esp. Elektron ones) are amazing and inspiring, but just as often the computer lets you arrange, compose, and edit on a big screen with a mouse and do things you can’t easily do with hardware. So it’s a combination of both. Plus, with tools like Bitwig I can set up very interesting chains of effects that can modulate each other and modulate modulations, etc.

So, for me:
(most) sound generation, synthesis, and sampling - hardware
sequencing - hardware (Elektron) and software combination
effects - computer (Bitwig plus plugins - Valhalla Plate, u-he Satin, etc)
modulation and routing and MIDI/MPE control - hardware where applicable, software for everything else (Bitwig)
mixing, mastering, and final touches - computer (compression like The Glue, EQ like FabFilter Q-2, etc.)


If computers running ableton/daws and the like had never existed but all of the hardware did, and they were just introduced today, people would be goin batshit crazy for them… :wink:



i bounce back and forth, sometimes it’s really cool to get immediate access to synthesis inside the computer. I’ve recently found myself with a small gear footprint, and anything I need outside of that I try to use the computer for.

sometimes i feel as though the message from some people is that using a computer requires 0 skill, which is a bit frustrating and discouraging. I wonder if that sentiment is what causes it to be less inspiring for some?


perhaps. they tend to be those that maybe aren’t good with them. let’s face it - the computer as we know it is on the edge of obsolescence. In 2050 I’ll be the dinosaur that can troubleshoot a windows xp machine. so be it.


But XP doesn’t need troubleshooting


I have my studio divided into 3 sections. My computer desk which has my monitors and audio interface and some miscellaneous stuff, far off to the left is all my main gear (mostly elektron) and far off to the right with my comfy reclining chair is my sound design station.

I’ll work on ideas at my synths and eventually record them into my Mac where I do the final arranging/polishing. Important to note that my AR drives the midi for that gear, so I don’t have to worry about syncing the computer with it all.

My sound design station is a bunch of random stuff (Koma Field Kit, mic’d Up springs and metal bits, etc.) I just hit record on the Mac and make weird noises for awhile, then edit/splice/etc on the Mac. Usually the new samples get dumped onto the OT.

That works out well for me because when I think “I want to work on music” there’s usually one aspect I want to focus on, so I feel more accomplished. I still use a computer but I limit it to just doing recording when I’m not actively sitting at it. Eliminates all the headaches with stuff not working properly.


Lets face it, most of the "only hardware"setups these days are from hobbyists. Software gets the job done and well in a fraction of time and if you are a professional musician/ composer / sound designer you need that speed and flexibility. If your creativity gets blocked by having a flexible tool at hand you probably get a job at something else.
I totally understand going “only hardware” if music is something you make once or twice a week and finishing projects is not a “must”.


I’ve tried a lot of set ups, and seen others try even more.
It can be easy to get lost in computers making music and having fun.
I also found it easy to go into the weird void of not producing much, just exploring.
I imagine modular to be similar in a way, or GAS.
At this point it all just looks like tools to me to get the result I want.

Live performance seems a different realm though.
I try to go to a lot of shows, big tours to locals in a dive bar, everything in between.
Big touring acts seem to do ok with computer set ups.
I imagine everything is dialed in, they are professionals at this point, with contracts and expectations.
On a more local level, or an “up and comings” level, I see a lot of people struggle with computers on stage.
Wether it’s the sound guy or user error, computer performances usually dont sound as full as hardware performances.
I’ve seen shows shut down because a USB cable was bumped.
I’ve seen hardware go bad too, but I see way more computer malfunction, just as I experienced it.

In the studio, I feel like anything goes really.
Yet in the studio I am much more productive on hardware, at least it seems that way over time.


I got into Elektron boxes mainly out of my love for Ableton Live.
The OT reminds me of Live lite, in a strange way.
I got deep into the black hole of Reaktor, Bomes, Max for Live, controllers and Live itself, plus a little VDMX.
Even after getting back into hardware, I struggled letting the computer go.
Yet every time I tried to incorporate it, it either didn’t work well, sound as good, or both.
Now I spend a lot of time trying to get the dark trinity to emulate things I loved about Live.
It’s an extremely limited version of Live, but within that paradigm I come up with my own thing, my own style, which is what I was truly after.


Grew up on hardware so it’s all I know use the computer to record and adjust arranger I can’t imagine just using a computer I feel like things would just take so much longer for me and loose a lot of the groove


After years of messing around with different combos and ideas, I recently got a steady, paying music making gig. That forced me to drop any notions on preference and just look at my workflow from a purely practical point of view.

I write music and compose on hardware. I use it also for sound design and loop creation. I even apply hardware for mastering. For recording, I use the computer, as for final mastering, if necessary. That last stage of file management and distribution, as well as wrap-up polish if need be, makes the computer superior in that context to me, just as it doesn’t work at all for writing, composing and sound design - for me.

I’m a piano player to begin with, so I think the tactile experience of fingers working with an instrument in a more abstract kind of way, a screen more or less absent most of the time, is the reason why I’m drawn to hardware. It triggers parts of my brain, a computer doesn’t. But the same goes for getting it all into place. In that aspect, the computer triggers other parts, the more structural and practical part, that just makes a lot more sense on a big screen.


i was without any hardware for 18 months and it was a somewhat desperately upsetting time. tried making beats using ableton and the computer keyboard, it is kind of hilarious to look back on that time.

the Machinedrum is where it’s at for me. Beats. And then for the keyboard side of things, and occasional vocals, i will use ableton to record the midi or the audio signal. to then sample into the Octatrack. Everything goes through the Octatrack and the Machinedrum is master tempo.

using Ableton to record the midi of keyboard tracks, whether it is a hardware or software synth, is somewhat liberating and creatively powerful for my own workflow, as it takes about 16 or 32 bars exploring a riff or chord or two, to then narrow it down to a cool 4 bar section … once that is achieved, the Octatrack samples the 4 bar section. I eventually found that setting the Midi Delay in preferences to about minus 25 milliseconds seems to sync up in a rhythmically enjoyable fashion with the drum section from the Machinedrum, which also is sampled to Octatrack.

when ready, yes the computer is then great as a tape recorder and simple mastering scenario.

i would be interested to know if other Users find it easy to midi sequence chords and riffs on a hardware synth from the OT’s midi section, as i haven’t really explored this side of things.


and its these Errors which make the tracks come alive and make them something unique! no DAW can replace this. they are always perfect. they force you to be perfect. and thats the problem!