Time limits as creative impetus

Random Craig thoughts incoming. I have a limited time left in the UK before moving to another country and I currently have no gear. So I’m thinking of renting a piece or two for a couple of months then sending them back before I leave. Then it occurred to me that I will definitely use the shit out of said rental gear while I have it, maybe even try to write an EP before sending it back again. Would you feel the same? For example (off the top of my head), what if you had something out of reach ordinarily like a Prophet 5 but you only had it for a month or so. Would that inspire you to make the most of it and be more productive compared to if it was there for the long term? Do time constraints help with creativity? Discuss…


I would say that the time constraints absolutely do help with that for me. I’ve definitely got more than a few things where it was a great deal and then ended up not using it for ages and then when I did some of the initial enthusiasm had been lost - though sometimes I got it back once I got to know the instruments.

Another thing I like to do is setting tight time limits… I’ve done the album in a month things a few times and even if I didn’t get it completely finished I always ended up with something ultimately went on to a proper release.

Once, about 15 years ago I even tried to write an album in a day. Literally 24 hours withouth a break and I think the best track was done at hour 20… I recently saw some youtubers that had done something similar in the last few years and I’m thinking of trying it again. The incessant ticking clock just forces you into making decisions and there is literally no time for second guessing…


Excellent response. Yes, I thought having no time to faff and over think things would help get shit done. Thanks for your personal insights.

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This sounds like a great move. Time limits are always useful for sparking creativity and forcing action. Sounds like you’ve got enough time ahead to dive deep on some ideas but not enough to get lost messing around, which is good.

The one consideration I’d throw out there with regards to gear is just — maybe don’t spring for a super unfamiliar piece of kit where you’ll still be scouring the manual late into month two. Give yourself a chance to really play with something and not be stuck in learning mode the whole time. Of course, some of those early learning stages are hugely inspiring — it’s always cool to mess around with gear before you’ve hardwired the rules/conventions/limitations of it in your brain— but yeah, maybe there’s a balance to be struck between venturing into the unknown vs. leaning into the strengths you already have.


Very good advice. In my particular case, I will be borrowing some Make Noise stuff I’ve already used (aside from the 0-Ctrl) from a very good friend and fellow ‘Naut so it’s not going to be something totally alien to me. Anyway, I wanted to open it up to other people’s experiences of time constraints and whether that helped or hindered. The Prophet example was just to get the ball rolling :slight_smile:

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In this particular case, the temporary gear factor would work well with me, more than time limitation.

I’ve tried to complete two Jamuary editions and both were kind of a failure because each time something external broke the momentum and the delivery, but i liked how the time limitation forced me to react, more than overthinking a track.

Instead of aiming to make every tracks as busy as possible, with “classic” voices (Drums, bass, lead voice, and what have you…) and classy composition (i wished) i tried to expand on what was coming to me the most organically…sometimes not so much.

So if time was missing and all i had was a synth sound, i would try to use that sound to tell a story or going for a performance/tweaking/free improv session.
Adding half baked intruments parts and sections too late would produce sh!t.

But yeah, the limited time gear is a very interesting side of creative conditions.
You know what you have to do now !

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For fun I used to make 10 min patches on VCV Rack. Just used my standard template and then had 10 min to grab any other modules I felt like and plug everything in. Sometimes it was crap, and sometimes I got some cool stuff.

Time limits remove procrastination time, which is a plus.


Yes! I found this through trying to produce a track or at least something worthy of Current Sounds each night I had with my gear. Some of it is garbage of course, but some of it ended up being my proudest work so far.


Same here
There’s clearly a Before and After with Current sounds… Thread.
New territories, new sounds, synth studying ( especially the Buchla Vst )

I’m basically documenting my researches and reporting.
The “one item a day” is a soft rule, but without any stress factor.

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Exactly. You perfectly captured the spirit of that thread. And your contributions sound amazing!

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When I was young I never had any gear, I used to go into a studio and record and mix upto 3/4 tracks in 8 hours, no engineer most of the time either. Most of the tracks were released on vinyl or CD.

Da fuq happened to me :laughing:

A sense of urgency and a deadline are great motivators.


So like… affordable GAS. GaaS (GAS as a Service) haha

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That’s amazing. And maybe it’s something you should artificially create to see what happens. Being under time and money pressure has obviously produced some masterpieces in the past, especially when considering studio time/costs.

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Many thanks, that means a lot !

To get back on the Time constraints:
I’ve never started a project with this limitation as a major orientation but, being pretty bad at working on something left unfinished for a while, i’ve always forced myself to finish tracks while the mood was working.

That’s why in my “previous life” (Samples libraries/Vsti era) i’ve always worked on full albums, juggling with all tracks at the same time, developping them in relation with each other so that a cohesion existed in concept, sound character and dynamic relation.

So the first batch of ideas led to identify the major tracks/themes from those who almost had a respiration/articulation purpose. After that, creating the other tracks was easier.
And it was done.

I have a few unfinished, or “stage 4 completed” albums archived, and i can’t say if they will be continued and completed… because the mood may not come back.
Since i’m making electronic oriented music almost exclusively, i’m more on a one track/one experiment/one particular synthesis way of producing.

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This is fascinating. Working on all the tracks at the same time is something I’ve never tried except at the mixing stage maybe.

The mixing stage is usually where the real problems begins for me.
In this case time is not a limitation rule but a necessity : the quicker the better, or it’s mudfest for sure.

That’s why i’ve decided to not bother that much with it.
Maybe one day, with proper speakers and a “ok” room/studio.

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I think that the main difference between then and now is that there was no easy way to save work for later, this was pre-DAW days. Sequencing was done on Atari ST, and most of the synths were analogue with no memories, recording was done to DAT, no mixer recall or anything like that.

There were a few times when I’d have 2 or 3 consecutive days booked so if a track was not finished by the end of the day, it could be finished the next day. Most of the time though it was single days here and there, usually with a couple of weeks in between each, so this meant that stuff had to be finished or by the next time all the gear settings would be changed by other people in the meantime.

Contrast with now where I can save everything, and don’t have such time constraints, I have probably a few hundred partly finished tracks, saved in various states, on various gear that I’d happily release (eventually!)

A few things have changed for me in the last few years, and I have decided to rectify this lack of finishing things. So I have started and continue to change my setup quite dramatically, I still don’t and won’t use a DAW, and I have realised that certain instruments don’t help me to finish stuff, so those are going - including a few Elektron boxes.

A somewhat relevant side note: In 2011 I made a whole album in 2 days using just my Bugbrand analogue modular system, no sequencing aside from clock dividers and logic, obviously no patch recall, all mixed within the system then recorded straight to a field recorder. The reduced options made making decisions easier sure, but also the fact that if I got something going that I liked then I had to finish it before I could make the next.

Anyway best of luck with your endeavour, I think the only advice this perpetual slacker can give is choose the gear wisely, and set your mind to it.

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Great insights. Thank you!

Yes! I’m in a somewhat privileged position right now of starting over from scratch. So I’m going to gradually reacquire the pieces that made me happiest and the most productive.

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With work, family etc. commitments, time for music is always limited for me. ”Funnily” enough, when I had lots of freetime during my years at university, I chose to spend that ”working” (lots of hours, little pay) as a music journalist. So now that the fire for creating music is back full on, I’m sorta trying to take back the time lost spending pretty much every night from 9 or 10 to 12 pm on music. In a sense that’s creative impetus, but doesn’t really allow me to get into the best possible creative flow. So that has sorta dictated my musical approach and outcome (jam-based tracks on a single machine, live takes).

I’m relatively happy with the situation, but if I had two months that I could just focus on music, I’d definitely try to write an album! Focused setup (3 devices max, preferably one or two) that I would already know pretty well. If renting gear would be an option, I might get the urge to go big! Like Prophet 5 big and not Shared System big, personally, cos I’d want to spend my time making music and not scratching my head.

In autumn 2020 I took three months off work and wrote/recorded about 95% of this album. The foundation of all the tracks was piano/Subharmonicon/OT, lots of other stuff going on the arrangements tho. The best three months in my life, creatively speaking. The remaining 5% of the album dragged on for about six months, ha! But that album would’ve never happened if I wad writing it 2-3 hours at a time in the evenings. Not to say it’s ”better” necessarily, just a whole different creative approach.

Whatever you end up doing, hope you have fun, @craig! Looking forward to listening to it at some point! And if you have time, do document the journey for us (via Current sounds, for example).


Yeah, it’s hard to beat having a couple of dedicated months and a deadline. A few weeks ago I had the premiere of a musical I wrote - don’t think I could have done it without taking a few months off, or if I hadn’t had deadlines and people waiting!expecting me to finish.