Options Integration and Management

Sunday, July 7, 2024

three music files: 16 measure Saexly loop in Bias FX, PianoTeq Steel drums and Steinway B Felt 2 piano.

As a musician in 2024, you have an incredible set of adaptable and versatile options at your fingertips. Keyboard players can delve into the universe of MIDI and sample libraries, unlocking an infinite set of sounds and combinations. Guitar players have a vast array of digital signal processing tools for model transformations, effects, emulation, and amplifier and speaker modeling. And for those on the recording side, be it engineers, producers, or sound designers, a whole new universe of options is available, ready to adapt to your unique needs and preferences. The joy of exploring these options can be truly inspiring.

As many people play the guitar and keyboards and record themselves, it is easy to become overwhelmed with options. This is why management and integration are required: because these will work with each other in an extensive set of possible ways. If you happen to be an electrical engineer with a graduate degree in digital signal processing and electroacoustics, as well as a Juilliard-trained Composer and an MIT-trained acoustician who has played more than 1000 gigs on multiple instruments in multiple styles and written and performed a ton of original music acting as an underpinning for being a Jazz improviser, who also in the last few years learned how to sing, well you can see the dilemma.

It’s a delightful dilemma, as I’ve spent the last 60 years accumulating all this knowledge and equipment. Now, I have the joy of playing with and hopefully producing truly unique, original, professional music. But still, the astronomical number of choices can be overwhelming even for a guy who spent ten years in college studying all these things, another 20 years in the industry, designing and evaluating these things, and another 25 years teaching and speaking about many of these topics. And, of course, constantly reading the literature, both technical and consumer-oriented, in the form of thousands of magazines and journals, as well as in the last couple of decades, the infinite resource of the Internet for print, audio, and video.

It is understandable if a person can become bogged down or occasionally paralyzed by this number of options. Almost no one in the world has this many options. They make an excellent subterfuge to hide behind when afraid to enter a feedback loop with an external reality, turning this into a giant procrastination. Once you realize that this is what’s happening, it is time to take action to get your arms around the entire pile of options and begin to manage them. Now, of course, there are also infinite ways to manage, and unfortunately, I have to tell you that creating more options is not one of them; even if you could afford to pay for them, the time does not exist to exercise and master them.

Therefore, it is time to declare a moratorium on option generation and switch to integrating and managing them to achieve musical goals. Try to let go of technical goals and spend your energy residing in the artistic, technical world to the extent that this is possible for a lifelong engineer and scientist who could have been a professional musician and is still trying to do the balancing act between them.

On the positive side, combining gear, knowledge, talent, and curiosity must be beneficial. I have to find out how, as I am now in my eighth decade, which means I do not have an infinite amount of time left. But I may have 30 years left, which is the equivalent of an endless amount of time, considering some musicians did not even live that long and produced terrific results.

So, let’s get to it!