Which gear or workflow setup has brought you most joy and productivity?

So I’ve been producing electronic music since around 1998, so have dipped in and out of poor teenager with full hardware, then the early computer software/laptop as replacement, working in fully kitted out mega studios etc.

For me, I make music commercially, so sometimes that in itself can take the joy out of music, so I have ‘work music’ and more personal experimental stuff.

I have a top spec laptop running pretty much just Ableton and a handful of plugins, and that is the set up that gives me the least frustration and I can produce anything creatively that’s in my head. It’s not a place I go to get that experimental, but if I’m in the flow of things and in the right mood, I can bosh stuff out on this and be super happy. My best stuff I’ve ever done have come from this setup.

But then because I can as I’ve hit that age and part of my career where I can invest more money on music stuff, I’ve gone down the road too of hardware things, modular, more esoteric shit.

I’ve got my own studio now, so have all this stuff wired up, and bought and sold it all numerous times over the years, and currently I think I have a £6K modular system doing very little.

But sometimes I sit down with it, after work and make some fairly generic noisy techno thing and it might distract me from other worries, but yeah, hardware has never brought me joy or productivity except perhaps more acoustic stuff.

I bought a Handpan at the beginning of the summer, and honestly, I just sit on the roof playing that these days to unwind, and I get far more out of that than sitting in a basement patching modular gear!


It always comes and goes - recently I made 17 tracks in 24 hours on a Crumar DS-2 that was broken in a fun way. I had blast playing an instrument that reacted differently to what I played on it on every octave. It made me listen more, as my fingers and know patterns could not be trusted. A handful of the tracks were actually good, the rest for the archives.

In General, I like to build little islands in my studio, trying to not have too many things going on at the same time. Especially with a hardware studio the process of keeping everything in shape can be stifling to creativity.


I agree with @Hainbach @FleetingBreath and others that focus + constraints (+ time) = creativity. I sold a lot of gear over the past two years to force myself down to 1 mic, 1 guitar, fav pedals, 3 synths, a mixer, core recording equipment, and a DAW (which is still a lot and I’m privileged to have). That’s helped me be the most productive composing and recording I’ve ever been. You never have time to learn or master anything with a revolving door of equipment, let alone carve out the space to appreciate developing your art or just jam.

For one, I think it’s important to differentiate between what you personally consider “gear” or “tools” versus “musical instruments” (used in the broadest term, as nearly anything can be musical). If you get joy out of creating or designing sounds with X then it’s musical. If you have Y and it’s more of a utility, that’s different. Utilities are a means to an end and they have their purpose but they’re not the journey.

Just reading through the comments clearly a lot of us were in bands at one point or another (if we’re not still), and that human interaction/collaboration/energy can also be a really important element in finding the joy and flow in all this.


I’m finding that joy and productivity can be the same thing but not always. Trying out a new script on Norns can often be the start of something fun for me. I think having fun with sounds in a limited setup with hardware can often complete the goal of having something to record by itself.

I think my approach is first to have fun making sounds then second to record something. The recorded sound does not have to be a complete track it can just be something to build on. Later it can be transferred to a DAW for further additions.

Disquiet Junto keeps me moving forward and creating too. Although quantity is not quality, with more quantity good things start to appear it seems.


What do you think about the exhortation to “just make something, anything!”? My friend has a theory that thought gets in the way of creativity. That the moment that we begin to think about the process is the moment it begins to erode, until we have completely deconstructed it and anything good within it is destroyed by that attention.

How do we make music if that is true?


Shout out that album title that I also use in convo like that, lol

Also shout out (?) to producing so much exciting stuff when you are new and pure and untainted by GAS

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Right now, it’s the bass guitar. Coming from a guitar background I never had a pull towards getting a bass. I always loved the sound, bass plays an important role in my compositions, although playing one just never appealed to me. The other week I just had an itch to get bass. I don’t know what spawned it, but it was real, so I picked up a little short-scale Mustang and it’s been so fun and rewarding. I think the lower register just hits me in a way the guitar never did… it warms the house. I’ve barely turned on my modular since, which, for being a daily ritual, says a lot.


Just one Pocket Operator while riding public transit. Or, just maybe if you wanna get fancy, two Pocket Operators and a sync cable.

I have mountains of other gear, but damn the Pocket Operators sure are fun.


Productivity? MacOS/iOS Notepad and voicenote apps, and literally any DAW I’m reasonably familiar with. I’m truly most productive with no controllers, a small collection of drum samples, and a few plugin staples. Joy isn’t usually too far off from that!

If I’m trying to be like, actively playful? Plugins or hardware with interesting or engrossing modulation and sequencing workflows. Elektron and Eurorack are kings of this, obviously, but I really love the MPC 1k and Arturia Pigments as well. Something very ADHD-satisfying about getting absolutely engrossed into those two.

If/when I’m working with others I try to do a rotation of the two - If I’m by myself I’m doing sound design, making beats, saving ideas as audio, writing down song snippets as they come to me. Then when bandmates get involved I try to be the focal point through which things actually like, happen, and I put on my producer/engineer hat: Scratch tracks, arrangement, lyric tweaks. And then we swap back to the playful bits when we’re experimenting, and then again right back into serious productivity mode for finishing things up, getting better takes et al. It’s a process, and I’m notably kinda slow to work with, but it’s important for me to do it like this so I feel emotionally satisfied throughout.


Guitar never quite made sense to my fingers and brain. But from plinking out stuff guitarishly on a violin during long boring rehearsals in my youth, a short-scale fretless bass is nice to muck around with :slight_smile:


Very muching loving this thread.

Something that sticks out to me is that people are frequently linking productivity to the authoring of sound files (to keep it as general as possible). Is there anyone who can describe feelings of being productive without it being tied to the creating of media? (And what that workflow was?)

Not that there is anything wrong with it. But it jumped out to me as an interesting pattern.

At my most productive, it was probably Fruity Loops and whatever random VSTs and samples I could find online. And hell, a good amount of joy there, too. But that was the creation of songs. Any joy quickly left when I started thinking about how I wanted to perform them live. That started my epic journey into midi controllers, hardware, etc. At that point, the same setup was not as “productive” as before. But only because my goals had shifted.


I already mentioned “Audacity” and to make the fun complete… “MuseScore” and all for FREE. Between those 2 programs, you can go from ABBA to ZAPPA and anything in between.

Did I mention… “Gratis”


Probably this is true for me too—this is what I used in high school, when I made a total of about 20 tracks, mostly mashups and reinstrumentations of pop songs, but a couple original songs too.

This is how I got my electronic music-making start, by making mashups in Audacity :laughing:

My second-most productive period was this past winter and spring; I made 6 tracks using Ableton, and focused largely on exploring the Max4Live synths I made. These tracks were fun, but I’m not enamored with my DAW-music style: for some reason things sound too “obvious” too me, usually. I suppose this is something that can be improved on with practice.

My setup is now I guess the largest it’s been, with 3 hardware synths, a 7U 104HP modular, Norns, a tape deck and associated controllers. At the same time, it’s the smallest it’s been in years, since my desk essentially allows for one piece set up at a time. I just moved (across the hall, literally), so I suppose we’ll see how productive I end up being with it, but I feel good about things so far. I don’t mind having to focus on one piece at a time, since that was how I was able to be productive with it anyway.


I go through a lot of different phases. I’d say in general when I have few things, maybe one keyboard, one drum machine and one guitar, I’m more productive than when I have ten keyboards and five drum machines. It’s way more fun to solve the puzzle on an uncluttered table.

A notable phase was early 2017, just after I got my shared system and before I entered my first really intensely manic buying and selling in search of the perfect setup phase. I don’t remember what was in this particular case, but I think it was mostly a shared system without erbeverb or tempi and probably a Warps, Tides and 3 sisters.

With this case there was this spree of recording, I maybe made a hundred tracks and I didn’t know what was going on only that it was amazing some of the time and totally incomprehensible ear damaging glorious nonsense most of the time.


Wait, aren’t those both amazing? :sunglasses:


I have a lot of fun with a filter, a spring reverb and a delay. Really delays and loopers are my favorite bit of gear.


I worked with recorded music for years. Heard a lot of releases from every genre, every day. I didn’t like a lot of them. That was how I learned what I did like. It was a great way to hone my taste, just like quantity over quality could be.


“The most joy and productivity i’m going to get with my next piece of gear I don’t own yet.”
(And maybe with the M8 tracker it will be thru for a while.)


I was really productive when I was much more naive about music. but that said external demands really helped me to create. For me this was always school/college. The demands of ‘assessment’ and having to hand stuff in really made me produce something, that especially I would want to impress upon my peers. I guess also with study, U are paying money to do it, so you better get some results from all that time and cash spent on it. Still -space, time, and freedom to focus on music is perhaps more important than the gear, for instance the gear or the workflow could always go any which number of ways. But more the discipline u have around this is what will produce results. Gigs are good, definite dates in the calendar where u need to have something organised by. I’ve always thought it would actually be good to have a label nagging at you for something.

I guess I more wonder what strategies and practices people have in place to impose their own deadlines? For me personally I realise it’s been ‘noodling and unfinished projects’ for years, when really, with a little determination, a simple finished ep surely wouldn’t be that hard?

Somehow one has to flip the switch to internal deadlines. Momentum and community are really important I think, and both need dedicated attention to be cultivated.


Joy and productivity are often mutually exclusive concepts.