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Old 11-01-2009, 01:32 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Limitations -- good or bad? DISCUSS.

Up until about a month ago, I was entirely convinced that the reason which I couldn't produce anything worth recording was due to the poor quality equipment that I use, most of it borrowed from friends at one point or another. And more than anything else, I felt a better guitar/amplifier would allow me to craft the sound I was looking for.

Perhaps less than two weeks ago I began to notice that these limitations I forced upon myself were having somewhat of a recursive effect upon my songwriting. I would write songs that sounded good on my guitar for the explicit purpose of being able to play them. It wasn't a forced motivation -- more or less it came naturally as I started listening to myself play.

Now it seems like when I sit down to play or write music I harbor reservations about what I actually can play, but it's also had a serendipitous effect as well: it affords me a window to channel my creativity rather than the blank slate I worked with beforehand.

A month ago I could not imagine keeping my guitar for more than another year. Now I can't see myself ever selling it. I'm not suggesting that it's a good thing to be controlled by your instrument, but it sure is liberating having some sort of means to channel my creative potential rather than wandering aimlessly like I did beforehand.

Any thoughts / discussion ?

Oh, and in case anybody's curious, this is what I play:


Ibanez AEG20E Acoustic Electric

on a...


Peavey Transtube 2x12 (not actual model in picture, sorry)
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Old 11-01-2009, 01:45 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I personally love recording projects that are severely equipment limited. About 10 yrs. ago I recorded an album w/ a Les Paul, a 30w Crate practice amp, a cheap Casio Keyboard, and a karaoke machine (w/ a very cool built in spring reverb, I might add). I though the limitations definitely helped me channel my creativity, and the results were a lot more satisfying then they would have been if I had more equipment at my disposal.
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Old 11-01-2009, 12:03 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Sam, I use that exact electric/acoustic guitar (except mine is the red sunburst) and I get pretty decent results... except I use a combination of miking the guitar itself and recording from the pickup. I've found that I get the best results when plugging the guitar straight into my mixer through a direct box and I mix that somewhat lower than the microphone, to get a full bodied and pristine sound.
The guitar alone doesn't sound bad at all. A little thin, but easily compensated for in the recording stage.

I never really felt limited by that particular guitar, so I can't really lend anything to the discussion as far as how it could affect creativity and motivation, but there is one thing I've learned since I've been playing acoustic:
Standard tuning = limiting for me.
My first change was drop D, which opened up more possibilities, then I began using drop D and changing the three high strings so that I'd end up with an open tuning like D Minor or some Major 7th and unresolved variations. When I started playing with that, I'm telling you, the creative possibilities opened up faster than I could explore them. I stopped using a pick and started doing fingerstyle and now, to this day, every time I pick up my guitar I'm learning something new that I never could have with standard tuning and picking.
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Old 11-01-2009, 12:22 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Freebase Dali View Post
Sam, I use that exact electric/acoustic guitar (except mine is the red sunburst) and I get pretty decent results... except I use a combination of miking the guitar itself and recording from the pickup. I've found that I get the best results when plugging the guitar straight into my mixer through a direct box and I mix that somewhat lower than the microphone, to get a full bodied and pristine sound.
The guitar alone doesn't sound bad at all. A little thin, but easily compensated for in the recording stage.

I never really felt limited by that particular guitar, so I can't really lend anything to the discussion as far as how it could affect creativity and motivation, but there is one thing I've learned since I've been playing acoustic:
Standard tuning = limiting for me.
My first change was drop D, which opened up more possibilities, then I began using drop D and changing the three high strings so that I'd end up with an open tuning like D Minor or some Major 7th and unresolved variations. When I started playing with that, I'm telling you, the creative possibilities opened up faster than I could explore them. I stopped using a pick and started doing fingerstyle and now, to this day, every time I pick up my guitar I'm learning something new that I never could have with standard tuning and picking.
oh no, i have absolutely no desire to produce anywhere near the tonal range that the acoustic model produces; the entire reason i use it is to generate the immense feedback from the single coil pickup inside. i have access to acoustic mics and mixers, i don't see much point trying to capture a sound i've been trying to repel for years.

with a high gain function and maxed pre-gain there is an immense liquid fuzz component which i've been unable to obtain with any combination of distortion pedal / electric guitar combination that i've yet used. it's almost overwhelming when you play open chords and open strumming, the feedback swirls and swells incredibly. the only difficult thing is soloing using a driven signal, the single coil tends to induce an ENORMOUS amount of static noise when the strings aren't being muted.

when i suggested that i was being limited by my equipment i meant it in the sense that there is one desired sound which i can achieve with great effect.
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Old 11-01-2009, 12:23 PM   #5 (permalink)
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In general I think having limitations is a better thing than having none. Just look at something like Suicide's first album and compare it to something like Chinese Democracy.
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Old 11-01-2009, 12:51 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Limitations can be a sort of double-edged sword. It really depends on what youre going for. Like your Pennsylvania brethren in Ween: they recorded their first album on a four track mixer with a drum machine. Not bad. But if you want BIG sound and a lot of depth and clarity, unless you get lucky, you'll probably just have to bite the bullet and invest in some quality.
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Old 11-02-2009, 06:34 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Limitations are good I think.I play an electric (epi special 2) without an amp (I know,im pathetic)and I feel it sounds like crap,obviously. But when I went to guitar center and played an epi (hollowbody) with their nice amp,holy crap,I felt like a guitar god! Like what I was putting together was decent.I cant see how playing with limited resources affects your writing skill.Im most creative when Im pissed,or happy,or see some crazy sh*t.My equipment has no effect on that,but everyones different and thats cool. All in all I think limitations are good,as long as you know youre going to upgrade later on haha.
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Old 11-02-2009, 09:41 PM   #8 (permalink)
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@ Sam:
Ah ok, I misinterpreted.

On that note though, I do agree and have experienced that with a small Crate practice amp I had, in combination with a crap 7 string electric. With certain adjustments and at the right volume, I was getting an amazing sound that was the result of just enough crappy qualities combining to create a unique sound that I've never been able to reproduce on better equipment.
I wish I hadn't given the amp away before I realized that though.

I can definitely testify to the fact that sometimes it's better for creativity when you have less to work with. Comparing my earliest work when I had practically nothing, to now that I've got a room full of gear, I can definitely tell there's a general decline in creativity and discovery associated with being distracted by fancy gimmes. I notice that I'm less inclined to invest myself in creating music because it's easier to be lazy and not have to work hard at achieving something, whereas before, the journey to achieving a sound led me to far more valuable discoveries.

When I think about that, I just want to put half my stuff on Ebay.
I stare at my gear more than I use it, now.
I never imagined it'd be that way when I was younger and dreaming of having what I have now. Really kind of puts things into perspective for me.
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