Let’s say you want to build a new temple. You can only afford a specific plot of land. It used to be a Carl’s Jr, but now it’s a large boxy building with wood covering the windows and a distinct yellow, red, and black paint job. You have a specific design in mind and you have about half of the resources to get there but getting the crew and remaining materials will take a bit of time. You face a dilemma. Do you tear down the Carl’s Jr down and start construction on the new temple, or do you convert the Carl’s Jr into a functional temple that doesn’t quite have the vibe you were looking for, smells like grease, and has off lighting compared to your dream?
Tear it down. When you wonder about attendance in your greasy meditation room, you’ll regret wasting your time and effort to fixing something that is fundamentally broken. You want natural lighting, not walls built to keep out the light of day for hungover patrons.
You cannot make your dream a reality if you are fixed in the past. So why do you still have you desk cluttered with the projects of a past version of yourself? Did that business idea become anything? Will your guitar from 10 years ago with the one bridge pickup and the broken input jack ever become a part of your musical process?
This month I have been pairing down and looking at where I want to be in the future and eliminating everything in the way. I have a clear vision of the music I want to make and it doesn’t include the microphone’s I learned on. It doesn’t include the harmonicas I bought in eighth grade. I have a clear vision of what I want to look like too. I want a beard that covers my lips from the weather, I want hair that is even. That is why I cut my hair. The beard I grew had become a rundown Carl’s Jr. I fought with it every morning to look the way I wanted. The hair I had was short on the sides and in a bun on the top, I couldn’t have my hair in any other style than the bun, which was never the goal.
The music I was making was dark over complicated and not fun anymore because it had been the compromise of what I want and what was available. That is why I’m pairing down on the equipment that is either in the way or unused. In a large field of overgrown grass, it is hard to know the way, when the path is clear, you can begin walking. When I cut my hair, when I sold and gave away my distracting gear, I began walking toward something rather than just wondering around in the weeds.
Here is how to get down to the essentials in music.
1. Identify the essentials
You may already own them, you may have a bunch of gear that is all wrong. Either way, find the 1 most important part of your musical gear you have/want (A Guitar, A computer. Then find what the minimum gear is that you need to make the music you want. Write down you goal and the gear you need not the gear you want.
2. Separate the rest of your gear from the essentials
Physically move that gear into one area. Place your essentials in one area, a workstation, a specific corner, anywhere. Place you non-essentials in the middle of a room. Somewhere inconvenient, a place where you can’t ignore them, take them out of cases and make the pile look huge. You’ll want to deal with it if it’s a large inconvenience.
3. Determine what is sellable
This is central to achieving a perfect set up. Most used music stores won’t give you anything for cables, picks, or even power supplies and cases. Look for guitars, drums, and other valuable things. And separate the sellable from the unsellable.
4. Determine whether you want to sell to a store or a person\
Patience is required for the later. It takes time to find a buyer when selling on craigslist or even to a friend, a store can drastically cut down the time but at the cost of money. That said, the difference in money may be vital to achieving the simple dream set up you want. Post on eBay, 5mile, letgo, craigslist, Facebook and any other method of selling used items.
AVOID PAWNSHOPS, these store are not informed and not they assume you aren’t either. They will underpay as much as 25% of the used value they find online.
5. Give away the unsellable
You are a musician, there are many of us and we need to support each other. Maybe you need a bass for your vision, and someone else needs a keyboard see if you can trade, maybe you have no needs but you have a pedal that is unessential and doesn’t get used. Give it to a friend who could use it. Even just patch cables that are too short or a bit old, give them to a musician you know, they will be able to use it, and they will always remember who gave it to them. If you can show generosity, it will come back to you in spades. There are many musicians trying to find there sound independently, but if you work together, everybody wins. (Also, public opinion of you as a person is important to the opinion of you as an artist.)
6. Enjoy a clutter free set up
The music will flow like water in a drainage pipe. I wish I could be more romantic about it, but inspiration still occasional. However, now when the rain comes, the water can flow instead of being caught in the cables and technical difficulties of complicated set ups.