Minimalism is usually looked at as a lifestyle where a person has a mattress on the floor, a small table with a book, and a jar of mustard in the fridge.... or that could be poverty. Nonetheless, being a minimalist is actually something where a person de-clutters their lives by removing unnecessary things, from physical items to relationships.
When it comes to beat making, being a minimalist is not something I've actually ever heard of. Until now. Because that's what I am.
When it comes to my lifestyle, I'm actually a minimalist of sorts:
- I don't have clutter in my home
- I don't have debt
- I don't have a car
I know that most people in this world today are the complete opposite of me:
- They have lots of clutter in their home
- They have lots of debt
- They have a car
Making beats brings out the creativity in all of us, and as such we tend to explore different options, from trying various new sounds to see what sounds good, to experimenting with a new plug-in. It's very tempting to play around with new gear or to tweak the settings on an effect, but this deviates us from what we really should be doing, which is beat making.
When I first started making beats it was a simple setup - drum machine, sampler, and a keyboard. I found that I was able to be very creative with this setup but then once I started using a computer-based DAW, things started to change. I quickly noticed that instead of being creative and coming up with new ideas for my beats, instead I found myself tweaking my DAW, which then led me to getting rid of my hardware gear. I ended up working solely within the computer, which is great in theory but it greatly diminished my creativity.
What I have now for my setup is Native Instruments' Maschine. I also run Cakewalk Sonar but I only use it at this point for mixing because I like to have my whole world within Maschine, that's what works for me. When I first got Maschine, I couldn't believe how perfect this box was for me because it fit my workflow and personality perfectly. That is, Maschine is like a minimalist beat making box.
Keeping It Simple
Whichever way I make beats, I always end up keeping everything very simple. It's not that I'm afraid to delve deep into Maschine's settings, or to learn a bunch of new tricks within my Sonar DAW, rather it's just that I can't be bothered. The bottom line is that once I figure out a method that works for me and allows me to make beats within a proper workflow, I just stick with it. I know many people that mess around with their gear until the sun comes up, but most of them don't get things done. They end up spending so much time tweaking that they forgot what they were doing in the first place!
When I'm making beats, I have a simple 4/4 drum pattern, my hi-hats are straightforward, and my basslines follow the kicks. Adding in samples is kept to a minimum as well because I like for my beats to come out sounding clean and not over-processed. If you were to listen to some of my work you would know right away that I like my workflow to be simple.
My theory is that if it works for you, then just do it. Why bother changing your workflow? If you were to think back to when you first started making beats, I'll bet that you had a simple setup and you had tons of ideas. Am I right?
I think it all boils down to the music, regardless of what kind of beats I make or what sort of setup I have, because when I really think about it, even the music I listen to is simple! Sure, I prefer to listen to the 90's "Boom Bap" style of music over anything new, but it's because the production back then was - you guessed it - simple.
Think of all the Rap music coming out back then and compare it to today's stuff - what's the difference? To me it's that today the music is overdone. Over mixed. Too loud. Too complicated. The 90's music was heavy on drums, had samples that weren't complicated, everything was mixed well, and it just sounded good.
So what's the lesson that you can take away from all of this? It's entirely up to you. I'm not saying that you should be a minimalist beat maker, I'm just telling you how things have been for me and how it plays into my everyday life. If you make crazy beats that are complicated and loud, ask yourself if your life is like that. Is it?
I know it may seem stupid to think like that, but from my experience, it makes total sense. I honestly believe that your lifestyle plays a crucial role in what type of beats you make. It might also explain why you're not able to make certain types of beats. Some beat makers try to make a certain style of music but always end up making something totally different. That has happened to me a few times, until I finally realized that I can't make this or that type of beat. Instead I just make whatever comes out and leave it at that. Each time, my beats come out with the same style, which is laid back but with an eeriness and a dash of horror thrown in. And guess what? I lead a laid back lifestyle and I love horror movies. Coincidence?
The more I think about it, the funnier and weirder it gets each time because all of these things tie into one another. From my personal life to making beats, it's all connected. My beats are simple and my lifestyle is simple. I'm a beat making minimalist. What about you?
Further Reading Related to Beat Making