Home Forums Pianobook Is Creative Limitation The Key To Writing A Unique And Original Score?

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    James Blunsdon

    Hey people,
    So I’m interested in hearing what your thoughts are on ‘creative limitation’.
    With access to so many samples now, both expensive and free, there is this idea that too much choice can be a bad thing. I’ve heard the phrase ‘paralysis of choice’ being thrown around, where a blank canvas with so many presets to scroll through it’s hard to know where to start or what direction to head in.
    Creative limitation is the act of purposefully setting yourself rules which will force/focus you in a direction that is more innovative. For example, if you limit yourself to using just one synth rather than 10, you’re likely to experiment and get the most out of that instrument.
    I also worry that with the amount of people buying from companies like Spitfire Audio, Eastwest, 8DIO etc there is a concern that a lot of music we write can struggle to sound original if we’re all using the same samples. Mixed with this we get marketed with offers, sales, discounts for these expensive samples throughout the year. I know myself and many of us will have experienced G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) where we end up browsing for the next instrument or sample that we must have for a project, only to leave it gathering dust.

    As part of my research project on this I’ve created a short survey so if anyone has a spare 2mins I’d love to hear your thoughts or alternatively comment your thoughts about this on this thread – Survey link SURVEY

    For me I believe the way forward is to start creating some of your own samples if not already! Cheers


    Hi James,

    I think there are some interesting thoughts you brought up. And I want to tell you my experiences – from my personal point of view, of course:

    There are different ways to find inspiration for a new composition. Just to mention the two most common for me:

    I’m diving into my libraries of sounds and synths, having lots of fun and being fascinated by all the varieties and possibilities they offer. It is really like diving … being completely lost in sound and bliss and hardly getting my head over the surface. 😉 And sometimes – yes: only sometimes – the idea for a new song is a direct result of a patch I just detected. Or a sound that leads from one chord to another and to a new composition.


    The best way for me for writing a new song is to go back to my basics: the piano. I have a handful of pianos that I prefer to play when I want to write something new:
    – my Rhodes (yes, the real thing)
    – NI Alicias Keys
    – Waves Electric Grand 80 piano
    – and two or three more, depends on my mood.

    The piano is everything you need for composition. (If I was a guitarist I’m sure the guitar would be my weapon of choice, of course.)
    It can be quiet, slim, with only a few notes. Or it can be an orchestra. I miss nothing.

    When I found the core of the new song, the idea and the structure, I go back diving into sounds. To find the best arrangement for the new song, the best environment of sound. And sometimes my basic piano track is just the “pilot track” for everything that comes next and doesn’t even appear in the final mix.

    Also I don’t think we all sound the same just because we have some Spitfire or NI or whatever libraries. I’m sure most of us have thousands of sounds available and can hardly ever use them all. (Tipp: Never use a patch or a pattern “as is”, always change something to your very special needs and taste.)

    Let inspiration flow and don’t overthink! 😉


    Johs Walin

    Hi, I find your question to be one of the most important questions in this day and age. My phrasing of that question would be: Does this never ending avalanche of sonic alternatives limit us as creators more than it enables us to finish projects?

    Personally: I do believe in limitations. I do believe that the notes and staffs on the paper(or in the piano roll, or midi information in probability engine) always will be the key. I the more time time I spend writing the more I try to challenge my self in bread and butter part of composition: Harmonies, chords, progressions, motifs, rhythms or tension and release.

    There is much inspiration in sample libraries, but setting up tone-rows, going for that new scale, new time signatures, working through harmonic concepts is for me the way to start a project. If something in my tool collection enhances what I write, these days it often does, I take that as a great bonus. But I strive to add them on in a later stage of the writing/recording process.


    When playing an instrument as accompanyment while watching a film or tv series (especially the themes) it’s difficult to add anything really meaningful. Their scores are ‘in the can’ already good enough for commercial use, so trying to squeeze something in helps me recognize when my own mix is too crowded, when less is better, and how to embellish without dominating. There are also moments where the acting/action is in the forefront, which provide opportunities to noodle about, exploring/practicing melodic techniques and different sounds.

    Listening to pieces of music that are popular, but not our style, or created by artists
    wholly new to us, is also healthy. I once saw a forum post mention ‘Imogen Heap’, fully unknown to me, and had some free time, so went exploring her music, and lightbulbs started glimmering, and the urge to really master something welled up. Similar thing happened regarding Lari Basilio, great inspiration evolving from a chance name encounter.

    We each have a life, with no guarantee of another Tuesday. Investing our days in what we love most, is a key to happiness, where we define our own success by knowing that we did our best.

    James Blunsdon

    Thank you to all who responded, this proved to be a useful addition to my research! 🙂

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