Battling GAS or legit hit a dead-end?

Been in a state of low-key stress since I put out my first little EP made with the M:C. I have a bunch of other songs in progress but lost some work - working on some new stuff, and polishing up unreleased stuff and releasing them finally. I’ve been very productive with M:C as the core of my process but something is nagging me.

First off let me state that my favorite songwriting method is to write on a single box and then embellish it.

Prior, I’d enjoyed my time with Squarp Pyramid, and wrote a couple of songs on it. I sold it because I decided that it was unnecessary and the benefits weren’t worth the limitations. It just didn’t seem to “scale” as well as touted …

I saw a video of a song made with just Digitone Keys and immediately decided that that was the synth I had to try out next. I liked it, then decided that I didn’t want it anymore. Too few keys, too few tracks, not my favorite for drums. I don’t really miss it, as good as it sounds.

Currently, in terms of grooveboxs/sequencers, I have Machinedrum MKII UW+, Analog Four MKII, and Model:Cycles. I like all of them … only … I’m dissatisfied.

I like the sounds that Machinedrum can do, but the sequencer is so basic. Everything about it screams digital so hard. Is that a problem? I don’t know! Yet it seems limiting. And the base sound is THIN. You can beef it up on-device, but I’m getting kinda tired of spending hours carefully tweaking the mix of each kit. I plan to try some kinda warming pedal on it … (yes I know about the heat …)

Analog Four is great, only so far I’m using it mostly as a really expensive TB-303! I wrote a song on it, that I haven’t recorded yet (but will soon) and of course it’s incredibly minimal but that’s actually fine. One thing’s certain, I was right that it’s SO good for drum sounds. What am I dissatisfied with? The way you set up a “drum kit”. You can only load presets into a pool, where they can’t be edited, only replaced. This always struck me as limiting. It’s just zones! In every other synth with zones, you just select the zone to edit, and you can edit it. Here we have to set our sounds in (semi-)stone.

Model:Cycles is flawless. You can’t argue with me. Perfect workflow, perfect sound. OK … Actually, I do find the sound often needs bolstering, and of course it doesn’t do samples. And the pads are almost (but not quite) useless. But I love everything else about it. The rapid workflow, the sound, the portability. It slots directly into how I like to work.

One thing is certain I can’t make my music with M:C only.

My problem is … apart from M:C … I try an Elektron box and like it until some hair-pulling limitation pops up and the solution is implied to be “get the complimenting box” or “use a DAW”. It’s not that I have a problem with either of those things, it’s that I start to wonder why I got the box in the first place! As in is it really worth it, when it was supposed to get me away from a computer … in short simplify my life the way M:C has.

I was looking at the Analog Rytm MKII as a solution. Idea: Get songs with broader sonic range (and better usability) very far along, outside the box. I bought an ARII, and I really liked it, but I moved on after trying it because the analog engines didn’t wow me … at the time, I was comparing it to Machinedrum. I keep thinking about it now … and the Digitakt, since I don’t “need” the analog drums. Then the Digitakt makes me think “that’s expensive for a sampler sequencer, why not just use Koala Sampler”. Part of it’s that working on the small screen of my phone is kind of annoying, so I think I need to get an iPad or something and try it out there.

I do research on MPC One or Live II now and then. I tried a Live II at the store and it just turned me off, just something about it. I’d have to push through that to see if it could be my new production main.

Alright, alright. Why not just use Ableton for it all? Don’t worry, I am, that’s always where everything ends up, and that’s where I do a lot of writing too, never changed. I can come up with a thousand reasons why I prefer to do as much as possible off the computer, but it’s like asking somebody why they believe in god or something. You’ll never fully understand their reasons, and they shouldn’t have to explain… everyone who knows, knows.

I got MCL in hopes of it “fixing” the Machinedrum, but it has some tradeoffs and some bugs. I might try it again.

Lingering dissatisfaction. Feeling like I’m wasting a lot of time. Feeling uncertain about everything, seeking some sense of clarity and certainty.

During pandemic, playing live was rarely on my mind. I could just concentrate on my studio workflow… you know, like a “normal” electronic musician.

I just did a practice jam outside with some friends. And while I had fun during it, watching the video of it was so frustrating! So repetitive, so clumsy.

I have no idea what I’m doing, stuck between alternate workflow paths (maximize Machinedrum??? learn to be a groovebox black belt?), working within the limitations of what I have, balancing effort and ability, and feeling like somehow I’m going the wrong way. Perhaps that it was foolish to leave the Pyramid for one, and the fact I was productive on it because I just liked using it. But I don’t have the money to get everything I want. So I’m trying to be good.

What’s another problem I have? I’m using my expensive gaming laptop as my music computer, and I hate that. I don’t even know why. It just feels wrong. I used to use a laptop I bought years ago as a dedicated production machine, but the screen on it is really terrible (and has some kind of come-and-go dark blotch), and it’s just kind of janky… so do I go back to it, and just put up? Buy yet another computer? (I have three) Or … get some other kind of gear to write on. Because Machinedrum ain’t it. Analog Four ain’t it. Syntakt??? I already have M:C … and so expensive! And no sampling …

And which way am I going with my live stuff? Bounced tracks in Ableton, or everything generated live? I love being able to tweak anything that’s playing. It seems apart from foley, vocals, and gear that won’t be present, it’s just simpler to play things live.

OK, so I know my problem now, it boils down to:

I still don’t know how to make electronic music.

What a bizarre thing to believe about oneself, as someone who’s made plenty of tracks (mostly unreleased). Only it’s true … I’m not satisfied why my workflow, with my rig. Despite the fact that when I finished putting it together, I was certain that it was exactly what I needed. Yet every time I think about it, I’m like … it’s so boring! It’s so sensible! I hate it!

I had a very clear idea of why I wanted to do in the beginning, but the technology available had other plans. And now after capitulating, negotiating, compromising, solving it all, I’m just … so bored with myself. And I don’t even know why. Laziness? Existential confusion?

I will overspend if a piece of gear will cure this, or if my penchant for getting these almost-do-it-all boxes when perhaps I’m not ready for them is part of what’s messing me up and I need to sell … something … and get some simpler stuff to play into Ableton! Or a freaking four-track.

But I’ll also take a good slap and some stern education!


What are you selling? :wink:


What! I didn’t mean to post this here! I thought I was just posting to Lounge … second time this has happened


Gear has zero to do with your situation, you are barking up the wrong tree.

Clear everything out of your head, and just listen to what’s in your head. Maybe you need to keep quiet for a while to hear it. When you do, follow that, where ever it leads.


Now you have to post pix of your soul, it’s location and asking price. Rules are rules!


get on the waiting list for a Cirklon sequencer since that is weak link in chain. I am mostly on modular gear now and find the eurorack sequencers way better and powerful for music creation than what Elektron sequencers are capable of.

1 Like

I think this is a fairly common perspective for artists of all kinds. Beginners, of course, don’t know how to produce art. But if you are well past the beginning stage, you are probably pushing some limits - yours, your gear, the genre or medium you are working in.

One approach to break the deadlock is to step away and go do something different. Standard recommendations are to study art history or pick up a new form of art or way of making music. Another approach is to just force yourself to continue making art. Use a deck of randomized guidelines and anti-guidelines like Oblique Strategies. Or use combinatorics to enumerate and select a set of rule variations you want to work through. Finally, you could just do something completely different. Pick up a new sport of hobby that seems totally unrelated to music.

Maybe it is nothing, but also consider being kind to yourself. It is easy to build up a self-critical interior monologue that steers you away from trying interesting things because you “know” you are just going to fail.


I think being kind to yourself is good advice. Making music is hard. It’s very time-consuming, and can be exhausting, confusing, frustrating. I’ve had periods where I hate myself and every sound I produce. That’s rough!

It’s easy to look at other musicians and think they’re finding it easy. Social media probably doesn’t help.

Maybe just take a break!


I think you need a machine plus, sell everything else and just used that for a year and then maybe add to it…


Skilled performance is all about fluency, that only happens after you learn your gear back to front. It’ll never happen if you keep cycling through machines thinking that the next one will have the perfect workflow. There are always going to be compromises, limitations and tradeoffs in anything you use, the key is figuring out how to work around them.

You have several capable and relatively expensive electronic instruments and multiple computers with advanced digital audio workstations, much more that most people have access to. If anything this has opened up too many possibilities and you would benefit from being dogmatic and limiting yourself to one or two pieces of equipment for as long as possible. Whether that means selling things or just putting them away for a while, that’s up to you.

These are far better suggestions than buying new gear, churning through setups, etc. If you’re troubled by questions of personal expression or spaces of possibility in electronic music I would recommend reading the new book by Mark Fell, whose music provides some excellent examples of how to get results by deliberately limiting your tool set.


Oof, I feel this. Like OP my GAS always seems to be focused on ‘workflow’ fixes, not sounds.

I suggest a back to basics single synth approach, preferably if it has a basic sequencer built in and just live record tape style.

My preference is the Toraiz AS1 paired with Zoom H5. Get a bass drum sound, make a basic pattern, record for a few minutes with some live tweaking. Then just add sound by sound, mix down between each new addition (with H5 you can keep separate files for each new pass). Do a couple of takes of each addition until it feels good then move on. Do a mix of sequencing and live playing, let the on the fly tweaks/filter sweeps influence the song structure/arrangement… have fun…

Of course you can easily replicate this workflow with other devices as well.

This won’t be a be all and end all solution, but you can easily turn out a track in an hour, chalk it up as a practice session, if it’s awesome it’s finished, if it just has potential chuck the stems in a daw and work something out.


First: I get you. I have ocd and know well how the analytical mind can trip you up, create perceived limitations, and produce tremendous anxiety. BUT
Music is a VIBE, man. It’s beyond our neurotic constructs, it’s primal and connected to heaven and earth. You’ve gotta remember that first and always. It’s about the vibe, not the tech. It’s about sound. Keep it simple in your heart and head, no matter how complex your gear may be. Everything has limitations. Expect limitations. Embrace them, because it’s not the gear that matters. You can connect to the cosmos with a fucking stick and a rock, and bad ass music has been made with one string instruments since the dawn of instruments.

I humbly suggest to just stop thinking about the gear for a while. It won’t solve your root problem. Just get into the sound for a bit. Listen to records, deeply. Turn off the elektrons and play some guitar through an awesome tube amp. When you are ready to get back to your machines, remember you are the one with the vision, that draws meaning out of them. The machines don’t dictate your connection to what’s important, they are only a conduit. If they get in your way, you can get rid of them. But remember, the replacement machine will be just as limited, in a different way.

Between the lines: Value your talent, your enjoyment, and your music, above the tools used to execute. They’re just machines, after all. There will be a new one tomorrow to replace the old one, and nobody’s music is going to get better or worse as a result of that. Just use gear that creates the minimal amount of frustration but creates sounds that you truly connect with. Your studio will sort itself out naturally as a result.


I’ve read quite a bit of your posts the last couple on months and while I totally understand your struggle, whether it be the imposter syndrome, or flipping instruments looking for your muse. I think you’ve run into a similar ailment that plagues many of us music forum mainstays. Sometimes the thrill is the hunt, whether fomo ism, trying to find the perfect piece of gear that is going to solve all our stale sense of inspiration becomes more important to us than actually creating. In my opinion we are spoiled with too many options. When I first started making music I was happy as could be fucking around with reason 3.0, and later for years rocking one sp 404. I was inspired and wanted to wake up everyday and make music, didn’t matter if it was good, I didn’t compare it to other artist, but was just happy creating.

Once I leveled up after enjoying my simple setup, I began swapping several things out trying out new instruments and started comparing myself as an artist to my contemporaries and other artist I enjoyed. My set taught musical education started having higher expectations.

It started to feel like work, and I constantly was done on myself and starting feeling the imposter syndrome. I was also getting addicted to researching and flipping gear, and music forums.

Slowly that became my hobby more than creating. Every time my inspiration would wane I would blame it on the tools and not the craftsman. At this time I was releasing some stuff and playing shows but it didn’t make me happy the way the first four years felt.

Looking back I should have just kept my initial setup and focused on creating and nothing else.

Just like in life, jobs, relationships, if you’re on your 15 job/relationship maybe it’s you not them and the same could be said for instruments. Stop blaming the idiosyncrasies on the instruments themselves, and learn to embrace the quirks.

So many amazing artists, have done some of our favorite albums on shitty gear we make fun of on forums.

Once I stopped sweating the small stuff, stop focusing on sets, and making albums for labels, stop having insanely high expectations for what I was using and just enjoy them for what they are.

In several of your posts you have seemed highly critical of instruments in pointing out their flaws, ie syntact. Comparing it the machine drum, only to then come to conclusion that the machine drum sequencer isn’t inspiring. It makes it sound like the only way you find a perfect instrument is to create it yourself. I constantly have to police this sort of thinking out of my pessimistic thoughts, so I am saying this with love. Cause I feel you more than I would like to admit.


I agree with the sentiment buying gear doesn’t solve the problem.

BUT, sometimes gear can be a crutch. Like holding on to a MD because it’s a universally loved device while in fact it’s pretty fucking annoying to use!

I felt the same with MD, MNM and Pulsar 23 and you know what when I sold them I felt free. Because my annoyances where holding me back from making music, it didn’t matter that they were great instruments…

You seem to like your M:C! So sell everything else! Free yourself from the crutch of owning stuff. BUT don’t buy anything, take your time with the next purchase and don’t fall into GAS


This rings true!
Just enjoy making music, with whatever makes you happy everything else is bs


Another thought could be instead of chasing after the next bit of kit to release and produce cmusic on , find a solid collaborator who’s taste/opinion you trust , focussing on whatever track you’re working on with them making the device you’re using secondary, this could help with the form of writers block you’re experiencing .


I started on the GAS train with guitar pedals years ago, then I got an Octatrack and it got way worse.

I still have a couple of Elektron boxes that I should sell, because I find them too fiddly, but now I’m down to Ableton and an OP-Z as MIDI sequencer.

This was an almost perfect setup. I like to sample the real world, my guitar, or people, and slice those samples to make songs. But whenever I needed a bass, or other synth sound, I’d be off into the world of preset surfing, which I really don’t like. I bought a Digitone at some point, but it was the same preset surfing.

Very recently I saw this video with Francis Prève:

He gives a few amazing examples of how to make sounds with Ableton’s Operator (12-ish minutes in is a good part). I already liked Operator, but I never really understood it, and I found all synth-based sound design tedious.

Now, I’m excited about the sounds I can make, and I have a basic working knowledge of how to translate an idea into a sound. Operator has utterly killed my GAS for synths. A little knowledge has fired up a desire to learn more.

My point is, buying new gear is annoying. Selling it is even more annoying. If you can, find something you love, and push it until you know it inside out. Now I wake up eager to try new tricks with operator. My ideas are musical, rather than gear-based (and I include plugins as gear, here).

Also, read this:


Finding recipes for creating various drum patterns for kick, clap, hi hat and snare really helped me a lot. Most dance electronic music whether it be techno, dubstep, trance or house all follow common recipes for bass and drum patterns. I also listen to these styles to identify common patterns and themes.


Simple feedback to you

It is not important what you have but how you use it

Learn your machines inside out and focus on one a fime
Also i suggest spending less time on internet and invest your time in mastering your machines

The more gear you will buy the less music you will make


Put all your instruments away and tidy your living space and take a week off.

The music you make is good, and it’s not the tools that make it good, it’s you!