Why do we gravitate to limits?

I recently placed a pre-order down on a circuit rhythm, for many reasons but it would seem an odd choice for many things I want to do, should I have gone for me? mpc one for a bit more would make a welcome difference maybe? But funnily enough I quite like the idea of the limits, I know I’ll do a lot more with it.

But all this got me thinking, why do you guys go for limits? It reminded me of when I first hired a tiny studio with some friends to make an E.P at uni. It was so exciting and there was so little equipment there, we practically barely used the daw for anything smart, just recorded everything straight then occasionally threw some wild effects in there. But it was exciting even using a daw because we didn’t know enough for it to feel vast. And I wonder if I try to replicate that excitement now by buying equipment that isn’t vast in the hopes that I’ll get that same childish enthusiasm.

Thought I’d post incase anyone wanted to add why they enjoy limitations or had some nice story about a musical experience relevant.

I’m excited for my new kit to come down and try start a fresh exciting slate outside of the endless potential of the daw!


I would hazard to say as humans (and maybe as animals), we gravitate to novelty and pleasure seeking.

Getting a new device achieves that.

We may create justifications like “wanting limits” but I think that’s an after the fact thing.

Limits are great and create a ton of creativity for sure but let’s face it, that’s not why you bought it :wink:


Over all these years I’ve found I want “limits”, until I run into some kind of problem that can’t be solved in whatever I’m working with, and then it’s frustrating and I say “Ok I’ll just start doing all this in the box” and then it’s so uninspiring sitting in front of the blank canvas of a DAW (YMMV, of course).

All I can say is that in some respects, I don’t think adults are much different than children when it comes to choice. If you bring a kid to a toy store and you tell them “Pick one of any toy you want” you’re going to have a very confused, eventually very frustrated kid (in most cases). Analysis paralysis. I think putting boundaries and limitations around ourselves prevents that, to a degree, but there’s always “that shiny thing” that exists outside those limits that make it hard to always fit inside that way of thinking.

Edit: Also, quick addendum - for the most part, I use iOS for production related tasks. It’s super mobile, especially if using the phone, but there’s always trade offs. For me, it’s a constant fight between convenience and mobility vs function and features, what’s actually needed to complete a certain task and whether or not a certain function or feature can be lived without. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and…

I have a little different take on it. What I gravitate towards isn’t really limitations but the musical instrument quality of a device. This makes the design choices in terms of playability very important which then imposes a lot of limitations. But what is important to me is the intuitive tactile experience. The limitations of the device is more of a side effect.


Limitations are a replacement for focus. The more options you have available, the more focus you need. Limitations take away options and makes it easier to focus.

There’s nothing wrong with either of course - both approaches empower you in opposite ways. Try to be as dynamic as possible so you understand and are able to utilise as many creative avenues as you need to achieve your goals. For me, that’s always a messy and never ending affair. :wink:


Depends on your philosophy of life. Gravitating to excess could be hedonistic say. Maybe your upbringing or religious values play a part. I think its a separate entity from making music as the limits apply to all aspects of your life not just your studio.

Creative minds usually have the urge to overcome frontiers, I guess.

Give me a computer and I’ll drown in the possibilities / configuration / programming.
Give me a PO-33 and I’ll get a track in no time.

Perfectly put.


To overcome choice paralysis. Each part of making music is a choice. The more choices we have, the harder it is to make the right one each time.


I think, I never would buy something, because I feel it’s limited or limiting. It’s often the contrary of this. But I bought gear, which had a very particular purpose, because I wanted this feature and sometimes this gear was quite limited to just this purpose :wink:

But there is much truth to it to say that the more options we have the more hard it is to make a decision.

1 Like

As someone who recently switched from using an OT back to the DT, I do agree with a lot that has been said here. Self imposed limits also lead to completely unexpected territory. As a guitarist, I set myself the goal to record an album without any guitar on it, and it’s probably the record I’m most proud of. It completely flips your perspective on how to approach things: from ‘I need this to achieve this’ to ‘this is what I have, let’s see what I can do with it’.


That’s dope, did you find yourself trying to crack the guitar out when making the record and if so, what did you do to combat that?

it’s funny how limitations get used as a marketing tool

1 Like

Limitations are a replacement for not having a complete clarity of vision.

I don’t say that critically - all the greatest artists had a clear vision, whether it’s Picasso, or le corbusier or Bowie (you could say he lost it in the 90s because he didn’t really have a clear vision) or whoever…

For the rest of us, limitations focus us on challenges, and having a clear challenge gives clarity.


1 Like

The other side of the coin is that hardware created with limits allows the creators to try to focus on doing specific things very well - rather than trying to do to much.

So when we say “hey the digitakt feels freer than the ot” it’s because it fits it’s use-case better, not necessarily because it does less.

1 Like

i’ve seen hundreds of times how excessive choice drives people crazy.
limitations give us reasonable amount of control and speed up our thinking.
but there are limitations and limitations.
when it comes to gear, it’s important to choose those limitations that make you confident, not frustrated.

1 Like

Actually, I did not have the urge to get it out, as the songs I started writing without the guitar started to evolve on their own really quickly (and I mostly had no idea what key I was in anyway).

1 Like

What is the definition of “limit” for a musician, artist, sound sculptor in 2021? How do we conceptualise the word now?

1 Like

I like providing myself with a concept in terms of story, style tools etc when I work on something. For me the instruments and the lineup for a project are a factor in that. I’ve been in the DAW for a while and it’s become hard to stick to any form limit as a result.

I agree. I set track limits on my daw so why do I need a new shiny toy ? Because it’s payday .

true words