The Joy Of Just Playing (Without Recording)

A few months back I revisited the recurring itch to make music that’s been with me since my late teens, perhaps earlier.

I’ve never formally learned an instrument, but over the years I’ve had great fun playing around with guitars, eBows, effects pedals and four tracks, before computers reached the point of being affordable as a DIY home studio.

At that point, I still kept the analogue gear to make the sounds, the computer software just made it easier to layer them into cohesive tracks. Well, up to a point. More on this below.

Most recently, I came across an article about some of the most fun musical devices (not, in the classic sense of the phrase, instruments) for kids.

A range that was highlighted was Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operators.

These devices, which look like stripped down to the bones versions of the Casio scientific calculators I grew up with, are in my view astonishingly capable considering their size and relative simplicity.

After assessing the options like the proverbial kid in a sweet shop, I decided the P-33 KO!, a micro sampler, looked most fun and most accessible for me.

Essentially it lets you either use the on board sounds and beats, or record your own, then build them into patterns and rhythms.

Dedicated users have built whole tracks with them, but for me, just exploring the on board sounds in various patterns, and the effects that can be applied, has been tremendous fun.

As we talked about, with many of my past musical adventures, I would spend hours building tracks in a computer. But, I’d usually then abandon them, half-finished, as I couldn’t face making incremental changes to the same loops any longer.

You might remember during my film photography phase, my intense dislike of scanning my own negatives at home, and in a later phase, shooting RAW digital images and post processing with LightRoom.

Like the computer music making, both of these practices took me away from the joy of using the key equipment, ie the cameras, and instead I was wasting hours hunched over a computer manipulating digital images, an activity that brings me next to no reward.

So it’s no surprise that using the PO-33 has been so refreshing and, well, just fun, and I’ve enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy using cameras.

With both, the majority of my time has to be in using the gear, and when the power turns off, the magic ends.

Zero processing, to revisit a term I’ve used extensively here in the past.

I thought initially about using a more sophisticated kind of sequencer, either hardware of software, to take the layers and beats I’ve been making with the PO-33 and built them into something larger and more polished.

But that defeats the object and again would take me into that realm of post-production, where for me all the joy is in the initial creating, with little to no expectation of an outcome.

Put another way, you don’t have to document an experience to make it enjoyable.

Just being in it as deeply as you can, for as long as it last, has always felt like the most satisfying approach for me.

How about you? With your photography (or music making, if you also do that), how much of the fun and enjoyment is in the actual making, rather than the post-production?

As always, please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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7 thoughts on “The Joy Of Just Playing (Without Recording)”

    1. Marc, what is happening that you are losing your sensory connections. DOes that mean touch, sight, hearing etc I hope you don’t mind me asking. I loved your video and music. I will share the video with another friend of Dan’s and I who plays the native flute. The music is beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing.

  1. Dan, I’m the same as when I first met you Dan with everything I do in life I look for ways to make it as playful, enjoyable, meaningful as I can with everything being given the same level of respect and attention. Having said that when I write I can’t stand editing so I just don’t edit not even professional things. If there are errors that’s life. With my all my arts and crafts a I rarely if ever redo something or go to any lengths to make it near perfect. My parents were perfectionists and I never understood it and found aiming for perfectionism most disturbing. I love seeing others who do aim for perfection or a certain result. I have always loved the journey

    1. I think it’s a good recipe for being content and happy, learning to enjoy what we can in whatever we’re experiencing at the time. Rather than always looking forward to something that either might never arrive, or be a disappointment when it does.

      I don’t do much editing either, I nearly always write a post in one go, then re-read a couple of times and make a few minor adjustments, before posting. Don’t think there’s much to be gained by endless dissection and rebuilding of what we create. Just get it out there!

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