On Creative Constraints: Inhabiting The Midrange In Music


A few years ago I bought a pair of monitors for my computer for working on music. Since limited desk space was a consideration, I chose a small size: the woofer speaker on each monitor is only about 4 inches in diameter. The sound of the monitors is uncommonly rich and powerful though, with a capacity to reach volume levels higher than I’ll ever need. Overall, they’re great.

But as I worked on various projects I realized that as I descended into the lower range of my keyboard controller, notes would start disappearing. I’d press the key but there’d be no sound. It turns out that my monitors don’t have the extended frequency response necessary to reproduce low notes. In other words, the small woofers aren’t very good with bass–an element of music that is becoming more and more important for listeners. (Read more about this topic here.)

And so I simply stopped working with bass. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but rather a wanting to make music that sounds decent emanating from these particular monitors despite their limitations. As I think about it now, a lack of bass became a constraint that steered me towards a higher-pitched musical register.

Maybe one day I’ll have huge monitors and be way into bass tones. For the moment though, I’m inhabiting the midrange.

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