This is an excerpt of the book Processing Creativity: The Tools, Practices And Habits Used To Make Music You’re Happy With. If you would like to download an excerpt or buy a copy you can do so here.

Your palette is one of the most determinative factors in what your music sounds like. One of the main ways inspiration affects creators is learning both what they do and don't want in their palette. Hearing others’ music to decide what tools to use is one of the most defining aspects of what your music sounds like. Think back to the most basic example of palette, in the 1950s recording studios didn't have instruments on hand for musicians to explore their every indulgence. Unless you knew someone who played an instrument, you couldn't use that instrument as part of your palette for a recording. Since the 80s, as sampling technology became prominent, musicians have been able to employ any sound they can think of. Most sounds now come stock within a Mac laptop that costs $900.

Not everyone wants to be The Flaming Lips, Beck or The Polyphonic Spree, who will use any instrument in the world to create with. Instead, most artists paint with a smaller palette of instruments. EDM artists mostly use synthesizers while punk bands rarely dare to exceed the guitar, bass, drums and vocal format. Hip-hop producers who largely sample will keep their palette limited to sampling specific genres and instruments to keep their palette within their tastes and certain flavors.

Being conscious of your palette can have many benefits for your music. Many studies on the subject show those who impose limitations on themselves end up with a more creative result. To some artists, knowing every instrument is an option can create an eye-opening world of experimentation. Others experience option paralysis and benefit from the focus of limitations. If you're Jack White, you see the challenge of not using the editing tools inside a computer program and a 16-24 track tape machine's limits as being what excites you. He knows he has to make the most of the limitations he's imposed on himself using a finite amount of tools to accomplish his intent.

There's an artistic cliché that goes, "Don't be held down by the palette everyone else paints with." While this saying encourages some artists to superfluously use different instruments, it's really trying to tell you not to feel bound to the same old tools as everyone else. Figuring out the instruments and tonalities that help express your emotional intent is a large part of what makes you unique. Figure out who you are and what parts of palettes you like to employ for research into your music.

Palette can be taken to many other examples than just tone and instrumental use. The arrangement, syncopation, harmonization and production tricks in your lexicon give you a greater vocabulary to use to express your intent. This is an essential reason research is crucial to your work.

This is an excerpt of the book Processing Creativity: The Tools, Practices And Habits Used To Make Music You’re Happy With. If you would like to download an excerpt or buy a copy you can do so here.