Minimalism / Self Restrictions - Why it Sounds Good & is Hard to do Well

Been thinking about this recently so thought i’d jot down my thoughts here and maybe start a conversation on the subject.

There is a fine line between something being minimal and being boring. We have all heard boring minimal house/dubstep whatever that hides behind the fact its ‘minimal’ for why its boring as if it makes it acceptable.

To me minimal doesn’t mean there has to be empty, but you have to have the most stripped back version of your music, so only the important bits are being presented, as its by far the most effective. Both Hodge and Pev have spoken about how they go through every track and ask ‘do i really need this?’ and delete anything that’s not 100% necessary.

You can have a busy sounding tune. but as long as all the aspects are 100% necessary, you’re still adhering to these rules. Pointless sounds detract from effectiveness. Also space can be just as important as sound to how emotive music is (Basic Channel being the poster child for this).

It does take someone talented to write something (b-line etc) so special that it doesn’t need lots stuff to hold it together, if you put out a tune opening with 16 bars of just kick drum, what comes in next better be good.

I have been pretty obsessed with this tune since hearing it out for the first time, sounds like it took 20 minutes to make and is pretty damn simple, but just try and make something this good but as simple:

Similarly Helix made a point out of how simple Drum Track is (No Hook No BS):

Similarly it seems limitations make music more interesting, leaving out something entirely from your tune that’s glaringly missing, picking your samples before writing a tune and sticking to them (See: Objekt - The Goose that Got Away from a DSF sample pack competition). Lots of ways to limit yourself with different results, all giving yourself focus.

The massive interest in hardware over the past few years & the great music that’s come from ‘hardware only’ producers is partially down to this imo, limiting yourself to the few synths/drum machines you can afford makes you do a few things very well rather than have endless possibilities and sound design skills on 100s of soft synths that ultimately leads to little direction and very well constructed, but uninteresting music.

To the older (experience wise) heads on here you may be thinking this all is pretty obvious, and would like to hear your opinions, hopefully if you’re just starting out it might be interesting.


I agree with, and try and follow this philosophy, and it applies to all genres of music. One quote I always try and remember “your track is only as good as its worst part”, which applies to pointless sounds in a track.

Getting a track together that is a great tune but also has the bare minimum elements is kinda like the holy grail for me


I find it hard to mame a track without cramming it full if things. Not too sure why that is. Maybe I’m just not ready

yeah same i always have like 5409324 tracks of percussion


Good percussion tho

nah but a lot of the time i know i could make my tunes better if i took a lot of shit out even if its just percussion tracks but i cant help it lool

I guess it takes confidence that by deleting stuff you worked on your not deleting your ‘good’ ideas you can get pretty attached to an idea and ignore that it’s making your tune worse by shifting focus from something better.

1 BigUp

I don’t know. It is alluring, yes. But I think it has to catch you at the right time, or in the right setting. That Levon Vincent track I’ll pass on for listening purposes. 1:30 is just too long with that arrangement for me to get to where anything is happening. I like some of the elements of this track, I like those, as a short hand only, retro synths. But the track is not engaging enough for me. Even though, it ultimately moves and changes in interesting ways, for me, this track might be more valuable to me at 1:30 total run time. And that is the thing, I think like you said it is a fine line, and two reasonable people can fall on either side, and even then, they can switch back and forth depending on their mood/circumstances.

Drum Track I get way more down on, but imo, it is less minimal in a way. There are a lot of change ups and flourishes and what not. I’m not saying there isn’t an axis of minimality there, there sure is, but it is anything but stagnant which I find the LV track to be. There is a joy in this track that is not like that very serious young man minimal face.

Minimal tracks are kind of old hat for me, like I’ve been listening to minimal stuff for just about 20 years now. I’m a little tired of it. It seems a little pretentious to me, like a fake affect. And I find really objectionable the notion that minimalism is more refined. It just is as it is, like everything else.

If you were simple, you could think I’m supporting maximalism, I’m not, that may be equally as tiring, for different reasons, but still.

I just like good music that does what it is supposed to do. Do I mind indulgences from artists? If I like the aesthetics of the indulgence.

I will say that I really enjoy a quality hook, I don’t think there is anything low or obvious about good hooks. I think they’re incredibly hard to actually do right, so people like to slag off attempts at hooks. A hook shouldn’t wear off like the third time you hear it, and cross over into annoying. It should plague you for a summer before you develop sufficient antibodies to keep it out of your head. And maybe that is what I’m saying about Drum Track, it might be constantly hooking, like in the change ups. Not getting all the way there, but kind of constantly tickling the hook bone.

Very interesting subject. I look forward to more thoughts. Would be nice if Objekt came back and spoke about his thoughts on the subject. Very quality dude. Such a pleasure watching him get it together here.

Oh, and you mentioned taking out like an element of a track, that to me is more interesting. That is more dysfunctional than minimal. Like a huge negative space in a track is very interesting to me. But again, that is just taste, I like things that don’t work, or just parts work, pieces that maybe sputter a bit.

And with all that said, I feel like a lot of what I do is minimal in a way, though a long way from that serious faced “cool” minimal that you’re referring to.


Don’t you change a thing, sweetness. Just increase your rate of production.


Minimalism for the sake of fitting in that bracket is what i am against tbh, taking the message of minimalism of cutting the fat is what i think is a good message from a production standpoint.

“Serious faced “cool” minimal” is very far from the point, all music tends to be most effective in its most simple form (even if its a ‘busy/noisey’ track/song it’s most simple form is all the necessary parts)

When it becomes indulgent/pretentious to make a point then whatever it can be interesting but not really what i mean. More about creating good music and what generally helps towards that goal - minimalism or the lessons to be learned from minimalism can help. Even if its a case of realising all the “atmospheric” stuff you have going on is actually not needed, just let the tune roll.

Funnily enough typical ‘minimal’ things such as fake vinyl crackle and atmospheric things in many tunes are the culprit for making things not interesting. If you actually listen out to burials tunes he used very short vinyl crackles and sparingly, the copy cats often cover their whole tune in it.

Drum Track is my example of it not being a typical ‘minimal’ track, but it has no flab and the things that keep it interesting are clear changes in percussion etc, everything has a clear purpose rather than loading extra things in to desperately keep things interesting (as we all do).

Taking out an element of a track (the lack of bass line in When Doves Cry was one i think used a lot for example) is just another way of keeping things interesting, which is what it’s all about not trying to appear minimal and cool.


Yea…I’m with Nowaysj on the first tune…I can’t get into it. I was only able to skip through it. I know that 1:30 of just basically kick drum isn’t on heard of and it is a DJ tune…but the rest of it didn’t really catch my interest. The bass hook wasn’t enough. The other one was pretty dope though.

I feel like the copy/paste arrangement and composition method of DAW music making tends to bloat tracks…instead of reworking the 4-5 main elements of a song to keep things interesting, people tend to keep adding ear candy. This is why I prefer to work with audio–you can chop and resample and rearrange parts that are already working.

Likewise in the hardware world if you have a good sequencer and perform the track and record it you can a lot more mileage out of fewer elements and by jamming you’ll stumble upon interesting rearrangements of what you wrote initially


Minimal is surely a term defined differently each time by the user. Like it seems that you both have totally different versions of what is deemed minimal? Idk


I’m certainly not interested in like the empty wet warehouse kind of sound, just listening to reverb tails of cyber events. But I LURV vinyl crackle, and other types of noise. I don’t know if it is asmr, or what, but that stuff just sounds good to me, so makes tracks interesting to me. Again, individual preferences. Like, when I’m listening to tracks with a lot of gentle noise in the right places, it is tickling the underside of the tip of my penis, I could listen to that for a time. But totally individual response, you know.

Maybe you want to focus your thoughts on the balance of percussion to other elements in a track? I think you’re talking around that but haven’t struck it right in the heart yet.

Interested in further thoughts on the subject.

1 BigUp

How would you characterize our usages?

Yeah vinyl crackle, white noise, Basic Chanel kinda stuff is really nice, but again they are done with purpose and its the focus of the music. Its the just throwing in some vinyl crackle into a tune to give a burial type effect that can actually stick out and detract.

I guess its ALL about cutting fat and presenting your music in the best possible way, rather than trying to fit an aesthetic

1 BigUp

:kissing_heart: :kissing_heart: :kissing_heart: :kissing_heart:

omg looooooooooooooooooooooooool

1 BigUp


1 BigUp

I feel like Benny takes minimal as more of a feel and you take it as a more musical device (but not entirely) there is a huge cross over. Could be talking out my arse tho

Amazing thread. Well put, argumented - top stuff.

I respect all the principles that one could sling in the direction of minimalism.
I love a film like Dogville for example and some Burial or Fennesz tracks. Not that Burial is imo minimal at all. There’s way too much melody and every track sounds like a small contained world.
The percussion sound is , compared with chase and status.
(Those minimlaist bits ^are very purposeful though -maybe not minimalist but more subtractively illusive pieces of art.
Does that makes sense in english btw? )

But a movement that kind of goes in line with Rothkos paintings and a non ethoey ‘vibe skeleton’, literally upsets me.
Which is imo ½ of all mini at any given time. Anything good has to start a discussion and I feel like (in my words) the sparse for the sake of sparse credo, works on the basis that the first bit hitting you/the lay up/front/beginning of the presentation is so vague it’s hard to attack or even misinterpret, meaning my critique (and the taken part in the discussion/enjoying something¨) becomes indefensible. I don’t get to say it’s not enough, because then I’m being ‘accused’ of not bringing something to the table (which btw is untrue I alwaysj either carry a springblade if its in season or a more minimalist right to the purpose shank) … …

I feel like something like Rothko it might look great. But the fact it does is more a collective human bio feat than some idea Rothko had. I mean he didn’t invent colour scales or the non figurative, he chose rather sneakily to become an artist that didn’t bring anything of himself to the forfront or even to the butt of his shit… but like his stuff couldn’t offend anyone so you could kind of bring it with you anywhere . . . MAYBE even crossing over to art deco (meaning ikea prints )…

LOL if nobody heard of rothko btw i dunno

1 BigUp

hes they guy who painted maroon squares?