Over­com­ing Writer’s Block

Future Music - - FEATURE -

Hav­ing some­one else’s idea to kick­start a track takes the pres­sure off

Work­flow is all well and good, so long as the work is, well, flow­ing. And ev­ery mu­si­cian who has spent any length of time at their craft knows that while some days you feel as though you have a Mi­das touch and ev­ery idea turns to gold, on oth­ers, you can’t seem to find two chords to work well to­gether. Star­ing at an empty screen and not be­ing able to fill it is gut-wrench­ing and in those mo­ments, it can feel as though we’ll never be able to write a de­cent track again. But of­ten, only some sub­tle shifts in your men­tal state can get you past a block and, bet­ter still, po­ten­tially open up path­ways of cre­ativ­ity hith­erto un­ex­plored.

Writer’s block of­ten stems from an ex­pec­ta­tion that some­thing should be pos­si­ble (or even easy) and a frus­tra­tion grows that it’s prov­ing harder (or even im­pos­si­ble) for rea­sons be­yond your con­trol. The first men­tal shift is to re­move any sense of ex­pec­ta­tion; just be­cause you’ve made tracks be­fore, why should it be the case that it will be eas­ier or just as straight­for­ward this time? After all, cir­cum­stances change.

Let’s take an anal­ogy. Sup­pose you go jog­ging. Your ‘av­er­age’ speed to run three miles is 30 min­utes. You al­ways man­age to cover that dis­tance in that time but today, it’s taken you 35 min­utes. If you only look at the time, you could say that you’ve failed today. But per­haps today you ran into a strong head­wind ev­ery step of the jour­ney or you skipped break­fast and your blood sugar is low. Just be­cause you’ve switched on your same com­puter and loaded the same DAW doesn’t mean that today will yield the same mu­si­cal re­sult as yes­ter­day, so re­mov­ing that ex­pec­ta­tion can re­move a lot of un­nec­es­sary pres­sure.

So can chang­ing your work­ing pat­tern. Rep­e­ti­tion is the en­emy of cre­ativ­ity so it should come as no sur­prise that, at some point, your brain will rebel if you fire up the same sounds, work at the same tempo, pro­gram the same beat pat­terns or reach for the same chords. Chang­ing things up can be as sim­ple as chang­ing the or­der of the mu­si­cal parts you bring to your tracks. Do you al­ways start by pro­gram­ming beats? Then don’t – make this the last thing you do. Do you usu­ally plonk down some chords and a guide melody be­fore get­ting to work on sound de­sign and pro­duc­tion? Turn off your key­board and draw notes into your DAW in­stead, so that you’re forced to think about ev­ery note you add to a chord – if you’re go­ing to the trou­ble of adding notes man­u­ally, it may well prove to be the case that you’ll pick dif­fer­ent chords or voic­ings to the ones your mus­cle mem­ory se­lects when you’re play­ing to a click track.

Col­lab­o­ra­tion is an­other way to get past writer’s block as hav­ing some­one else’s idea to kick-start the cre­ative process takes the pres­sure off hav­ing to come up with all of the ideas for a track on your own. Sim­i­larly, ask­ing oth­ers for feed­back on your work in progress will throw up some ideas you won’t have had on your own. Even if you don’t agree with the ad­vice you’re given, you’ll be forced to think about your tracks in a dif­fer­ent way, which can get you over a hump. Bet­ter still, there may be a good rea­son why you dis­agree with any con­struc­tive crit­i­cism, which will make you de­fend your work. There’s noth­ing bet­ter than this for find­ing your self-con­fi­dence and re­al­is­ing that, just maybe, you’re not as bad at this mu­sic stuff as you’d been al­low­ing your­self to be­lieve.

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