1 – Change your approach
There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “If you keep doing the same thing, you’ll keep getting the same result”. This applies to all areas of life, but when it comes to creative activities, it’s even more potent. Any time that your interesting in making music wanes, whether it’s because of a lack of success, or because you were finding you couldn’t get the results you wanted – whatever the reason – changing the way you work and even the reason that you work can have a positive effect. It can instantly knock out bad habits and dead-end thought patterns, and get you focusing on exploring new ideas and processes. Even something as simple as changing the tools you use, or the room you work in can help, anything that removes the negative associations with what was happening before. Try some different software – or a different way of recording…if you only did sequencing before, try playing things live. If you were using samples, try programming synths…check out the opposites of what your were doing before.
2 – Learn something new
Nothing re-ignites passion for a subject more than finding out something new about it. Look in places you have never explored before, discover sounds and ideas you’ve never encountered. Read a book about a musician you don’t know much about, or perhaps even buy a textbook on a particular style or period of history. Look online at music encyclopedias…find odd little snippets of knowledge, novelties and oddities!
3 – Explore your past and set a course for the future
Sometimes in this long journey, we lose track of where we came from. If the journey is hard work, we even lose track of where we are headed! When confusion has set in and nothing seems fun anymore, there is only one thing to do. Get back to your roots! Look over your past, the first music you loved…go back and listen to it again. Try to find that spark that was in there…what was it that made this music so special for you back then? When I’ve done this, I’ve sometimes had strange moments where I remember what my ambitions were back then. It all comes back…the things I wanted to do and be. Even if you don’t want those things any more, they were important to you and they steered you into the decisions that you made. I’m not saying you need to follow the ideas that come up from this – I’m just saying that it can be worthwhile going back over how you got to where you are. What happened? Were you in control or did the tide take control over your fate? If you could choose where you wanted to go from here – what would you choose to do, or be?
4 – Make new mistakes!
Throw away your old habits, and make a whole bunch of new mistakes. I’m really good at making mistakes, and I heartily recommend them, some of my best ideas have come from them. From playing a wrong note and finding that the tune sounds better for it, to assigning the wrong instrument to a midi track and getting as great sound…mistakes are great, as you can’t do them wrong! All you need to do is make the most of the happy accidents, and dust yourself off from the less pleasant ones.
5 – Do what makes you feel good
Making music can often mean making habits – we do the same things over and over, the same thought processes and the same actions…we just develop ways of doing things that are comfortable and reliable. When these habits mean that we end up on autopilot – we end up with uninspired results and unhappy musicians! Often, we feel like we need to “press on” and keep going, even if it’s not getting us anywhere, because the other option is to give up. Of course there’s other options! Taking a break can be a good one, especially if you’re like me and always want to work through bad patches. Don’t be scared to give yourself a break. Do what makes you feel good – but be smart, sometimes challenging yourself can lead to greater satisfaction. Feeling good doesn’t just mean going out and partying…I mean find a way to get more happiness from your music. Make the music you want to, for the reasons that make sense to you.
David Learnt composition (harmony, counterpoint and orchestration) to degree level through studying Schoenbergs Fundamentals of Musical Composition. He is a founder member of avant pop duo Cnut, and orchestral doombience outfit Regolith.
Make Better Music is updated every Tuesday.
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