Twenty Quick Tips For Making Better Music
Always aim for the highest possible standards in every area.
If you have a weak spot, identify it and work on it. Find literature, online tutorials, harass a geek friend for lessons or take a night class, whatever it takes.
Your music represents you to a potentially infinite number of listeners – respect their time and ears and represent yourself as well as you can.
Experiment with different ways of working. Try a highly worked structured piece, and try a one shot improv type piece. Try everything in between. Try nice and try nasty. Try safe and try dangerous. Sounding like the Karma Sutra now isn’t it?
If your latest work is not your best – why are you doing it?
Everyone gets frustrated trying to make their mark on the world and get what they feel they deserve. Use that anger to fuel your creativity. Don’t let it fool you into “de-stressing” by doing something else. Face it, use it, burn the badness!
When you find someone who likes what you do, engage them. Talk, share ideas, be kind and honest with them. Treat them to your work. You should know fans by name.
Riches bring riches. Not just in the sense that having money makes it easier to make more money, but that making your work a rich experience for the listener makes it more valuable to others.
Be obsessive. This is your art, your life and your legacy. Make it what you are.
Do it today. Today is the whole world. Treat each day like this. If you doubt that, think about how much you could have done if you’d kicked into overdrive 2 or 5 or 10 years ago.
All it takes to be better is the true will to be better. Whether that is a better musician, or a better person or anything. All you need is the drive to do it. Then do it…and tell people you intend to do it…
Be audacious in your work. Make it ten times better than you thought possible. Don’t be limited by what you think it possible – open your mind to the impossible, because it often can be done, it just needs a mind capable of believing it can figure out how.
Set time aside to learn from others. Your peers and predecessors. There is always something you can learn in any spare minute.
Be aware when inspiration strikes – note down ideas at the time, as they have a funny habit of disappearing after a distraction.
Everything is music, and you can learn from everything, all day every day.
The moon makes music, the sky and birds and the grass are music. Learn from them, and drink in that learning for as long as you wish each day. Non-hippy types might reject this tip at a molecular level.
Every once in a while, step back and look at what you are doing:
Are you making your best music?
What is happening to you?
What direction are you moving in?
Are things better or worse than 6 months ago?
Get to the heart of what your piece of music needs. What does it say? What is in there that doesn’t add to the message?
Your music is what it isn’t. What it lacks will define it. Don’t forget why you are writing it, don’t get side-tracked by writing or recording it – you are making an experience for the listener. The experience, the emotions it brings…the feelings…these are what count.
If you are making music that someone else would make, you are not being true to yourself. Take inspiration from others, but always sing with your own voice.
Ask yourself why someone would listen to the music you make. If you were a business (and you are), what is your Unique Selling Point.
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. For previous articles search for ‘Dave Graham’
Image: Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net