5 Tips to Boost Your Creativity in Music
If you are reading this post, it means that you, as a creative being have arrived to a point of your writing/composing where you need some inspiration, you are out of ideas or experimenting the scariest illness of all: the writer's block.
Don't worry though, we have all been there and I can assure you that it is not the end of the world, but actually it's rather an opportunity to develop your skills further and learn new stuff!
This post is not the cure for it, of course, but it is aimed to help and boost your creativity with 5 simple tips.
1 - Use Pencil and Paper
As simple as that, get yourself some blank music sheet, a sharp pencil, and a rubber (lots of it).
With modern technology, we are so used to just turn on our computer, open our DAW, plug some virtual instrument in and just get crazy with trying to get something recorded, that we sometimes lose the first musical idea as soon as we start hitting those keys.
When you are facing a blank sheet, and nothing can disturb your focus, you are able to concentrate on the sounds you have in your mind, and formulate your ideas without the distraction of sounds coming from your speakers, instrument patches or your desire to just play around.
Sometimes this is useful too, but I found that being able to focus on the music and sounds in your mind makes the process of getting it out there more straightforward and clean.
Obviously some music notation skills would be useful, however you could use alternative music notation, or just record your own voice on your phone.
The bottom line here is to be alone with yourself and not being influenced by anything but your own ideas.
Try it and love it!
2 - Listen to Lots of Music
Yeah, sounds obvious, but what I mean here is to be curious, find new music, follow interesting playlists on Spotify (get Spotify Premium!), ask around for suggestions and develop a critical hear.
The aim is to absorb ideas, which is done automatically by our brain (so no hard work here), but we need to feed it with music!
So here is a simple approach I use: when you wake up in the morning, put on some good music and just leave it while you do your stuff. Once in a while your attention will be picked by something that catches it and you will be bombarded by questions (Wow! What's that? Sounds Great! How did they do it? That chord is gorgeous! I wonder what voicing they used... And so on). When this happens, write down the name of the song and get back to it later.
3 - Dissect the Music You Like
Dissect it! Take ten minutes of your time and critically listen to your favourite tunes (or the songs you noted from your morning playlist!). Just take some paper and a pen and write down everything you can about it. How is the tempo? what's the time signature, is there something that intrigues you about the melody? Harmony? Sounds themselves? How is the song arranged? What are the instruments playing? What is their purpose? What is the emotional context? What is the artist/composer trying to say/convey? And so on.
Compositionally, get its score if you can, and analyze what is going on with the instruments playing. Their relation between each other harmonically, or sonically. If it's classical music, analyze the single instruments as well as the whole thing: if you do this, I promise that, after a while, whenever your brain will be looking for a similar idea, it will automatically come up with the perfect solution.
4 - Reference Your Tracks
Is there a published track that is being referenced for your own song? Are you being inspired by some other music? keep doing it!
This is not a push to plagiarize them, it is more a push to use them as learning devices. Perhaps your track needs the same chord progression, or a similar instrument choice, or even a melody that resembles that one! If the reference track has this level of success, there sure must be a reason.
Sonically, referencing a track is fundamental for mixing and mastering. Let's face it: if it sold millions of copies, it means that it worked out pretty well, so why not learn from the best an emulate their techniques?
Be careful though, because the line between inspiration and plagiarism is really thin, and you don't really want to trespass it. Ask Lana Del Rey...
5 - Read Lots of Books
Yup, that's right! Keep yourself up to date with the latest news, but, more importantly, buy specific technical and conceptual books.
There are loads of great titles on composition, notation, orchestration, songwriting, arrangement, mixing, mastering, healing with music, you name it.
You are crafting your art, and the best way to do it is with reading and learning what the pros have to say about it. Absorb their ideas and workflow, and develop your skills.
Sometimes you will read the same thing over and over again, but that's great, because you keep it fresh, you develop new and different perspectives and you make that notion yours.
If you are more into videos, there are loads of podcasts, channels and playlists on youtube which you can subscribe to, while if you are looking for actual online courses, there are plenty of websites which provide masterclass, tutorials or even Master's Degrees (Lynda.com, Coursera, Masterclass, Berkley online, Mac Pro video, and more)! Some of them are cheap, some expensive, while others are completely free,
Sharpen your research skills and find your best learning strategies. You will thank yourself in the future.
So here I posted a couple of tips that usually help me to get a little bit of inspiration.
I think that the most important tip of all, though, is to always be curious, thirst of knowledge and willing to learn new things. You never know where this curiosity will lead you, but if you keep it up, you will always be rewarded somehow.