As music producers who continually work on song after song, we can easily fall into habits. We may find a certain sample that we always use in our productions, use the same synth for our basslines, or create songs in the same key. These habits can end up hurting your music in the long run if you do not evolve as a producer. To help you break out of your comfort zone as a producer, I have listed five ways for you to add creativity to your music below.
Use a new instrument
When we find an instrument that we enjoy using, we often stick with it. While this isn’t necessarily an issue, we often just become too accustomed to how the instrument sounds. If we continually produce with the same sound over and over, we can begin to lose our creative inspiration. By using a new instrument we give our ears something fresh and exciting which can help generate new ideas that would not have been possible unless this switch was made. This does not mean you have to pick out a completely new instrument and learn how to play it from scratch. If you are a guitar player, you can simply look for a guitar that has a different sound than your current one. The guitar player doesn’t have to go out, buy a drum set, and take drum lessons in order to gain this inspiration.
The crazy delay
Delays are one of the most basic mixing effects. No matter what type of song you are working on, you are most likely going to be adding a delay effect on at least one of your tracks. Most producers just put the delay on a particular sound or sounds in the mix, dial in the settings of the delay and call it done. While this is an effective way to use a delay, it limits your creativity. Open a send/return track in your DAW and place a delay on this channel. Next place a modulation plugin after the delay. Any modulation effect will work here. You can add a chorus, phaser, flanger, another delay, or any combination of modulation plugins. Doing this will add another layer of sonic interest to the delay and allow you to create unique delay effects. Experimentation is key here.
Resampling is the process of taking your MIDI track or your already existing audio track and bouncing the track down to a single audio file. By doing this, all the processing that you have done on your audio and MIDI track will be visually shown in that single audio file and you can manipulate it even further. Resampling opens up new creative ways for you to manipulate your sounds. To accomplish this resampling, open up a new audio track and route the track that you want resampled into it. Make sure the new audio track that you created is armed and ready to record. Solo just the track you want to resample and the empty audio track and hit record. This will print out the audio of the track you want resampled in the new audio track that you created. Once you have this new audio file, you can start to experiment with audio processing to create new unexplored sounds. Here are a few ways you can be creative with your newly resampled audio.
- Reverse certain parts of the audio.
- Chop up and rearrange the audio.
- Pitch around the entire audio or certain parts of the audio.
- Add more effect plugins on the audio and resample it out again.
Produce in a new environment
The production environment that you are in has a direct influence on your creativity. The bulk of your production sessions will be in the same room where your studio monitors are, but not every session has to be in this room. When you are in the creative stages of your track, you don’t necessarily need to have your studio setup with you. The goal of the creative session is to get your ideas out into the DAW in the form of a rough draft. This rough draft will not require you to have the optimal listening environment. When finding a new location, look for a place that you think may inspire you. Anywhere from a coffee shop, to your friend’s house, or your local park can be a place that fosters creativity.
One of the best ways to bring a creative mindset to your music is to take a break from the track that you are working on. When we work on a particular song, we are listening to the track over and over. Our brains get used to this sound and it becomes harder for us to implement new ideas. After you have run into a wall when producing a particular track, take between one and three weeks off from working on that particular track. When you finally open the track that you were stuck on, your ears will be fresh and you will be able to generate new ideas much easier.
Creativity is about breaking free from the normal and repetitive. As humans, we are creatures of habit and our habitual nature can hinder our creativity as artists. By applying one or any combination of the five tips above, you will be able to break free from your daily music production habits and bring creativity back into your music.
Daniel is a caffeine-dependent entrepreneur, music producer, sound design junkie, and world traveler crazy about teaching modern electronic music production through his site SoundShock.