The Most Important Commodity For Creating Music – Time

It can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that not being signed to a label or having access to expensive instruments and equipment is keeping us from realizing our potential in music. It’s often easier to blame things outside of ourselves for our inability to achieve what we want to through music than to take a deep, unflinching look inward at what we need to change to be better. A truth that could apply to most of us is that money, better equipment, and recognition can’t help us in our quest to make great music nearly as much as time can. 

Why music can’t be rushed

As much as we’d like to believe, most great music ideas don’t simply materialize out of nowhere developed and ready to entertain and inspire the masses. The non-negotiable truth is that we can have every resource at our fingertips but won’t be able to create freely and effectively without time. In today’s playlist-centric culture, it might be tempting to write, record, and release ideas as quickly as possible, but your music will suffer for it. To make the best work you can, you need to be able to create and tweak ideas without the pressure of time constraints. Putting time limits on your process can be an effective exercise if you struggle with being able to finish ideas, but trying to create work without having enough time is detrimental. 

We’ve all heard of incredible songs and performances that were thrown together in an instant, but most meaningful music is made over an extended period of time. This means that if you’re making music under the impression that an amazing song can be written in 15 minutes, you’re setting yourself up for failure. 

How time evaporates as we get older

Have you ever wondered why it seems like younger musicians are usually the ones pushing the boundaries of music forward? One of the biggest reasons behind this is because of the amount of time musicians in their teens and twenties naturally have to devote to their work. Non-musical careers, serious relationships, and kids are often unavoidable parts of aging, and they require massive amounts of a musician’s time and focus. 

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Devoting time to making music takes effort and sacrifice 

Every minute you devote to music-making means a minute you won’t be able to use doing something else important in your life. The truth is that if you’re set on being a serious musician, you’ll need to be prepared to make sacrifices in order to have enough time to develop your work. The term “serious musician” is pretty vague, but it can be applied to musicians who create music in ways that are more structured and consistent than those who pursue it as a hobby. Some serious musicians give up time with their friends and families to make music, while others don’t pursue demanding non-musical careers. Sacrifice looks different for every musician, but no matter what you want to accomplish through music, you’ll need the commodity of time to succeed. 

Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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  • Rick Herron - November 27, 2019 reply

    You are absolutely correct. I am still working on my first 100 songs. Most have been completed but but not released officially. I started writing in 1965. Art needs to gestate and constant tweeking. Even after years one may think a song ready but then realize it needs a piano or banjo or a change of word.

  • Simon Holley - November 28, 2019 reply

    Thank you Patrick McGuire – your piece explains a lot about my personal ‘predicament’. It’s very reassuring to have it explained calmly and logically.
    I am now selling the dog and filing for divorce.
    No, seriously, I found your advice extremely helpful and wanted to tell you so.

  • Bob Fawcett - November 29, 2019 reply

    I annually attend a weekend songwriters workshop. Attendees write and perform a new song on Sunday morning. With several focused hours I can write an acceptable song, but if it finds a spot on my set list I polish it up in the ensuing months.

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