Despite our best efforts, creative stagnation and predictability are things we all experience as songwriters at some point in our careers. Working hard and pushing through works for some artists, but others need to bring real change into their processes in order to move forward. Here are four ways to get a new musical perspective if you’re stuck and in search of a little creative inspiration:
Take a trip to focus on music
If you’re in dire need of a new musical perspective, consider skipping your vacation and taking a trip focused on making music instead. Where and how we make music are factors that can siphon away our creative energy and suppress new ideas. Or, it can do just the opposite. Getting away for a week, month, or even longer can help us get back to our creative roots by giving us the space and freedom to explore new ideas. Yes, it’s expensive, and yes, not every musician can afford to do this. But for those who can, music-centered trips are well worth the investment.
Learn a new instrument
Remember back when you first learned how to sing, play the guitar, or drum? That early sense of frustration and limitless possibility might be exactly what you need to find a new musical perspective. Being able to easily play an instrument often means playing through the same tired ideas over and over again, but we don’t have that option when it comes to learning a new instrument. Toying around and picking up the basics on an unfamiliar instrument can expose us to new ideas and perspectives.
Bring in new collaborators
Working with a new collaborator might be uncomfortable for some musicians, but it’s something that can add new life and meaning to your process. You or your band have developed a certain way of working if you’ve been making music for a long time, but a new person blows up that dynamic in a powerful way. Ideas you never would’ve thought of on your own can materialize out of nowhere simply by adding a new person into the mix.
Blow up your process
The way you do things in songwriting might feel comfortable, but comfort is often a bad thing when it comes to creativity. Changing your process in a significant way can shake up your songwriting world, whether it’s starting the process by singing without music or writing drum parts last if they’re what you typically do first. New instruments, experimenting with musical extremes like tempo and dissonance, or writing as minimally as possible are all good things to explore here, but the important thing to focus on is creating in ways that are exciting and unfamiliar.
Each of these tips are different, but all are focused on embracing newness, risk, and fun in your process. When the same old methods keep resulting in predictable results, it’s time to explore working in ways that are different to jumpstart our creativity in music.
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.