Embracing elements of risk and newness in your music are essential if you’re a creator wanting to keep things fresh. One of the best ways to do this is by collaborating with musicians you’ve never worked with before. There’s a special benefit for musicians willing to work with songwriters and producers outside of their social and musical circles. Unexpected collaborations can result in new, powerful ideas you wouldn’t have been able to dream up on your own.
The limitations of genre
The world relies on categorizing music by genre to understand music and discover new artists. However, the ways they impact musicians aren’t always positive. If you’re a metal guitarist, you might feel a lot of pressure to listen to and create musical ideas that fall within the bounds of your genre even though exploring other styles of music would result in growing and becoming more creative as a musician. The challenge is that the act of sticking to a genre feels like less of a choice than an unconscious tendency.
Bringing in a new collaborator from a different genre can help fight any hangups you have about working with different styles of music by exposing you to new ideas and methods for creating. It’s not easy to bring in someone new and completely shake up your process. Yet, if your work feels stale and uninspired, this is an effective way to access new energy and ideas.
The power of new collaborations transcends genre
New collaborations don’t have to blend genres to be effective. Even making an effort to work with someone you’ve never made music with before can result in great new music. Today, many new collaborations happen in person. However, an increasing amount of new music is being made by collaborators who share and refine ideas over the internet. If you live in a remote area or aren’t plugged into your local music community, you still have the resources to work with new collaborators digitally.
Whether it’s a part of a song or an entire album, unexpected collaborations can take your music to new places. However, there are some rules and implications here to consider. Since every collaborative relationship is different, you’ll have to set and define the terms of each one you engage in. This applies to how you work together creatively and also to how much each collaborator gets compensated and credited. Thinking about this during the songwriting process and not after new music gets released is critical.
Giving up creative control
For many music-makers, letting another creative voice dictate the way an idea sounds can be a huge challenge. But for those willing to give up creative control of their work, there are big benefits in letting someone new shape, color, and build musical ideas in a collaborative setting. Adding newness and risk to your process isn’t easy. But it is something you’ll have to do to keep things from getting dull and predictable.
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.