Almost everything about the modern music industry is complex. But when it comes to creating opportunities to write fresh, interesting music, the methods we can rely on to increase our creativity and consistency are actually pretty simple. However, simple shouldn’t be mistaken for easy. Thus, these tips won’t help you unless you’re willing to put in the work.
Create and experiment as often as possible
If you want to write the best music you can, you’ll need to take every opportunity available to make music. The best way is by creating and sticking to a strict schedule for making music. The whole “writing when you feel like it thing” might get you by in the beginning of your music career. Yet, non-musical life can get in the way, making us prioritize music in our daily lives or leave it behind. When we carve dedicated time out of our days, weeks, and months for writing and experimenting, we give ourselves a chance to discover and shape ideas. Rather than forcing inspiration to fit within our timelines, schedules expand our opportunities for making great music and help us to write consistently.
Take risks and don’t be afraid of failure
This next tip is easy to talk about and hard to do. Musicians have an acute hatred of failure that often comes from the relationships we have with our instruments. The things we perceive as mistakes in music can derail live shows and recordings, but letting a fear of failure impact your songwriting process can stifle your creativity and wall you in. Dead ends and overt musical failures are essential during the songwriting process. They are also critical for making new and interesting work. You can generate the same tired ideas over and over again. Yet, that won’t do you or your listeners any favors. Experiment, take risks, and find peace with failure. This might mean working for weeks on ideas that go nowhere. Is it worth your time? Absolutely. To discover your best ideas, you need to give yourself freedom and space to find them. Remember, we work around our music’s schedule, not the other way around.
Define what you love about other artists’ music
Pinpointing exactly what you resonate with while listening to another artist’s music can help inspire and inform your own work. This is an exercise that transforms vague intuitions about music into fleshed out traits. To develop unique identities as musicians, we first have to look to our musical tastes. Before you started writing music, it’s safe to assume that certain songs and artists moved you in a profound way. Getting to the bottom of why and how is a powerful way to inform your own process. Rather than blindly imitating artists you admire, this exercise is about investigating why certain music makes you feel understood and inspired, or just the opposite. Taking the time to understand why you don’t like music can be a big help as well. What you find will shape your musical taste and provide structure and inspiration for your own music. Similar to taking risks in music, you’ll never be done with this exercise because your music taste and identity never stops evolving.
Designate a clean songwriting space with easy access to instruments and equipment
You’ll end up writing better music if you take the time to designate a space for music. The more obstacles we put between us and our songwriting practices, the less productive and creative we’ll be. For example, if you have three hours to write music and spend the first 45 minutes digging out instruments from your closet and setting up equipment, you’re losing not only time but also creative urgency. Aim to have a clean, distraction-free space where your instruments and recording equipment are set up and ready to go.
A main theme that runs throughout these tips is consistency. To write our best songs, we need to build music-creation into our lives regularly, and not just when we feel inspired. Carving out physical and mental space in our routines gives us access to crucial opportunities for creating and refining 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.