Music makes us and our listeners feel big, sexy, and profound things, so it can be tempting to think embracing extremes all the time will help us make our best work. But, as it turns out, this really isn’t the case. So often, unsexy things like planning, consistency, and discipline are the things that will help you be your best and most productive musical self as a songwriter. Here are five boring things to import into your musical life to help you create your best music:
Scheduling time to write as often as possible
Let’s kick this off with the most important boring thing to embrace. If you want to make great music, you’re going to have to write tons of it. And to be your most productive and prolific, you’ll need to schedule time to write as often as possible. Writing when you feel like it won’t give you nearly as much time and practice as you need to create your best stuff, unless you don’t have to work for a living and feel motivated to write and record during every waking moment. Create a writing schedule and stick to it. You’ll be shocked at how productive and engaged you’ll be if you aren’t already doing this.
Keeping your instrument(s) and recording devices accessible in your home
This is an easy lifestyle change that will help you create and record spontaneous ideas, and this is important because the ideas we don’t plan for are often our best ones. Instead of keeping your main instrument stored at an outside studio or tucked away in the basement or closet, keep it as accessible as possible wherever you live. This applies whether you live in a dorm room or a big house, though you’ll have to get creative if you’re limited on space. Also, have a recording device ready to roll in your home. This could be your DAW, but it doesn’t have to be. Even the recording capabilities that most likely exist on your smartphone should be able to do the trick.
Creating productivity goals
Productivity goals sound like office banter or something you’d hear uttered by a personal trainer, but they can very much apply to your life as a songwriter. These goals can be as simple as trying to write or record a certain number of demos in a month, or something more detailed like the stuff you need to do to wrap up an album and get it ready for release. Making music and promoting it is incredibly complicated, which is why you need boring benchmarks to get stuff done. If you’re serious about writing music you want the world to hear, goals are a crucial method for getting things done. Without them, you run the risk of never getting anything done. This is something boring that will transform your songwriting practice if you’re not already doing it.
Working with a looping device
Looping a chord progression or beat over and over again might not sound like the most exciting songwriting exercise, but it’s one of the best ways to create interesting music. We need to hear things more than once or twice before we can access ideas with potential. In the normal context of running through a song, you’ll only go through sections a few times. But with a looping device or settings on your DAW, you’ll be able to run through specific chord progressions as many times as you need to to experiment in a low-pressure setting.
Sticking to a minimalist writing strategy
Big and busy is not better when it comes to songwriting and music production. In fact, just the opposite is usually true. You’ll find your best ideas if you start writing with a bare-bones minimalist approach. This could be singing over a rhythm with no chord progression or a simple bass line. It might seem boring at first, but you’ll quickly feel a burst of undeniable energy when an exciting idea starts to present itself when you work this way.
No matter how hard we try, we can’t fully control what sort of music we end up writing, which is why it’s tempting to lean into extremes and busyness to make things happen how we want. But embracing these seemingly boring tips will end up making you more productive and successful as a songwriter.
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.