Feeling lost and uninspired as a songwriter is a pretty awful feeling. When the flow of ideas narrows down to a trickle without warning or explanation, songwriters usually have to change up their process to get things moving again. If you’re feeling creatively stuck making music, we’ve got four exercises to promote inspiration and put you in a new musical mindset:
Creating a professional record has never been easier. All you need is a pair of headphones and a laptop and you have all the tools necessary to succeed. While the tools necessary to accomplish your music related goals may be readily available, the skill set required to reach a competent level of production is not. In addition to having the right tools, you need the skills to use these tools effectively.
Below, I have compiled a list of the five fundamental skills of successful music producers and how you can obtain these skills.
Filling a blank computer screen or piece of white paper with original song lyrics is no easy task. Some songwriters struggle with the thought that what they write might be too revealing while others fear that what they come up with is too boring, cliche, or dull. The lyrical part of songwriting proves to be the most challenging for many otherwise talented songwriters, which means it’s something we should talk about.
No matter what your unique challenges are for writing great song lyrics, one thing is sure to help: paying attention.
Creative risk-taking flies in the face of so much we think, feel, and do as serious musicians. The process of learning an instrument, making music, and sharing it with the world requires a great deal rigid predictability––regular practice, lots of discipline, showing up to shows on time, playing the same music over and over again until you get it right. Predictability and sticking to the rules is great as far as learning an instrument and maintaining a musical project goes, but if you’re interested in writing creative music, it can be much more of a hindrance than an asset.
Vulnerability is something some musicians might associate with the more nauseating and navel-gazing aspects of pop music. Hackneyed ballads featuring tales of unrequited love or angsty music compensating for a lack of depth with extreme emotion and themes come to mind. But the truth is that there’s a big difference between broadcasting emotion in music from approaching it with real vulnerability. Emotion comes naturally to most of us, but vulnerability ends up being a whole lot trickier.
I’m well aware that the title of this article looks like something out of a self-help book for musicians, but I’m ok with it because it’s true. Neglect your career, stop writing songs and putting energy into music, and your musical identity evaporates. But spend all your time touring and holed up in your music studio and things like the state of your close relationships and bank account are sure to suffer. Balance is vital for musicians because it creates a big, dynamic space for their everyday lives to exist in. It makes room for an ambitious, fulfilling career along with vital non-musical aspects of a musician’s life. Can you always have it all when it comes to balancing a music career with a marriage, mortgage payment, or dayjob? No! Of course not. That’s why balance is so important.
There is no single method or secret ingredient in the process for making good music. Things like years of experience and lots of familiarity with any given songwriting process can be just as beneficial—or detrimental—as sitting down with an instrument without much musical training. Because every songwriter’s process is a complex mosaic of things like natural musical intuition, experience, and musical philosophy, pinpointing and imitating what songwriting approaches prop up great music isn’t always helpful or even possible to do.