Why It’s Important To Record And Label Spontaneous Music Ideas

When you think about your favorite music, you probably immediately turn to the stories of what inspired great songs. Breakups, tours gone wrong, new love, etc. While these origin stories are crucial for shaping music and giving it purpose and urgency, there’s something important missing here that songwriters should know about.

There are the big stories behind great music, and then there are the many small things that had to happen in order for vague ideas and inspiration to combine and develop into something solid and memorable. Actions as simple and easy as having a recording device out and ready and labeling your spontaneous music ideas could make the difference of whether you’ll be able to create at your full potential or not.

Inspiration graces you. Then what?

Creative inspiration can strike us anytime and any place––in a dream while you’re sleeping in bed, on a mountain hike perched hours away from your studio, in the depths of grief after losing a loved one. We can’t usually control how or when we’re inspired, but we can control when and how we make music. We know that lots of great music starts with inspiration and ends with an amazing song, but we’re fuzzy on the details of what happens in between.

Every artist operates differently of course, but a common thread between many of them is the method of recording and organizing spontaneous ideas. Whether inspiration comes to you in the form of a random vocal melody, a distinct and powerful emotion, or the motivation to write about a specific idea, having a recording device out and ready to roll will help you capture the unique energy of what you’re feeling. This step is crucial because the urgency that comes hand in hand with inspiration doesn’t last long. If you wait a day or two to make music about something that moved you, it’s not going to be nearly as powerful and authentic. 

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When we record ideas as we make them, we’re able to capture the unreproducible magic of the moment. The energy we find doing this can give us everything we need to move forward and create entire songs. We can hear original recorded snippets of music and let them show us how we felt in the moment and what we need to do to move forward in the spirit of that original inspiration. 

However, stopping here isn’t enough and we need to go further to get the most out of recording spontaneous ideas. Whether you record your ideas on your DAW or through your smartphone, you’re going to need to label and organize them. If you’re a prolific writer, you might come up with dozens of demos and many smaller musical ideas within the span of a month. This makes labeling your ideas extremely important. If you have to listen to 30 ideas just to get to the one you liked the best, you’re adding unnecessary work and putting a barrier between you and your inspiration. Something that takes you seconds to do will end up helping you write better music more consistently, and this is important because making music isn’t easy.

Getting the most out of your recorded spontaneous ideas

When your phone or computer is packed full of demos and random ideas, it can be hard to know which ones are worth investing in. This is where the skill of discernment comes into play. On your computer, you could create a special folder that holds only your most promising stuff. 

Or, you could separate them by song vs random idea, vocal melodies, chord progressions, beats, etc. 

You don’t need lots of organization to creatively thrive as a songwriter, but you need a little bit at the very least. Sorting your ideas in itself can be a helpful exercise because it gets you thinking about how what you’re creating fits within your musical world. It can help show you that the vocal melody you’ve been experimenting with is the perfect fit for that song that’s been needing a chorus, or that the chord progression you were excited about a month ago has lost its luster. Don’t be afraid to delete ideas that don’t excite you anymore. When recording off-the-cuff ideas and organizing becomes just another part of your writing process, you have the huge advantage of getting as many options as possible for writing new 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.

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3 Ways To Approach A Dead-End Idea

Every songwriter has been in the unenviable position of loving a specific musical idea but not being able to take it anywhere. A dead-end idea can be as simple as a synth riff or as packed as an entire song. This situation happens when you come up with something you really like, but feel like it’s not going anywhere. When you’ve got a dead-end idea stirring around your brain and taking up room on your computer, do you pull the plug or forge ahead? The answer completely depends on your specific idea and goals. But if you’re leaning towards keeping your idea alive by giving it somewhere to go, these suggestions might help you make meaningful progress:

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Why Inspiration Isn’t Enough To Fuel And Define Your Music

Inspiration is one of the most powerful forces in music and every other form of art. But like a great meal, it’s just one ingredient. Waiting for inspiration to fall into your lap before you start writing consistently and developing your unique musical voice is a recipe for not making any music. In concert with other habits, strategies, and approaches, inspiration will absolutely help you write your best music. Let’s talk about what those other things are and how to use inspiration when it graces us.

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4 Ways Your Music Suffers When You Prioritize Perfection

Chasing perfection in music creation is a constant temptation. It’s natural to want to create and perform the best music you can, but focusing too much on perfection isn’t how you’re going to get there. From dumbing down your best ideas to sacrificing authenticity, your music ends up suffering when you obsess over its flaws. Here are four big ways your music suffers when you worry too much about perfection:

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How To Bring Out Your Unique Strengths In Music Creation

Creating lots of music obviously takes work, but writing in ways that highlight your unique strengths and perspectives as a songwriter is much harder to do. If you’re new to songwriting, it can be hard to recognize your unique creative strengths. But even if you’ve been at it for years, it’s not always natural to create with your strengths at the center of your process.

As songwriters, we each bring a unique set of perspectives and musical assets to our music. But while each of us is different, there are universal strategies we can embrace to highlight our creative strengths in music creation. 

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4 Tips For Writing Your Best Music

When you set out to write a new song, there are countless creative paths you can take. Most will lead to places you’ve been before, but some paths will take you to new musical territories. Obviously, new and exciting directions are the places we want to take our music as songwriters, but getting there is rarely easy. It takes work to write great music, but you already know that.

But what you might not realize is that embracing strategies and routines can up your chances of making excellent music in a huge way. Here are four of them:

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What Is A Songwriting Practice And Why Is It Important

The more time and space you carve out in your daily life for music creation, the better chance you’ll have at writing great songs. The way you build time and space in your life for music is a fancy way to describe a songwriting practice. Define and prioritize your songwriting practice, and you’ll have a clear path for reaching your goals as a music creator. But by writing irregularly and only when you feel like it, you’ll make it much harder to write your best music.

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4 Benefits That Come From Focusing On What You Love In Music

The non-musical world often thinks that making and performing music is always fun, easy, and instantly gratifying. But serious musicians know that this is only one part of their story. Loading your equipment out of a venue you just played after a show that no one attended isn’t fulfilling. Pitching your new album to a long list of email contacts and never hearing back isn’t fun. And yet both these examples are things independent musicians have to do to find audiences for their music. You can think of it as “paying your dues,” but the kicker is that some artists never manage to move past the stage of trying to get the world to notice their music, even if their songs are great. That’s a hard truth about pursuing music. 

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