Making music is a creative process in which the lines dividing a solo artist or band from the spaces they work in become blurred. You aren’t your music studio or the pristine desert landscape that might have inspired your last album, but where you work makes an indelible mark on your process and what it is you ultimately create.
If you’re not careful, an album is something that could take you years to finish. As an artist, it’s crucial to make something creatively meaningful, and that takes time. But there comes a point with making music where indecision, distractions, and the desire to only make “perfect” work gets in the way of productivity and wrapping up projects. If you can’t seem to finish that album you’ve been pouring your heart and soul into, here are three tips to help:
As songwriters, we like to think that all of our creative decisions are intentional and 100% up to us. A lyric written about a personal experience or chord progression composed spontaneously probably feels generated right there in the moment and only by you, but the truth is that a lifetime of musical influences and hidden tendencies are at play each and every time you try to make music. We might think the new songs we write are comprised of ideas we’ve never explored, but what we’re really doing is piecing together a countless number of old memories, habits, and loved songs from other artists. There’s no way to completely negate a life of musical experiences, but taking a short music cleanse can help break habits and inject new energy into your songwriting practice.
As artists, we all have periods where we struggle to find good ideas. Sometimes we make great work, and sometimes, we do not: It is the nature of the creative process that ideas come in cycles. Here are five strategies for getting rid of creative blocks:
Filling a space with a song that was previously occupied by nothing is incredible if you think about it. Today, we’re surrounded by so much music, that it often feels like it comes out of nowhere, though if you’re a musician reading this, you know that’s not true. Just like a house is built using materials and a thorough plan, music takes time and resources to make. For many songwriters, the tricky part comes with knowing what amount of time they should be devoting to their work. Spend too little on an idea, and it could come out under-developed and rushed. But spend too much time on an idea, and you could end up wasting your time never finishing it. Is there a middle ground to look for?
The complex relationships found in bands are tough to navigate for everyone, but especially for those who are young and new to making music. Complete universes of hope, despair, and creative brilliance can exist within the confines of a single band, making them almost impossible to fully understand unless you’re inside one yourself. A major challenge facing many collaborative bands happens when the voices and opinions of some musicians consistently drown out everyone else’s.
Many artists approach their work with a militant, failure-is-not-an-option attitude, and musicians are no exception. Through stories backed up by the press releases of successful musicians, we’re told over and over again that an uncompromisable willingness to sacrifice everything to see things through to the end are essential for becoming successful in music. If you aren’t making it in music, popular convention dictates, you must be throwing the towel in on your dreams prematurely.
But what makes for an interesting story rarely reflects the reality of what actually goes into a successful music career. Changing course, taking a break, or even flat out quitting something in music are courses of action that can actually help or save your music career, believe it or not.
Whether it’s a marriage or business partnership, relationships run the risk of becoming stale or even suffocating over time. Musical relationships like bands or songwriting partnerships are no exception. The excitement of making music with someone new is sure to fade over time, but that doesn’t mean every creative partnership is doomed to expire after a certain length of time––some of the world’s most influential bands and songwriting collaborators consist of relationships that span decades, after all.
All relationships require work and sacrifice to function, and the sort of attention needed to keep musical relationships civil is different from the work needed to keep things creatively fulfilling and challenging.