Whether it’s the play-counts you rack up over streaming platforms or the amount of followers you accrue through social media, numbers and statistics have become an almost unavoidable part of being active in music today. But just because you’ve got a perpetual front row seat when it comes to following the numbers behind your music, doesn’t mean you should always be paying attention. In fact, obsessing over your plays, views, followers, and downloads can do more harm than good for your songwriting.
I’ve been making music seriously for more than a decade now. There are times when writing a song feels like the most natural thing in the world, when chords, melodies, and lyrics spill out of me without effort or thought. But most of the time, songwriting doesn’t come easy to me if I’m being honest. These days, if I made music only when I felt like it, I wouldn’t be making any music. It’s sort of like when a person simultaneously dreads and looks forward to going to the gym. I know that the act of making music makes me a more sane, whole, and loving person, but man is it hard sometimes. And this doesn’t even get into the non-musical aspects of trying to create and share music with the world––booking shows, pitching to blogs, and playlists, etc.
Taking a break every now and then from music isn’t just a good idea. It’s mandatory for anyone who makes music seriously. The problem comes when musicians step too far away from their work and can’t find their way back to it.
How can musicians like me and anyone else who does this seriously get the most out of taking breaks from their work without leaving it completely?
That answer is going to change wildly from musician to musician, but here are a few things I’ve learned when it comes to taking time away from music:
There’s no one way to write a song. If you’re a songwriter, you’re probably well aware of this fact. But when a musician comes up with a great idea, it can be difficult to remember this when a single idea fails to materialize into a good song. We often love musical ideas so much that we’ll do anything to protect and preserve them, even if it means ultimately wasting our time or sacrificing other ideas that actually work well in a piece of music.
But how do you know when to press forward with an idea and when to bail? This is a question that songwriters and composers have grappled with for as long as music has been around.
Music is a space where it’s tempting to approach things with an indulgent philosophy. If you think about it, everything from selling out shows to proving your music is being listened to over streaming platforms is dependent on numbers. The better numbers you can generate, whether it’s song streams, fans over social media, or downloads of your music, the better, right? I don’t think it’s that simple, and in an age where music is so intertwined with numbers, we run the risk of valuing musicians too much or too little because everything is attached to numbers now. Rather than adopting a “more is always better” mentality around your music, you could probably benefit in a big way from stepping back and embracing a more minimal approach––especially when it comes to songwriting.
Where does a musician’s creativity come from? Is it something a person can learn and develop or is it one of those “you’ve either got it or you don’t” sort of deals? While it might be tempting to try to understand and summon musical creativity with hard and fast rules, it just doesn’t work that way. The creative process is different for everyone, and the things that help me write meaningful music won’t necessarily work for you.
But while everyone’s creative process is different, we can all relate to feeling lost, uninspired, and stuck when trying to make music. Creative frustration can feel irritating, stifling, and even depressing for some musicians, but it can be turned around. Here’s a few tips to transform creative frustration into something that works in your favor:
Ableton Live has become one of the most powerful Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) on the market today. Although it was designed primarily for live performance, it’s become a studio favorite. Originally built for DJs and electronic musicians, it still has enough audio capabilities to compete with other big-name DAWs. We’ve launched a new video series teaching basic Ableton Live tips and tricks so you can get started in Ableton Live today.
It’s not easy to be musically creative, especially if you’re feeling crushed by the weight of expectations. From trying to follow up a successful song to not knowing how to get started making music, hitting a wall creatively is an easy thing to do in music. Here are five tricks to help you fight songwriter’s block:
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Back in the day, the ability to read sheet music was essential for composing, performing, and analyzing Western music.
The rise in popularity of alternative notations such as MIDI and tablature has changed this notion, expanding notation to be more idiomatic for musicians across different walks. That said, staff notation still remains as a universal standard, a common language that can be shared between any two musicians.
For this reason, even if you produce great music using solely MIDI scrolls, it never hurts to be able to read sheet music – one day you might have to transcribe a piano part to have it recorded by a pianist, and you wouldn’t want to have to learn for the first time then! This article will provide you a series of tips, tricks, and mnemonic devices to kickstart your ability to quickly identify some key aspects of a piece of music written in sheet notation. We’ll go through three cheat codes at three difficulty levels, spanning tricks helpful for absolute beginners as well as seasoned sheet music readers.