When was the last time you struggled starting a new track?
Maybe the latest track you made was a bomb and now nothing seems as good. You are in good company, my friend.
In this post I’ll go through some of my advice to overcome writer’s block as a music producer.
This article is actually the result of a writer’s block: I didn’t know what to write about in this week’s post up to a day before posting. And so I reminded myself how lack of creative ideas is something I face in music too. How about writing about that? So here we are.
Why do we experience writer’s block
Very few people in the world are, as we say, “gifted”. In reality, even gifted people spend an insane amount of time sitting at the desk working on new ideas.
For us common people, not only less gifted, but also unable to pursue our passion as a full time job (for now), I think the main cause of writer’s block is TIME (lack of). And it’s in good company with other causes. Let’s see the main ones:
- time: as I said, unless you are a full time musician, you need to be able to carve out time to make music. And if you have a 9 to 5 job or worse a freelancer job, add to that a family, a girlfriend/boyfriend…well that reduces production time to a few hours a week. Do you think you can make a banger track working 1 hour a day on music?
- stress: stress and anxiety are not good friends of creativity. Especially in this historical time where we worry for our families and our jobs, it’s not easy to find the calm you need to work on music. It’s not about feeling happy or sad, those two emotions can be fuel to music. It’s more a state of alert, the feeling it’s never a good time to make music.
- perfectionism: it’s never good enough guys. Finish that track and release it anyway.
In the next paragraphs I will share some tips about how to find inspiration again and overcome the writer’s block. Advice that worked for me and I hope will for you too.
1 – Manage your time
I know, that looks like a cliche. But let me explain more in detail what i mean!
Let’s first distinguish between weekdays and weekend.
Probably in weekdays you can dedicate less time to music production, let’s say a couple of hours after dinner or so. On the weekend, if you are lucky, you can make music all day long.
So here is how i manage my time for music production.
These are the days I use for experimenting, trying out new synths and sample packs, recording small pieces of music, experiment with sound design. So nothing that requires to much thinking.
The most important thing is that I never do it with the idea of creating a track, but just to have fun. Sometimes it’s good and it turns into a track.
I can do it in the morning, before heading to the office (which is downstairs, in my case) or on lunch break.
So try to use those few free hours to have a bit of fun instead of trying starting a new track feeling anxious about your next client or email waiting for you.
In the evening I’m usually more tired. So I prefer to watch videos or listen to music in order to get inspired or learn new things. But sometimes I work on music too. The only thing I never do is watching Netflix, lol.
Personally, on weekends, I can stay in the studio as much time as I want. So this is when I put together what good I did during the week and I start giving shape to a track. Of course it’s not always like this, sometimes I completely start from scratch, but still what I did during the week was helpful to give me more inspiration.
Now, few times you will be able to get a good idea at first try. It’s a process that takes time.
That’s why weekends are better. Because if you keep working on something for 5 hours, it’s more likely that you will reach a satisfying result, rather than when you work on it for 20 minutes.It always happens to me that during holidays periods I am able to do way more than when I’m working.
Also, remember that those who make bangers in little time have years of practice behind.
You may be thinking now: “ok man, but I spend hours and hours in the studio and still I don’t feel inspired and I can’t finish tracks”. Well in this case keep reading the article, I’ll try to give you some more tips.
2 – Refine your technical abilities
Music is not only about good ideas. It’s also about being able to translate them into real music. So if you make music on Ableton Live, you need to know the software like the back of your hand.
But that’s not enough my friend. Knowing the functions of the software is the base. Then you need to improve on everything else related to the art of making minimal house music, which involves being able to create groovy drums, catchy bass lines, warm pads and so on.
This will make so much easier to translate an idea into a track as soon as you have it.
This takes time, but it’s a phase you can’t skip. Actually we never stop learning.
Whether you are very entry level or already up and running, these are some sources that might help you improve your technical skills. Not only, it will also help you to get inspired: you learn new techniques and you get excited and try to implement them in your productions. That helps creativity.
Of course. You Tube is the main source of knowledge you can look for. If you are looking for Minimal House specific channels I know a couple: Distilled Noise (it’s meeee) and Durosai are the main ones. Another one that I’m liking for micro house is Ruffin Studio.
But don’t stop at minimal house. Try to learn techniques used in other genres, they will be helpful for your music too. I really like this Future House oriented channel called Oversampled, with a lot of tips about sound design.
Also when talking about mixing and mastering, there is absolutely a world of videos that you can watch, but I’ll only mention my favorites: Luca Pretolesi (just type it on You Tube, you’ll get a lot of results), Dave Pensado’s Into the Lair series, the Recording Revolution. They are probably a little too advanced, but if you are passionate about mixing they’re worth watching. Mixing and mastering are not simple things and you need to take information from a lot of sources to see the full picture.
Getting someone to help you with your projects and teach you new tips can really speed up your learning process and get you inspired with suggestions. I never had anyone teaching me electronic music apart from You Tube and that’s why it took me 10 years to feel confident with music production (probably I’m also dumb)
I regularly offer one-to-one tuition so if you are interested you find my email in the contact section of the website.
One-to-one tuition are not the only formula for learning. There are many communities you can enter paying a monthly fee and where expert producers regularly upload video-lessons and assist the members answering their questions. I’ll mention the community by my American friends Ky & Wyler, which also invited me as a guest teacher for the month of April. Another well known community is DeMarzo’s one.
Copy your favorite minimal house tracks
This look horrible, but I’m not gonna lie, I learned so much doing it.
Of course this is for educational reasons. I can also assure you that, even if you try to copy a track, you will end up with a piece of music completely different from the one you tried to copy.
Also I don’t mean you have to copy the whole track, but just the elements you like and that you still struggle to make as good. In this case I get really surgical about it and analyze every single detail and try to reproduce it. I did this a lot of times mainly with drums and backgrounds. Trying to copy every aspect of the drums of a track will make you realize how many details you were missing and why you weren’t able to achieve the same result.
Once you’ve learned the technique, you’ll be able to adapt it to your style and needs.
3 – Relax and take your time
Making music must be a fun moment. Not a pain.
If you push yourself to make music when you are not inspired, that will make things even worse.
We all have periods were we feel less like making music, maybe because we are going through stressful moments art work or in family.
If you still want to make music, do it for stress relief, not to respect a deadline of finishing a track or an EP.
Otherwise take sometimes off from the studio.
Sport helps. In my case running helps me for 2 reasons:
- It’s well known that doing sports cause dopamine release. This won’t make you directly feel inspired but will help to tame anxiety and reduce stress, which may be the cause of your writer’s block;
- I listen to music when I run. It’s a moment where I don’t have anything else to do than running and listening. So I pay attention to the details of what I listen to and get inspired by sounds, finding ideas for my next tracks.
- I also think about track concepts when I run. For example while running I thought about a side project I want to start: I thought about the alias name, about the titles for the tracks (now I only need the music ahah).
Try yourself to take a run, or a walk, bring on your headphones, or just listen to nature if you can. I assure this will have nothing but positive effects.
4 – Listen to music
In the previous paragraph i told you how doing sports is a good moment for me to listen to new music.
If you’re not into sports, you need to find other moments during the day to dedicate to listening music.
I do it when I work, when I write these posts, while I shower, as I mow the lawn in my garden (consider noise cancelling headphones for that).
Having a wide music culture is crucial to be able to shape your own style and being inspired. No, you can’t just listen to minimal house. That’s a big part, for sure, cause you need to know well the music you make. But the best music producers of the scene have a much wider music knowledge.
Here is some music I’ve been listening to these last few weeks:
- Floating Points – Promises (Spotify);
- Sycco (Spotify);
- Balthazar (Spotify);
- This cool Spotify Modern Jazz playlist;
- Ezra Collective (Spotify);
- Mihai Pol and Sepp sets for Sunrise Hub (You Tube);
And much more. Surf Spotify and find your way.
6 – Experiment
When you are in need of new ideas, it’s time to start experimenting. Forget all you’ve always done so far and do the other way around.
Have you always started from the drums? Now start from backgrounds or pads.
Have you always used samples for your bass line? Now it’s time to try to use an Ableton Live Instrument or a VST.
Have you ever gone through Ableton Live stock presets? There are some very interesting ones. Try the most unconventional ones, build something from them.
Here are some techniques I go through when in lack of inspiration:
- Change your style: try making a rominimal style track instead of a minimal house one. Or try break beat. Experimenting new styles frees you from constraints.
- Resampling and sample manipulation: record sounds from a synth and then start applying effects or stretching the waveform. Don’t think about a specific result you want to achieve, just go with the flow;
- Play with vocals: I like to use vocals to create backgrounds, in this post I explained how;
- Try new sample packs: sample packs can help finding inspiration. Take a tour on Loopcloud and find the right one.
- Try new devices: when I lack of inspiration my go to plug-in is Reaktor 6. The factory pack has so many creative instruments. If I struggle with drums, I use Loopcloud Drum plug-in, I explained how it works in this post.
- Embrace sound design: I think that creating your own sounds from scratch is extremely rewarding and can trigger the spark for new ideas. Here I share few videos about sound design.
- Watch Distilled Noise videos on You Tube: yesss get inspired with my videos!
7 – Change your environment
Even when you have the best studio ever, changing the space where you make your beats can be super helpful.
That’s one of the reason why I bought a laptop instead of a desktop computer.
So try, if you can, to move out of your studio and make music in the kitchen, on a bench at the park or simply on your sofa.
I find it great for starting new projects.
8 – Never make music for a label
This is my last advice and probably the most important. Never think to a label you’d like to release music on and then adapt your music for that. That would kill your creativity setting mental constraints that you absolutely don’t need. Make the music YOU like, not that one that labels would like.
So guys this were my 8 tips to overcome writer’s block. Don’t worry if the inspiration doesn’t come today, this week or this month. It will come next month. Unless you are under contract, you can make music just when you feel like. It’s cool to take it as a commitment, but don’t push yourself too much or, even worse, blame yourself if you feel uninspired.
I hope you found some help and some new sources of inspiration in the links I shared.
Stay strong, better times are coming!