The Mindset for Big Projects and Small ones
Have you ever been paralyzed by a project that seems too big for you to take on? Do you find yourself with too many choices and a lack of confidence in making the right ones?
How about those projects that you feel are mundane? You were excited when you started but now you have the mindset that nobody is going to care if you finish this project either way. I have an approach that I wasn’t completely aware that I did until I was able to step back and take a look.
This is an approach I take to either get myself excited about a creative project that seems mundane, or to take a task that seems too big or important and making it feel like a walk in the park. At the end of the day, all projects big or small should feel like a walk in the park and should feel pretty effortless.
Making a simple mental shift can make all the difference between you completing a project with a level of excitement and confidence or putting another idea on the backburner as too small or too large.
When I was younger I didn’t have much to work with to make music.
*Juno 106(possibly my favorite synth) as both a synth and controller
*kawai Q-80 sequencer
*$20 pair of headphones.
I would lay out my equipment on the living room floor and pop the headphones on and starting plugging away on the carpet. I’d just get lost in the whole experience. I didn’t have too many options at that time.. a couple drum kits, 128 tweakable sound patches (in the u220), and my juno for extra synth sounds. I think it was a good thing to not have too many choices. Back at that time I had the mentality that it’s best to know whatever equipment you have really well and make the best of it instead of using a bunch of equipment you aren’t familiar with. I still agree with that perspective today although it’s easy to get sucked into all the choices available.
When you are in writing mode it’s important to be able to actually write without having to make too many choices. Think about classical music, there are only so many instruments to work with.Â The composer gets to the point where he/she knows the sound of each instrument so well that mixtures and combinations can easily be worked out in ones head without much trouble. This I believe is the key to consistant songwriting.
Many artists will start a song on an acoustic guitar or piano before translating it to another form or style. This gets the basic arrangement, rhythm, melodic structure and chordings out of the way. Then you have an easier time filling in the blanks with less contemporary and more experimental sounds. It’s all basically the same concept though whether you start with a small collection of “go to” sounds, a guitar, piano , or a piece of equipment you are very familiar with . I have discussed this before in another newsletter but I think it’s something you may find yourself always coming back to as I do.The important lesson is to make your songwriting choices as simple as possible so you can get to the writing phase quickly.
Now back to the reason for this newsletter. We want a solution for the projects that seem too intimidating or perhaps ones that aren’t challenging enough or have lost their steam. Lets take a look at this:
Lets say you are asked to score a movie for the first time and you are crapping yourself a little (or alot). You are probably thinking of the “bignes”s of the project
and wondering if it’s a pressure you can handle.
One thing I would do is get the video for the movie and put it on the smallest device I can that plays video. Scoring video that is playing on my ipod seems much less intimidating than on a big 24″ screen in an equipment filled studio, don’t you think?
Of course once you get the ball rolling and build some ideas and confidence, you can switch gears and still maintain your confidence.
On the other hand, you may be losing inspiration on the project and then find the need to really tap into the bigness of the project. I would start thinking about how many people are going to appreciate this score, and how your work is going to positively affect the feel of this movie. You work will be up on the big screen, available in video rental store and on netflix giving the whole world access to your work. Can you see how this can build the excitement?
As another example, when I write this newsletter, I might feel a responsibility to inspire and satisfy everyone on my list and trying to work out all of the difference personalities I am writing to. This is just going to get me wrapped up in second guessing and I may never actually finish anything. Trying to be perfect for everyone makes for a pretty uninspiring “midle of the road” newsletter. A much better approach for me is to write this newsletter as if I were writing to a friend who I am very comfortable with and just be myself. Then again I may be writing and become bored with my own words and feel like it’s pointless to write about a subject that people might not even care about. In this case I might imagine how people will be able to read my writings for yearsÂ to come. I can see my mailing list grow and grow and imagine how many people are going to be able to put some of my suggestions into practice. I can think about the difference that can make in peoples creative lives.
Now that is something that can get me moving. This also allows me to be myself and not try to be perfect all the time.
As a basic rule, if something scares you.. make it smaller. If something bores you, make it bigger
Making the big .. small:
*Use a limited amount of equipment that you are completely familiar with
*Use a smaller computer screen or simplify your workspace
*switch from your full studio to a laptop
*create on your bed or on the floor
*Sing or hum ideas into a portable handheld device for ideas instead of only letting ideas flow in your “professional” studio
Making the small big.:
*Picture your song on the radio, or being played to thousands of people live
*Throw a party in the name of your new project, song or album. Invite everyone and make it a big deal, because it IS!
*Picture your song or project hitting the top ten or getting awards
*What kind of music you would make if you were playing an enormous venue in a month?
*What kind of album would you make if you were signed to your favorite music label?
*Picture the lyrics of your songs being referenced in books, magazines, movies and sit coms.
As you can see, making the small things big has everything to do with your mindset. Making the big small tend to be easier when you simplify your creative environment.
I can tell you that these principles have had an enormous impact on my creativity and I hope they have an impact on you as well.
Until next time,
Happy music making,