9 Things I’ve learned from 3 Months of Daily Music Making
As of March 3rd, it has been 3 months of producing music everyday, for at least an hour.
I can’t say that is completely true as there has been 3 occasions that I found myself away from home & unable to produce, but other than that, I’ve been staying committed to this practice. To be honest it seems so much longer. There are songs I’ve completed that I completely forgot about already until I go back through my work. I see that as a very good thing, as it just means I’ve accomplished a lot. If you want to follow my daily progress or get involved yourself, join my free Facebook Thread
As always, I want to share with you what I have learned so far on this journey.
1. You don’t have to feel creative to be creative.
In the past, I always thought inspiration was the precursor to great work. Now I can say with some confidence that this is only partly true. I have done some of my best work on days that i thought I had nothing to give creatively. Knowing that I had to get my hour in, I went in with the attitude of “ok, let’s just get this over with”, and several hours later I came out of the session with a smile on my face. I’ve learn that we are creative beings, so we can’t not be creative even if we don’t feel creative. It’s like those days when you don’t feel hungry, but once someone offers you a bite of something you realize you’ve got a bigger appetite than you thought you did.
Turns out that inspiration is a process. It comes when we take a leap of faith. The best way to do inspiring work, is to just keep doing work.
2. Don’t marry your work
When you find yourself making music regularly, you’ll most certainly have 1 or 2 songs that stand out above the rest. No matter what you make in the future, people will continue to rave about your old tune. Don’t get down about this. Your job isn’t to make people like everything you do, your job is to keep making music that you like. If you stop to try to figure out what you did in the past, it can run the risk of stopping your creative flow completely (although it doesn’t hurt to reference past successes). Just let whatever comes to you happen. Make it the best you can & then move on to the next. Don’t take too much time celebrating what you have done in the past. Keep moving into the future & you’ll find yourself with a serious body of work that you can be proud of.
3. Don’t be concerned about the legal stuff
I’ve found legal bullshit to be the biggest waste of time. Creativity can not be governed by laws or rules. Use everything as your canvas & be shameless about it. Movies, speeches, other songs, presets, sample cd’s, something you overhear at a pub. It’s all fair game. If you are inspired to borrow of repurpose something, that is reason enough to go ahead with it. Of course, there will be some songs you won’t be able to sell, but we don’t create strictly for money anyway. We simply express first & deal with what is marketable later.
4. Stand on your own shoulders
You may have heard the quote “Standing on the shoulders of giants”. The way I interpret this is that everything we are able to do today is because of the genius that has come before us. We didn’t have to invent all the creative tools we use today & we certainly aren’t required to reinvent the wheel in order to make great things happen. Success templates are already in place, giving you some of the greatest creative advantages in history.
When you make music every day, you’ll soon realize you can start standing on your own shoulders. As you make more music, you will have figured out how to create that perfect kick or a great effect chain or a really groovy hi hat rhythm. Congrats! You’ve just added another tool to your box that you can pull out at anytime. Usually you’ll tweak it to fit your current song and often times those tweaks will make the tool even better than before. By standing on your own shoulders, you put yourself on an upward spiral & you’ll rarely have to ever start from an empty slate again. This has helped me speed up my songwriting process enormously.
5. Find a mentor but trust yourself
If you are smart, you will have someone you can share your music with that will give you an honest opinion & good advice. This has helped me improve in a big way, but I’ve also learned to trust my instincts even if my work isn’t getting the positive feedback I expected. No matter who is helping to guide you & offer sound advice, they are not you & simply can’t connect with everything you do. This is not a bad thing. It’s ok to go ahead with something because you like it, even if your friends don’t. Just make sure not to get your ego too involved. As long as you are making music, a 2nd or 3rd ear can be priceless to your progress, even if you don’t take that advice.
6. Off days
In the last 3 months, I have had off days. Days where I just felt like I sucked. These periods typically last for 2-3 days before you come out of it. If you’ve been on a wave of momentum and run into this, it can be debilitating & sink you into a deep depression if you aren’t careful. The secret is to just keep moving forward. I tell myself that if after 5 days the song just isn’t happening, I’ll scrap it & start something new. In every case so far though, what seemed like a dud has turned into something I can be proud of. The more you make music, the higher your standards become. This means that what you made 6 months ago probably isn’t going to cut it for you today. You have off days because you are getting better. You are more sensitive to the subtleties that make music great. Sometimes that sound you are going for is a little out of reach from your current skillset, but you’ll get there. And when that happens, you will have brought yourself to a whole new level & a high expectation of yourself. Don’t worry about off days. If you never had them, you probably haven’t pushed yourself hard enough.
7. Every day is a success
You can’t worry too much about how awesome you were in today’s session. The success happened the moment you sat down to work your hour, instead of creating some shitty excuse to not put the time in. If you put in your hour, you win & you become part of the productive elite in your field.
8. Ambient sounds can make a crappy song sound better(and a good song great)
When a song is too clean, it sounds amateur in most cases. I might be speaking stylistically, but from my experience, some random ambience low in the background will make almost any song gel together better. This can be an iphone recording while you were out on a walk or in a restaurant, or it can be some spoken word thing you found on youtube. You can’t really do this wrong. The unexpected sounds sitting low in the mix will unconsciously add interest to a song that is otherwise a bit monotonous or loopy. I like whatever I use to be mostly indecipherable, so I’ll often add reverb and delay to not only disguise the source, but also make it a bit more rhythmic. Having the predictable mixed with the random creates a beautiful balance.
9. You are a natural problem solver
When you hit a creative roadblock or need to figure out how something is done, your brain is far more powerful than you give it credit for. Before you dive into a tutorial, access what tools you have available right now & figure out which tool or tools have the greatest likelihood of getting the job at hand done for you. If you just take pause & let your own creativity come to the surface, you’ll be amazing at the innovative, yet simple techniques you come up with. I’m obviously not anti-tutorials, but I am anti thinking. If you constantly search for someone else to solve your problems, you’ll never build confidence by developing your own unique problem solving skill set.
I am loving this creative journey I have taken & I am learning so much, so quickly. If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that you will never know everything, and that is ok. The things you don’t know makes you just as unique as the things you do. Find your path & follow it. Preferable daily.
happy music making,