There are days we feel that ideas have left our minds never to come back. Wouldn’t it be nice to know the solution to unstuck yourself and create music freely? No distractions, no hesitation? Although we fear those kinds of days when doubt and stress take the wheel, we also have to acknowledge that it is also during that same time that we can still develop our artistry and learn new things.
We should never quit on our efforts. And like many people have different ways and takes on how to overcome mental blockage, I wanted to contribute and share a list of 10 things I do to help my ideas flow to making music. So without any order or step-by-step process, here is my list:
1. Have a ready-to-go workspace
Always organize your studio space after each session, so next time, it is easy to start again. Keep as much gear plugged to your interface: sometimes ideas hit you unexpectedly, so it is always good to have your recording and production space prepared for your musical input.
I always keep my guitar, bass, mic plugged, and keep a MIDI keyboard handy. Check out this article about DAW’s.
2. Use different instruments/sounds
When working on a demo or a full production, bring in sounds that you “would never actually use” for the production. While doing this, you are allowing your head to go to new places and unblock while you figure out what you’re missing. Also, who knows, maybe you end up using one or couple of those “weird” sounds on your production.
3. Hard, intense workout
Go out for a run, lift, sweat, get tired. Let the adrenaline kick in, and feel how your body and mind asks you for more. This physical exercise will only clear your mind, but it will also allow you to sleep better, eat at the right times of the day, and make you feel way more confident.
I like to exercise early in the morning before the day starts. I can set my goals and prepare my mind for what is coming up: hesitation almost disappears.
4. Practice drills on your musical instrument
If you get completely stuck at a section of the song, pick any instrument and practice some basic, or advanced exercises. Warm-ups are good. Do this while you’re thinking: sometimes these drills bring new, fresh ideas, and make you see a more simple way of approaching the music.
5. Try something simpler
Use the “common” way other musicians will do something and then change it to your version. This trick aims to help you keep going, and not stopping for any detail that might affect your attitude, feeling, or drive at the moment. After you’ve done the simple or “cliche” way, you can always come back, revisit, and elaborate. Also, maybe the more straightforward way can work better some times.
6. Write one verse a day – for songwriters
For songwriters, keep doing one verse a day. If the whole idea of sitting down and writing a complete song feels overwhelming, this way will alleviate the pressure of just doing everything down at once. Sometimes songs and ideas take longer. But, always remember: if you’re feeling the flow of ideas at the moment, do not stop by any means, keep writing.
7. Take 1-2 days for a break (from the project in question)
When things get hectic and you are about to quit: STOP. Take a breath, save your session, and come back the next day to look at what you have done. (Hopefully after exercising and organizing the workspace you are ready to start again).
8. Revisit old ideas
Sometimes, your old melodies, or lyrics, actually make sense in a newer project! Maybe not to solve the whole puzzle, but to bring new fresh ideas in the project.
9. Clear your mind at least one hour before any work session
Let all prejudices leave, and enter the space with optimism. Do not listen to music: it may affect the way you criticize your work and might bring up some unnecessary insecurities. Just clear out as much as you can.
10. Show your work to someone you trust
We all have those people we do not care about showing our most sincere and modest projects to. So show them. A lot of times they are vibe-boosters and will kick your energy up! Many times these people will see things we have not identified and help to complete the production in a sincere, audience-like way.
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