In my years online , I’ve discovered there are a lot of artists with this problem. I don’t have this problem and in the 10 or so years i’ve been making music seriously , I never have suffered from this. I’ve talked about the methods I use when i’ve posted on message boards / forums , and i’ve been totally surprised with the comments other artists have made , saying that it was encouraging and really helped them break out of a rut.
When I lived on the Isle of Man , I knew a musician who had an awesome setup. He had the hugest P.A. speakers and a great PC , lots of plugins etc….. but when i asked him about his music , he only had 2 or 3 tracks and the one he was working on had taken him months , and , to be honest , there was nothing special about it to justify spending so much time on it. I just couldn’t understand why he didnt shelve the track ( even just for a few weeks ) and work on something else. The equipment he had was a playground to me , who at the time , had very little equipment , and a set of those tiny rubbish triangle pc speakers with zero bass. It shocked me how someone with all the tools could be so underwhelmed and so lacking in imagination , with no hunger , no drive , no real spark.
I think part of the problem with writers block is an issue with that ” spark ” , and how to get it firing up again , and I hope that by the time you’ve finished reading this , you’ll be chompin at the bit , and ready to sink your teeth into this.
Think about it logically. Inspiration is a by-product. It needs something to kick it into gear……..a catalyst.
Here’s something i’ve done. When you fire up a VST synth , if it has a randomise button , click it. I should add that its advisable to place a brickwall limiter after it in the signal path , just in case you deafen yourself with feedback. Now , I know there are some snobs out there who’ll read this with disdain , while quaffing their champagne and peering down their nose through their monacle …….. and will think that its necessary to slave over a hot vst for hours , meticulously programming every parameter to the nth degree , but , the only thing that matters is the end result. No-one cares about how you arrived at the end result . Either the track has killer sounds and rocks the kasbah , or it blows goats. I know how to program a synth , way back since i used to draw meticulously detailed recreations of yamaha CS80′s and sequential circuits six-traks and prophet 5′s , but this is one of the best ways of getting some really unusual sounds to use as a starting point , and also a great way of finding out the how deep the rabbithole goes………just what the VST is capable of.
Experiment with Effects
There are a ton of 3 oscillator synths out there , and although there are a few that have a special oscillator sound . or a unique approach to synthesis , they pretty much all do the same thing. They all have Filter , resonance , ADSR , LFO , pitch , finetune etc…… , so , even though they may all look very different , they are pretty much the same under the hood , so its not necessary to have every single VST synth under the sun. The difference lies in the effects you employ , and this is where you can have the most fun. Experiment with effects you’ve never used before. Find out how a compressor works for instance. Have a ” What does this button do ? ” mentality
Ok. This part is the one that people tend to admire when i explain how i work. I have a folder on my hard drive called ” 2ndMOUSE work pool ” . Within this folder there are hundreds of song files , all of varying levels of completion , suckiness , brilliance , and even dare i say it , flashes of genius ( the crowd gasps !! )
I’ve developed a system where I put numbers after the track name , which denote how i should approach each track. For my system its
1. just a four bar pattern / riff
2. somewhere between a four bar pattern and half a track
3. half a track
4. track structure “finished” , but needs some alterations
5. track structure finished , but needs mix alterations
6. Track complete. Done and dusted.
Now , when you sit down in front of your pc and face that empty screen , if you haven’t got an existing track to work with , just experiment with your craziest , wildest ideas and fill up that Work Pool.
Don’t worry about finishing the ideas unless they are really awesome. Work on it for about 30 minutes then save it , forget about it , and start another either straightaway , or next time you want to make music. The idea is to get a lot of options and become almost like a bee , pollenizing one flower after another…….a 15 minute burst here , a 30 minute blitz on one part like a beat or bassline , then forget about it. The next time you open it , you’ll think ” i’d forgot about this…….this sounds pretty good , and i know exactly where to go with it right now “……….work on it till you feel the attention beginning to wane , or your ears getting tired of that particular set of sounds , then open another
I can see at a glance where a track is at , without loading it , just because of the number system . If I really like one and i think it has potential , i’ll put a dollar sign or an asterisk after the number also.
Currently , I’m working on 33 tracks , simultaneously , and I have a never-ending supply of ideas , simply because I’ve built up this “work pool ” and i’m many steps ahead of myself. Therein lies the key ……… staying ahead of yourself. I released an album only a few months ago , and already i have material for another 2 or 3 that i’m working on , and I always keep to this kind of ratio so that I always have plenty to work on , and im not stumped when i face my monitor.
However , it all starts with that initial hunger and pure love of sound and what it does , how it reacts with other sounds. I can listen to a sound and just “know” what to do with it as every sound almost has a DNA , and as i discover more and more about the mystery of music , and how it relates to fibonacci numbers , the golden mean , Phi etc…. , it just becomes more of a mystery to me. Sometimes people listen , but don’t actually hear , because they’ve grown accustomed to something and have learned to tune it out as white noise. Its vital that you rediscover the joy of listening again. If you still don’t feel that hunger , then deprive yourself of sound completely for a while until it returns. Put a lock on your studio door and give the key to someone. We always want what we can’t have.
Some people sing ” luck be a lady tonight “…….others talk to their car like its a lady , and in the war they painted women on the sides of their fighter planes. When machinery breaks down , you’ll often hear someone say ” c’mon girl !! ” , and i’ve learned to think of inspiration being a lady. I treat her with respect and make the most of her when she is around , and enjoy her company.
I hope this helps you. All i know is that I have never once had writers block in well over ten years , so , I must be doing something right. However as always
” I haven’t arrived , but i’ve most definitely left. “