How to approach creating music in a completely new way

Writing music is hard and, inevitably, you’ll find yourself hitting a creative wall. Here, we look at how a fresh approach to making music can help get you back on the right creative track.

Guest post by Patrick McGuire of the ReverbNation Blog

Write enough songs and you’ll eventually run into the problem of stagnation and feeling uninspired in your creative process. Combating this isn’t easy. It’s a process of willingly embracing newness and discomfort when we create. It’s the conscious decision to let failure and uncertainty shape your songs more than safely determining the outcome before you start writing. Bringing newness to your writing approach over and over again is one of the hardest but most rewarding things you’ll do as a music-maker, and it’s an essential part of sustaining a passionate songwriting approach. Here are a few ways to approach creating music in a completely new way:

Define your goals and break your writing habits

Breathing new life and energy into your process can’t happen without self-awareness. When you write music, what are your goals? What kind of music are you trying to create? Answer questions like these and then think about the typical patterns, tools, and habits you turn to during your writing process. To approach making music in a totally new way, you’ll need to maintain your goals and change the normal ways you rely on for writing. These changes don’t have to necessarily be huge, like writing country music if you’re an EDM artist. Instead, it’s more about maintaining your music identity while intentionally exploring new ways to create.

Set your expectations aside and embrace curiosity

Expectations can be detrimental to your songwriting process. Shaping your music around what you think you can and should be creating will end up making your work sound boring and predictable, and you may end up shelving your best ideas. By prioritizing curiosity above everything else in the new ways you explore music, newness and energy will come naturally. Doing this means recognizing the ways expectation informs the way you work, such as writing exclusively on an acoustic guitar if you’re a singer-songwriter for example. 

Start the creation process in ways you’ve never explored before

If you try anything mentioned here, do this. Starting your writing process the same way each time will most likely give you the same results over and over again. Making the conscious effort to explore new ways of writing songs is one of the easiest and most transformative ways to bring newness into your creation process. Pick up a new instrument and start there. Or, start with lyrics first if you typically turn to your preferred instrument. Whatever you are most comfortable with, try the opposite. Putting yourself in an unfamiliar position from the start of your process will bring out creative resourcefulness and new ideas you couldn’t have accessed with your typical approach. 

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Add new newness into your process any way you can when things feel stale and predictable 

If things feel stale, predictable, and uninspired in the way you create music, look for ways to do or think about things differently. This could be taking a month off of writing to discover new music to listen to. It could be learning a new instrument, or experimenting with extremes in tempo, dissonance, or music production. The specifics of the changes don’t matter as long as they’re new to you and translate to meaningful transformation in your process. It’s important to note that failure is inevitable when you pursue music creation in an inspired and free way. It’s when you don’t fail, when the outcome of how your songs sound is predetermined, that stagnation, boredom, and the biggest failures occur. Risk, newness, and failure are key ingredients of a productive and rewarding songwriting practice. There’s no way to reach your potential as a songwriter without being able to accept your own failures, so don’t be afraid to try things out and see what happens. That’s the entire point. 

Newness isn’t something you intentionally add to your songwriting processes once if you want to make the most meaningful music you can. It has to happen over and over again for as long as you create music. It’s a crucial part of keeping things exciting and unpredictable and for making room in your life for your music to go to the places it needs to. Let go of control, and you’ll have the best chance at creating new and interesting work. 

Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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