Sometimes you sit down in your home-studio to make some music with your guitar, or in front of your piano, or at your desk with your DAW loaded up… and you can’t think of a single thing to do. I’ve been there many times and often I’ve ended up just walking away feeling like a failure. Lack of inspiration can be one of the worst things for a creative person to deal with. After all, what good is an artist without ideas?
But the truth is, inspiration doesn’t just appear from nowhere, you have to find it. Yes, sometimes an idea may seem to come from thin air, but that’s rare and even in those cases it’s likely to have subconscious roots in something that you’ve actually seen, heard or read. You really can’t rely on waiting for good ideas to come to you.
Luckily there are ways of encouraging those ideas to emerge faster and with more regularity. I’ve found the following methods for finding inspiration work best for me. Maybe they’ll help you out next time you’re in a rut.
Listen to music
Not just whatever’s on the radio (which in my opinion is generally pretty uninspiring stuff!), but try something different. Maybe a recommendation from a friend, or better still something that another home-studio fanatic has made. Soundcloud, bandcamp and facebook groups are a great source for unheard material. Dive in and see if it doesn’t give you some ideas.
Dig out old ideas
I collect notebooks. Almost obsessively… To the point that I have to be very strict with myself when I’m in any shop which sells them to stop myself buying new ones. But anyway. Notebooks are obviously for making notes, or doodling. If you write down any ideas you have, no matter how rubbish they may seem at the time, write down what happened in your crazy dream last night, write down everything, you will quickly build up a catalogue of ideas. Then, whenever your stuck, you can flick back through those pages and will almost certainly be struck by something that could be built upon.
This is a great way to inject new life into what may feel like a stale idea. Get a friend involved, or someone you’ve connected with through a group or forum on the internet. Anyone that’s going to look at what you’re doing from a different angle and add something to the mix. This is also a great way to get more listeners as anyone you work with may have their own fanbase who will find out about your work through your joint efforts when they’re made public.
Try something different
Got a synth in your DAW that you’ve never even looked at before? Well, load it up, see what it sounds like. That could become a feature of a whole new song. Same with effects. Play around and see what noises you can make. You could try a different instrument to your usual, if you have one to hand. I usually write on guitar or keys but when I bought myself a new (second-hand) bass I immediately started coming up with new ideas built from bass riffs as I started playing. Sometimes just a little change in direction is all it takes to unleash a whole new avalanche of ideas.
Do a cover
Doesn’t sound like the most original thing to be doing. But recording a cover of someone elses music will actually give you ideas that you can use for your own stuff. It’s an insight into another’s creative process as well as a challenge to work out the song structure, tune and harmonies. Plus you’ll be doing it in your own style which still allows for plenty of creativity.
Sometimes the best way to find a solution to a problem is to focus on something completely different for a bit. Go for a walk, watch a film, read a book, do the dishes… Anything to loosen up your thoughts a bit and give the cogs some freedom to move again. When you’re not actively looking for inspiration it may suddenly appear unannounced. Just make sure you’ve always got a notebook and pen handy.
This is one of my personal favourites and the method I used to really ramp up my creativity when I first started my DIY home-studio journey. Give yourself a challenge and finish it. Mine was simply to write and record songs from scratch within one week. With the important final stage being that I put it online at the end of the week and washed my hands of it. No going back to tweak or re-record parts. I ended up with two albums worth of material and an enormous amount of new knowledge. Not to mention confidence to put my stuff out there for all to hear. I called it my ‘Adjective Animal’ project (because, for the first album, all the track titles were an adjective and an animal, like so many band names!). Below is one I was most pleased with.
This was just one self-challenging idea but you could try anything. I think deadlines are probably the most important factor because they ensure you actually finish each project, but otherwise there’s no limit to the constraints you can set yourself. Try writing a song using just your own voice in inventive ways? Or create a percussion piece using only whatever you can find in your room? Or a song using only sentences from the last book you read for lyrics?
Stop reading blog posts and get on with it!
I’m not promising any of these will get you back on the creative track, but I really hope they help. They have for me! If you do find them useful then please do let me know the details and if you have any of your own tricks for getting the creative juices flowing then please share in the comments below. Now go create something beautiful… or hideous… whatever…
Just make something!