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Songwriting problem at night...
Old 21st April 2019
Gear Head
Songwriting problem at night...

Hey good people of Gearslutz, just wondering if anybody here is nocturnal like me and how they deal with the problem of volume because of neighbors etc. and if anybody can suggest any feasible solution to my problem.

Growing up I used to write instrumentals with just a midi keyboard and headphones and programming sufficed, I never bothered anyone and nobody bothered me, I got a habit of staying up at night writing tracks as it seemed to be the most peaceful, productive and creative time for me.

Later I irreversibly moved on to post-punk/indie type songs and although I still use a midi keyboard for bass and drums I do require a few louder instruments in the song now, guitars and most importantly vocals.

Over the last years I realized that my habit of staying up at night was actually not a choice and more of a disorder because I can almost not control it (I sleep in/wake up later every day) and basically half the days of the month I stay up at night and sleep in the day, I would be ok with this if not for daily life obligations and interruptions, and now even music composition, are currently required to be in the day for me, I'm trying to fix this with medicinal drugs now but this will take some time.

Worst of all if I force myself to sleep less and wake up normally I get sleep deprived - which for me means I'm very moody, dysfunctional and lethargic and I can't work on all the finer mental things, which unfortunately includes the finer musical things, sometimes I even get severely depressed and do almost nothing just from lack of sleep.

So here's the deal, what can I do while I still have this sleep problem on the days I'm up at night? I feel terrible that I have this insane inspiration and craving to work on music the most at night but I can't because of society.

The worst is I have a few personal creative/mental nuances - 'complications' that mostly prevent me from doing anything.

1. I can't write lyrics unless I'm singing and trying them out at the same time, any lyrics written outside of this will simply not fit in (I tried) so it would be a waste of time to write them.

2. I have to write the song in sequence, so if the next part I have to do is vocals/guitars there is no going around it, it's just how I work (ex: If I'm on the second verse vocal part, I can't finish the whole structure for the song before dealing with the second vocal verse, as it would change the whole outcome of the song).

3. I don't/can't work on multiple songs at the same time, I tried and what happens is I often just don't finish any of them in this case.

4. You could say, well why don't you just program an instrumental at night or something, well, I tried it a few times and at the end of it that it was all a waste of time and energy because my vocals simply didn't fit in, I was traumatized by the fact that some of my works I worked on for months went to waste because of that so I stopped doing that and write all my works with vocals early on.

5. As far as I know studios in Toronto are closed after midnight or booked a week in advance (I don't know if I will sleep at night or not so early) also wouldn't be feasible because I'm only comfortable around my own equipment in songwriting and don't have that much money.

As you can see I'm in a bit of a rut, my terrible sleep has already caused me very many disastrous consequences, but this one annoys me incredibly.

Anyone here dealt with this? What do you do if you're up all night?
Old 21st April 2019
Lives for gear
bgood's Avatar
Have you thought about seeing a psychologist? You seem to have a few things going on... a pro might be able to help you knock a few of them down and get you on a different track... the sleeping thing for sure
Old 21st April 2019
Deleted 5072d97
Wow this feels like myself, especially 10 years ago. Not that I've changed my way and like to make music during the day (I still do the best I can to do so), I'm still most creative at night. Though I've became more tired during night tine since I started living by societies rules.

My best recommendation is to move to a building with very good sound isolating walls. Not a very easy thing to do and remember most real estate agents are assholes that only care about money and that lie about these things so don't forget to ask them if you can sing a couple of songs and do some screaming (maybe skip the last part if you're not comfortable haha, I know I wouldn't be) and then call the neighbors doors and ask if they were disturbed.

I know this shouldn't be what it takes to make music but unless you get yourself a small studio space (I decided not to do this one).

I got kind of lucky purchasing my apartment. The real estate agent lied about being in the button floor (sound usually travels downwards) which of wasn't true, or as she said "yes, it's on floor 1, when do you want to come see the apartment?" And I never thought to look down the stairs where they said the basement were but there also was an apartments there...
Anywa, I walked around and first knocked on the walls and then banged on them (yes my girlfriend was a bit embarrassed about it) in the apartment. Even tough I've only had my door bell ring in the night I'm scared to **** about it when I make music and have some kind of "sound hallucinations" about it. The one time it called was when I played electronic drums in the middle of the night and the neighbor below me came to the door and asked what all that banging was, she was totally okay with me playing music but not in the he middle of the night, she and I became friends after that though but I got rid of the kit because well I only got feeling for playing at night..

Anyway I just want to give some advice on what not to do.

Don't work on multiple songs at a time. (I can't handle thst and I rarely finish tracks today, 10 years ago I used to finish whatever felt like a good beginning of a song.
Don't sacrifice yourself for society/your boss/your friends if you don't get something you really need from them.
Don't start taking the doctor prescribed drugs to improve your daytimes if you haven't tried just keeping busy during the day and see if you get more tired during night (if that's even what you want.
Don't do illegal (hard) drugs to make yourself feel good / to get energy to make music during the day / to satisfy others with being whom they want you do be. drugs are a short time solution (not the usual klysche, I am of course not talking about soft drugs, though control of yourself with hard drugs is a matter of when you're put into a situation where you need them to get through and when you're through you're ****ed..)
Don't let the days go by with being unhappy, mot sure how thin walls you've got but try singing the song with a kind of whispery or at least talk-level volume, if neighbors complain about that. Then.. Fu.. You need to look after your happyness!

I'll follow this thread with great entusiasm.
I still can't play music late (12 o'clock is fine on lower volume but after that people would probably come and smack my head) and singing I just feel too awkward to do even through most of the time so at night this feeling gets worse jut I've lately tried the whisper approach. Hoping to replace the tracks during daytime on a confident day.

I'm not sure what a psychologist could help within this situation though. They're good talking to when you've got a lot of emotions inside you that needs to get our but that's only so much they can do. But please give it a try if you feel like it and then you can dismiss them, I'm sure they can help you with something at least.

Good luck with everything!
Old 7th May 2019
Gear Nut

Part of doing creative work means finding a space/environment to do it.

Some people go for a drive and sing in their car. Bon Iver went to a cabin in the cold with an sm57 to make an album. Bands have rented storage units. I know a singer who used to go on long walks at night to practice singing, with the idea that it was less bad than having her neighbors hear her, because she was a stranger passing through.
Old 7th May 2019
Here for the gear
As a former notorious insomniac, I'd recommend listening to sleep meditations. My quality and quantity of sleep (and life in general) has improved exponentially since discovering them. Just listen to the nice Austrian man's boring voice and before you know it, your alarm is going off.
Old 8th May 2019
Lives for gear

the best time for creative pursuits is after a good sleep. it doesn't matter whether you're up at 5am 2pm or midnight as long as you've had a good rest
Old 8th May 2019
Gear Maniac

My tips:

1) By staying up late regularly, you are effectively jet-lagged. Shifting your sleep pattern will take a long while, but it shouldn't need medication. The biggest thing will be routine. That's annoying, but it means set your alarm every morning and get up (even if you feel like ****). No lie ins, no days off. My insomnia is a lot worse when I don't do this (and I feel like a hypocrite for even suggesting it), but it is exactly what you need to get a decent routine.

2) Almost all of my music has to happen in near silence now, due to two young kids sleeping at various times in the house during the day and night. Composing and mixing on headphones is perfectly possible. For singing, singing quietly is fine once you get used to it, at least for trying out a melody. Or get used to doing it in your head. The bit that you can't do is singing loudly to check that the key of the song is really the best it could be, which is annoying. Going out to a park or something works, but not if you live somewhere cold and wet.

3) You seem to have a lot of hard rules that you have externalised. "I can't work like X, I can't do Y", etc. Those aren't actually real. We all do this, and I have no doubt that currently your working methods are easiest in the way you describe. But you can demolish those quite quickly. Try and make yourself open to other things, and allow yourself to be less than perfect. Start by saying "tonight I'm going to write a song with vocals in my head, and I'll just put down the melody line on a crappy synth for now. I'm never going to use the song". Keep doing that, and you'll find that you have become more versatile as a musician. After years of these limitations, I've written songs in my head on long flights, and been able to get the whole thing down very quickly afterwards.

When my first kid was born, I wrote a whole album at night, and mixed it on headphones, and other people actually liked it. It can be done!
Old 8th May 2019
Gear Maniac

4) Get a decent amp sim plugin for recording guitars/bass. You'll get plenty of decent post-punk tones out of any of the cheaper amp sims.

5) Resist the level to have the headphones loud- stay within recommended guidelines for noise exposure.

6) Maintain sleep hygiene: stop working on music an hour before going to bed to give yourself time to wind down, and do something relaxing in the meantime (read a book not related to your music or work, drink something warm and decaffeinated, do a relaxing meditation). I am a massive hypocrite on this one- I get carried away mixing til midnight, then get woken up by the kids at 6am feeling knackered, plus I slept poorly because I was thinking about that amazing riff...
Old 8th May 2019
Lives for gear
vincentvangogo's Avatar

Sounds like you could have this. https://www.circadiansleepdisorders....DSPS-QandA.php
Old 23rd May 2019
Gear Maniac

As Yep said, sometimes you have to go elsewhere - away - and do your vocal work. I would stay up at night like you composing/arranging and laying down demo tracks. I had to do this as quietly as possible for the same reason others have stated. I would do a rough mix, transfer to my iPod or burn a CD (wasted a lot of CD-Rs) and then I would sing to my hearts content driving in to work everyday. Lots of people sing in the car, right? I would make voice memos on the iPhone for changes I wanted to make and repeat the process until the song was finished.

However, what was I going to do about laying down vocals for the demo I was going to bring to the recording studio???? Well, I dragged my laptop, pre-amp and an SM58 out back to garden shed (which fortunately had electricity). I would lay down the lead vocal and the harmonies. Maybe the neighbors didn't care for it, but my wife and kids slept like babies.
Old 26th May 2019
Gear Maniac


I did the same thing in my kid's cubby house last summer. I made loads of demos in there. I'd be half way through a guitar take, and I'd notice 4 mosquitos nibbling my arm, but it was a really good take and I couldn't stop it.
Old 26th May 2019
Lives for gear
s wave's Avatar
Helpful info on this page. I think you have to ask yourself - do I love/want staying up into the nighters? or is really out of my control. When we put parameters on out life our choices our amount of choices tends to whittle down fast. You either join the real cartesian world by getting used to normal cycles or continue messing with sleep cycles which I think is very difficult. (I go by the creed that to serve others is most important as opposed to be self serving and self centered. I just accept that. I am more useful to other people when I am awake during their hours; if I can do some help by pulling an all nighter I will. But only once in a rare time... because I value my energy and cycles. Some people want to sleep their lives away other never want to go to sleep. I think if you were a true nightbird then you wouldn't need to post because it wouldn't be an issue. I learned long ago (for me) that if I exert myself every day I rest and sleep great. But for me I need mental, physical, emotional, spiritual exertion etc and a time to work play and rest. If I get too mentally stimulated for too long that's no good nor is just physical exhaustion. I have found where I am best is also by knowing where I am worst. I think you just need to put some of you mental nightly pondering into this and you'll come up with your formula. If you love being up all night then why not try to build your live style around it?
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