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writer's block Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 29th December 2010
  #1
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CassidyGT's Avatar
 

writer's block

Wtf is wrong with me? Was listening to some old stuff I wrote and recorded. It had so much life. Production was awful, but the arrangements and music so much better than now. I just can't seem to let go and write anything anymore. Seems like I'm so caught up in convention.

Maybe I'm just too busy. Can't seem to find time to just relax in the studio.

Anyone else experience similar?
Old 29th December 2010
  #2
Gear Addict
 

might be you're not having fun making music anymore

you might have lost the point. maybe you want to be a successful musician so bad it becomes a stress ?

relax and have fun
Old 29th December 2010
  #3
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I suppose I am..

The whole.. "lets turn pro" thing.. has really effected me in a lot of ways.. some of it was feeling like I had to up my game many orders of magnitude.. which put me in a position of putting a whole lot of extra pressure on me.. and aiming at really unrealistic bars...

This and other areas of my life have been a bit of a mess lately... for the last year or so really.

What I've finally come to is the realization that what I have to do is recommit myself in a deeper way.. so right now my goal is to try.. as much as possible.. to put as much time, energy, and focus.. on creating.. on moving forward. I believe that if I'm going to make anything happen.. that's the only way it's going to happen.. at least if what I want is something that goes beyond.. kinda average-e stuff anyway.
Old 29th December 2010
  #4
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JCM123's Avatar
 

Sux doesn't it
You are not alone.

Heres a good book. It helped me a little but it has helped others I know alot!
The War of Art | Steven Pressfield Online

Also watching some of Ken Robinsons stuff sometimes helps me.
http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinso...reativity.html

If anyone has any other material/strategies to add then please post.
Old 29th December 2010
  #6
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CassidyGT's Avatar
 

Thanks I will check those out.

It is just depressing. I have all this great gear and nothing to do with it. I used to just go in and lay down tracks. The music just seemed to flow easily.

I plugged my Squier Strat into my digitech RP50 then straight into my Digi 001. For drums my Alesis 16. My synth - a cheap Yamaha D3(?) Jeez I can't even remember anymore. Ha! Acoustic you ask?? An old Yamaha piece of crap though an MXL v57m in a horrible untreated room. Same for vocals. Good lord what a setup!!!

Now you ask? Great River, Focusrite ISA, UA pres, my whole UAD plug collection, bass traps everywhere, Adam monitoring, Les Pauls, Strats, Taylor acoustic, P-Bass, Lucid AD/DA, soft synths that can do anything outside of pleasure me physically. My God! I should be able to create and produce the most wonderful and compelling music that sounds just like it came out of Abbey Road and mixed by Clearmountain.

Instead I get little snippets of stuff that sounds really good, but never go anywhere. Just little bits of musical ideas that could form the basis for something, but never do.
Old 29th December 2010
  #7
Lives for gear
 

writers block also comes with the gear bug.

worrying about your gear or lack of gear and thus not bothering even starting a tune.
Old 29th December 2010
  #8
Gear Head
 

I dealt with the 30 - 45 second snippet problem for about 2 years straight, and I somehow moved one idea along while humming in the car while in traffic. After that, the floodgates opened and I banged out 12 tunes over the course of 6 weeks. It's like a rusty gear that you just have to get turning again, good luck!!
Old 29th December 2010
  #9
dsl
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dsl's Avatar
 

I've found that the best way to break through is to complete every song I start - no matter how bad I think it is.

Write, Record & Mix it quickly & move on.

Often times you'll find that when you listen to it a few weeks later - it's not so bad

Repeat this process often...
Old 29th December 2010
  #10
Old 29th December 2010
  #11
Gear Addict
 

yes !

you can also sell the gear you don't really use / need. no more guilty feeling, and more money in the pocket
Old 29th December 2010
  #12
Gear Head
 

great thread! I have felt the same as the OP at times. I finally realized I had lost the "magic" of just writing music because I had spent too much time trying to "sound" more pro. Focusing on production chops caused me to lose the quirky spontaneity of creating, and I endedup in the same situation - boat loads of 30 second ideas and no songs. SUX.

But then I re-acquainted myself with my acoustic guitar, changed the tuning on it so I wouldn't be able to play it as I always have, and left it that way for a few months and only played that instrument. It really served me well.... got me back in touch with making sounds that connect and move instead of sounds that are polished and boring. And now things are moving along...completing songs is still tough, but at least I'm getting a few verses and chorus' in before I get antsy and start a new idea.

Good luck!
Old 29th December 2010
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dsl View Post
I've found that the best way to break through is to complete every song I start - no matter how bad I think it is.

Write, Record & Mix it quickly & move on.

Often times you'll find that when you listen to it a few weeks later - it's not so bad

Repeat this process often...
I kinda believe in that to.. I mean so many of my best work.. I hated at one point in the process.. I mean it very often feels like only by fighting through that kinda feeling.. do I get to the good stuff.

So.. I should try and go into more detail about my commitment shtick and creativity in general.

Joseph Campbell talks about the importance of lessoning the external demands on you.. so that you just kinda do what you feel like doing.. but on a deeper level.. of finding your bliss.. finding what makes live worth living.. a deep kind of resonating thing.. and have time to entertain who you could be.. your own becoming.

So... that's at least one of the keys.

Now.. ok.. I also always have this picture that's like "who I want to be when I grow up." So.. for instance.. if I want to be a great guitar player.. well.. ok.. what kind of a guitar player do I want to be and what do I have to work on to become that guitar player? What's the technical stuff I need to master?

This applies to sound synthesis, mixing, recording, song writing, whatever.

So.. I sorta try to invent projects that will allow me to focus on this or that core thing I want to get better at.. so that project is at least as much about me getting better as it is about making something good or great.

Part of it is.. if you want to muse to bestow some magic on you.. you gotta prove your self worthy.. so working / pushing to move forward.. all this kinda thing.. helps make you worthy.. and it's important that you do it on a kind of deep spiritual kind of level.

Right now.. one of the things I'm trying to work on is experimenting... So.. with this stuff it's important that I not care too much if it's any good or not... because the point is to experiment.. the end goal of the experimentation is to come out with new techniques.. to extend my creative vocabulary..

So one of the things I'm doing is messing around with the guitar.. I'm messing around with the guitar.. with how I record it, mix it.. how I approach writing stuff for it.. how I can integrate it into projects.. how I can craft a sound with it.. just all kinds of ways that I can work with it.

And I'm doing all this with out saying "I want that classic guitar sound." Screw that classic guitar sound.. I'm going to create a new guitar sound.. a new thing.. like no one has ever done before.

Then I have these tools that I'm not super good with yet.. Native Instruments Maschine and Ableton Live.

My goal is to be able to do real time remixing / live performance. But also.. I just don't really know how to think about music in terms of patterns.. I don't know how to create work via the kinds of work flows that these tools provide.. so it forces me to explore working in ways where I'm really weak. I mean it feels like I'm starting all over again...

Then there are things like.. there's certain details I feel like I need to focus on more in my productions.. drum programming is high on the list.. certain kinds of production techniques.. focusing on certain parts of the mix.... etc.

I can't sing.. that's what I always tell myself.. have no training.. but what the hell, I have melodyne, right? I have a lot of other stuff? Could I maybe create something anyway? Could I find a way of being expressive with my voice.. that could lead to something interesting? What should I do about lyrics.

Back to the guitar stuff.. Perhaps I should learn all the scales in all the positions? Well to be honest.. I have a kind of musical vocabulary that focuses around mixolydian dominant.. lots of diminished 7th stuff.. but this whole kinda crazy modalism mixed with.. kinda harmonic and melotic ambiguity and like.. synthetic scales and.. whatever.. and so somehow I come out with "well I should probably just work on getting better at improvising over diminished 7th chords for now.. in a mixolydian dominant context really...

But the thing is I have this big picture idea of where I'm going, what I want to achieve.. the music is only a part of it.. there's photography, painting, graphic design, interactive design, live shows, marketing and PR, all this kinda madness.. this giant unbelievably high mountain.. in front of me.. that I don't feel up to.. but screw it.. lets work through it anyway.. lets see what we can do...

So its about working on these puzzle pieces... if I don't have inspiration.. I just work on technical stuff.. and I try and.. just devote myself to the project.. even if that only means thinking about it.. dreaming about it..
Old 29th December 2010
  #14
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CrankyChris's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CassidyGT View Post

Anyone else experience similar?
I quit playing for about 5 years. I experienced a similar situation - I'm just now getting back into it. I got to the point where I was just bored with everything.

Try to refresh things. If you write heavy stuff - work on cooky songs. If you usually write with a guitar - try it with a piano. Maybe take a break for a week or too.

I don't know what your situation is about turning pro: I'm fortunate that I had something to fall back on (software programming). Best of luck and try to keep it all in perspective.
Old 29th December 2010
  #15
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CassidyGT's Avatar
 

Yeah - I used to be in bands and whatnot years ago. Now I have kids, and a job that I dislike, and all that crap. It is hard to even get quality time in the studio anymore. Often it's like - "Ok I have one hour to create something" That kind of pressure kills creativity.
Old 29th December 2010
  #16
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Mark Kaufman's Avatar
 

Here's your assignment:

Write your next piece without the use of anything requiring electricity. Finish it that way.

Then go ahead and record it.

Just try that first. Sounds to me like you're getting too used to putting the cart before the horse--so many toys used to enhance the sound can distract from the more important work of writing good material. Play it live. Be a human.

Then take that human song and send it through the machine. Back away from the desk.
Old 29th December 2010
  #17
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Only ways to get past it is either time or write more even if it's complete crap get use to throwing out junk you will start writing good songs again.
Old 29th December 2010
  #18
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Unclenny's Avatar
Sounds like you are doing all the right things.

When my Muse is holding back I just keep playing. I'll pick up another guitar and just play. For me it always helps to fire up a couple of amps and rock out a bit.

If it takes longer than usual I'll go back into the studio and work on some different mic placements for the acoustic guitar.

The important thing to know, as a songwriter, is that there is always another song in there and if you are patient it will present itself.

Don't push the river.
Old 29th December 2010
  #19
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CassidyGT's Avatar
 

Don't push the river - I like that.

Also, I think i will take the advice of just working on the acoustic!
Old 29th December 2010
  #20
love this thread! It's like a sad sort of therapy session in here. I'm in the boat where I feel that I pushed too hard, lost sight, and burnt myself out. I haven't written an entire song in over a year now. I don't mind only helping others with their tunes for now, it lets me continue to be creative.

It definitely comes in waves and there'll be another one.
Old 29th December 2010
  #21
Gear Nut
 

...I have always worked in isolation...then I finally got the guts to bring in a good friend of mine who sings like a SOB and writes music as well...We just drudged along capturing snippets, riffs, etc...I made sure the Zoom was always recording and getting everything...

...man, I tell you, after he left I went on a tear...opened my mind up and made me get outside of myself....collaboration might do the trick...you put yourself out there, but the best thing is to move into the fear -- didn't that psych guy in Metallica's Some Kind Of Monster say something like that..
Old 29th December 2010
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sparky4444 View Post
...best thing is to move into the fear -- didn't that psych guy in Metallica's Some Kind Of Monster say something like that..
and we all know how that turned out
heh
Old 29th December 2010
  #23
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uncle duncan's Avatar
 

Check out this website, which has video tutorials from writers like Steve Seskin. His video on capturing inspiration might get you going in a new direction.

Songwork | SongWork
Old 29th December 2010
  #24
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GYMusic's Avatar
My six step plan.

Don't fire up the gear until you have something worthy of recording, or you'll get bogged down by the gear. I found myself doing that years ago. Get yourself a little Sony M-10 or something similar and start recording rough ideas for songs. The recorders are so small and handy these days... keep it handy for when you get an idea..... like a notepad. And speaking of notepad.... keep one around just for lyric ideas. Once you get a dozen or so ideas, then go back about once a week and listen to them again. A real good song will either be there or not. The key is you have to have a good song before firing up the gear. After doing this for a while, you'll get your confidence/instinct back and start working in a productive way. It's not that you have lost your creativity, you have just lost your discipline. Works for me.

1) Discipline. Write something every day.

2) Not every idea is going to be a great song, but may become useful later on for another song.

3) Discipline. Write something every day.

4) Not every idea is going to be a great song, but may become useful later on for another song.

5) Discipline. Write something every day.

6) Not every idea is going to be a great song, but may become useful later on for another song.
Old 29th December 2010
  #25
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by GYMusic View Post
My six step plan.
1) Discipline. Write something every day.

2) Not every idea is going to be a great song, but may become useful later on for another song.

3) Discipline. Write something every day.

4) Not every idea is going to be a great song, but may become useful later on for another song.

5) Discipline. Write something every day.

6) Not every idea is going to be a great song, but may become useful later on for another song.
Great list!!! I write every day. Doesn't have to be great. HAS to be finished though. It has broken the chains, and I've got such a backlog of stuff to produce, that I'm not sure I could finish it in 5 years full time.

I think it's the bondage of besting yourself every time you write. If you try to top your last greatest song, you're going to fail most likely. If you're just writiing because that's what you DO, then it's no worries, and the creativity can flow. My best stuff has come out that way. If it's IN you, it wants to come out. Just facilitate that with no expectations. thumbsup
Old 29th December 2010
  #26
It is near impossible to walk into the studio or sit down with a guitar on a Monday morning and think 'right, I'm going to be creative'. It doesn't work like that.
I feel the same way at times; I call it 'blank page syndrome'. Sometimes I can feel overwhelmed by my own gear too.

The cure?
For me, I tend to give it a break for a week or two and then walk in and suddenly feel inspired because my brain has been thinking of things other than 'being creative' whilst I've been away and actually being creative by not thinking about gear and how my work isn't the same as it used to be.

If you can't leave it alone and rely upon music as a form of income, try doing work on albums for other people. Sometimes a breath of fresh air from another musician or band is exactly what you need. Working on the music of others is really rather helpful; It expands your knowledge for one thing and you can feel inspired working with somebody else as they don't perceive the world as you do. Sometimes you need somebody else to show you new sounds and techniques.

The main thing is to never stress yourself about not having a creative attitude today. There's always tomorrow, heck, there's always five minutes from now. Take a walk, take a drive, heck, watch the birds or the rain.
I find listening to genres that I wouldn't usually to be somewhat inspirational, but actually getting out and not thinking 'must be creative' is the best way to go about things.

That's my two cents, take it or leave it. I know a lot of people that do and don't find complete isolation from anything music related to be helpful. Sometimes thinking inside the box can be pretty creatively castrating.

There's no pressure whatsoever with music; If you force something, you'll end up with a lot of contrived nonsense.

Another solution may be changing your DAW to suit the occasion. There isn't one 'better than the other' in terms of audio applications. A lot of people who use Pro Tools laugh at people who use Logic, but there's also a lot of people using Logic that laugh at the people using Pro Tools or whatever application. It's all down to your style of work and what works for you.

Also; mattsearles, I can completely relate to the mountain of 'must'. We'll get through it, but these are all occupations that people tend to spend their entire lives becoming masters of, but honestly, I think that if you have the dedication, you can do as many things as you want to. Just don't become outdated in any particular field or it will make any knowledge you have become more or less worthless.
Old 29th December 2010
  #27
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hammy Havoc View Post
It is near impossible to walk into the studio or sit down with a guitar on a Monday morning and think 'right, I'm going to be creative'. It doesn't work like that.

Not to be arguementative, but that's how it DOES work for people who write for a living though. If it's near impossible, then I do the impossible every day. Because every day, I walk in, and write. Good or bad. Doesn't matter. (Of course we pray for good....heh) What matters is that I have "X" minutes of music written at the end of the day. I see your point though, but that perspective GIVES me writers block. We're all different I guess.

Consider it training or practice. You don't learn to play Liszt on piano, by waiting till you feel like playing it. You don't make the majors by not playing baseball every day. Practice, practice, practice. If there is greatness in you, it will leak out..... heh

Cheers,

bp
Old 29th December 2010
  #28
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Ernest Buckley's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by CassidyGT View Post
Wtf is wrong with me? Was listening to some old stuff I wrote and recorded. It had so much life. Production was awful, but the arrangements and music so much better than now. I just can't seem to let go and write anything anymore. Seems like I'm so caught up in convention.

Maybe I'm just too busy. Can't seem to find time to just relax in the studio.

Anyone else experience similar?
This is just my opinion so...

Writers block is simply a judgement. My advice to you is to just write nonstop for a good 30-60 minutes without stopping to judge. Write an entire song and do not stop to ask, "Is this any good?"

TRICK 1
A little trick I play on my self is if I know I have to leave at a certain time, I will pick up the guitar and just fool around. I have written at least 2-3 songs giving myself a really tight deadline. Songs that many people consider some of my best.

TRICK 2
The other trick is to take a song you really like. Lets just use something current today like Katy Perrys "Firework". While listening to the song, re-write the lyrics. Use the exact melody and chords, just re-write the lyric. After you have the lyric, start changing the melody but use the same chords. After you have another melody, change up the chords a bit. This method requires a little more time because you are listening to the same tune over and over until you fill in the blanks. After about 2 hours, I guarantee that you will have a new song. It may not be great but the point is: YOU WROTE SOMETHING.

Writers block is simply a judgement. Stop judging your work. Just write.
Old 29th December 2010
  #29
Gear Addict
 

I try to learn a new song at least once a month but usually three a month. It opens up new ideas for me.
Old 29th December 2010
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Not to be arguementative, but that's how it DOES work for people who write for a living though. If it's near impossible, then I do the impossible every day. Because every day, I walk in, and write. Good or bad. Doesn't matter. (Of course we pray for good....heh) What matters is that I have "X" minutes of music written at the end of the day. I see your point though, but that perspective GIVES me writers block. We're all different I guess.

Consider it training or practice. You don't learn to play Liszt on piano, by waiting till you feel like playing it. You don't make the majors by not playing baseball every day. Practice, practice, practice. If there is greatness in you, it will leak out..... heh

Cheers,

bp
No 'argumentative' detected, friend. I quite agree. The best way to get better is by doing, but past a point, you can probably go too far and require a little break, especially when you're starting to get stressed about the 'lack' of creativity. Having said that, stress and pressure is what some people crave in order to produce their best work.

You raise a great point: You're being creative even if what you're writing is awful. The only way is up.
You are creating (Being creative) by just doing.

I think what discourages a lot of people is that what they're writing isn't 'hit' quality. Of course it isn't going to be great every time and that's really what I meant; You can't sit down and expect your best work each time and every time. If it were that simple then almost everybody would have album after album of faultless material.
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