Music Making Is Problem Solving
Every once and a while the excitement to launch into a session fully inspired, fully motivated, literally can’t-get-into-it-soon-enough hits me, and it’s amazing. Seriously, in my experience there really isn’t anything that gets me pumped like that because when you know your idea is that good, and everything seems to come together perfectly, you know it’s going to be big. It’s different this time. So, you get started, loading the drum kit, mapping out the midi, tweaking the saturation.. soooo gooood….. then, your Facebook beeps, the insurance guy calls, your plugin freezes, and before you know it you’ve completely lost the groove, and the dream is over before it started. Music making requires endless problem-solving.
Why is inspiration so quick to fade out? Why are there so many obstacles in the way? Does sitting down to make music always have to be this difficult? If you can relate to the experience I painted above you have tasted the sourness of the scapegoat in music.
There will always be a need to solve problems and cut through obstacles, both unexpected and predictable. Yet for better or worse, they come part and parcel with making music. Questions and distractions… Instead of fighting them, we need to minimize their effect on us, and as much as possible reduce the chance of distractions from happening altogether.
Looking back at nearly 100% of any consultations and coaching I do with people, I find there are four main ‘problem’ areas which seem to rotate and steal our attention. While there will always be some form of distraction, if we work to minimize these four main problems we’ll be in much better shape to stay on track during our next session.
We’re talking about a creative solutions to common solving problems.
Problem one: How and where do you get inspiration? I believe that there is a special energy that comes to us when she knows we’re committed to her. When I say her, I mean the work. Professional runners say that the hardest part about running a marathon is simply getting the motivation to put on their shoes, and leave the house. Boom. Just show up and get started – load up your daw, and start making noise, you’ll soon get excited and find something cool to work towards. One of the most important and simple approaches to music production, which I always recommend, is simply making music when you feel great. I’ve read several articles about the importance of rituals – where you design and carry out a pattern that makes you happy inside and out, and within that zone, your mind will enter a very positive space, which is super important when we demand creativity and imagination.
Problem Two: How can I know enough about music production to be a one-man band?
It’s impossible to know everything, and you don’t need to. What you really want to know are the ins and outs of your daw, and instruments you use. If you’ve been buying all the latest synths and each one of them is different, it’s going to take quite some time to know them all 100%, whereas if you are using one or two instruments, read the manuals and learn everything you can about JUST those two synths – you’ll be much quicker to make and achieve the sounds you want by knowing less (less instruments to learn), and focusing more (mastering the ones you use).
Less is more. I watched a video interview of one producer who’s had several track placements with Kendrick Lamar ~ the dude is 18, and records everything into Garage Band on his iPhone. He has a guitar and a phone. That’s it, and he’s making huge strides with his work, even with the most basic equipment.
Find a way to get engaged. Ask yourself what part of music production makes you forget about time, food, and everything else? This is a space where you’re in the zone, fully committed, and nothing else matters. Embrace this process and be aware of when this happens, you may not reach this level of focus and results during other steps along the way. For some, this state will only come to them when Dj’ing, and for others, it will come while locked in a mixdown, etc.. know where you’ll find your flow.
Problem Three: How can I commit to a direction in my music?
While there is no straight answer for this, I’ll simplify things to the belief that – you have multiple options, and don’t have to commit to only one. Record both ideas, and use the ‘save-as’ feature, allowing you to save a second version of the song to work on, and later decide which direction you’ll be happy with.
And lastly Problem Four: What will the afterlife of my song be?
No one can see into the future, so it’s impossible to know. I don’t believe it’s a productive use of your time to dream about what could be one day… without finishing your song, it will stay living on you hard drive forever, which is not what you want. What is important right now is to focus on the important things here:
Making music, Finishing projects, promoting your work, networking with other producers.
(for tips on how to promote yourself as an artist in a way that is personal to you, check this post)
To wrap things up, problem-solving can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. While a study suggested that in front of anxiety, one of the best things to do is to take a 2 day break, although I’d encourage you to take a week off to start with.
In an excellent psychology related article I read that when one is faced with a challenge, it’s critical to understand exactly what you’re being tested with – that is, you need to know what is the real problem. To know and understand what the problem is you must be able to explain to someone else with clarity, with a clear description. Understand the problem, and understand the options available to you. I read that negotiators who talk to terrorists holding hostages will eliminate many options down to only two in an effort to achieve a quick, yet satisfying resolution. Reduce your options to get moving quickly. Making a decision in haste can also have a negative effect, so don’t feel the need to always make a decision right away – give your self time away from the problem, and trust your brain’s ability to understand that in the background, beneath the surface, at some point a creative solution will emerge, often when least expected.
In the end, to win more, to score more, to get through to the finish line more often, you need to be as creative in finding solutions to problems as you are in every other area of your productions. Set a up a system where you minimize the chance for distractions to happen.
(quick tip– every mac has an app called Automator, where you can assign a chain of commands for whatever you wish to do. Check this video to setup a quick way to close all programs, turn off wifi, launch Live, and kick-start your session fast.
Cheers Guys JP
SEE ALSO : Checklist to see if my song is finished
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