Does this happen to you? You start a project with an idea and a direction, “I’m going to make a techno track”, you fire up a drum machine, get a baseline going, start jamming, looking for sounds, creating a groove, and an hour later you listen back to an 8 bar loop that sounds totally different than what you set out to make? “My music doesn’t sound like me”. Yeah, it happens to a lot of people, and it can be really frustrating to make music that sounds totally alien to you.
There is a special kind of disappointment that comes with not being able to make the kind of music you want to create. Many producers I’ve worked with talk about starting a project with one direction in mind but as the track evolves they find the sounds they’ve chosen and feel of the song completely opposite to their original direction.
Why does this keep happening? What is going on here?
From experiencing this myself, I understand the confusion. I want to suggest looking at this situation from another perspective, which I believe will be much more positive, and productive for you as a producer. It’s all about context.
Firstly, our moods and our thoughts are always changing. We are dynamic, and there are multiple versions of us. What I mean is, you are one person when driving with very loud music on, there is one while enjoying music at a party, there is another you while listening to music made for earphones. There is a big difference between the person you are enjoying music and the person you are when making music. Both matter, both are ok.
Tip– as soon as you start a project, save it right away with a name that describes the genre or feel of the song you want to create. A name as straightforward as “techno …. ” or “house ….” is easy enough.
It’s helpful to start your productions with a clear focus and intent in mind – otherwise, it’s quite easy to drift off. That being said, my personal opinion is that drifting is a good thing, and goes hand in hand with being in the moment, and more in touch with the YOU who is in the studio in that moment.
If you are truly in touch with your emotions or follow the sounds you are excited by, drifting off into other directions is going to happen. It’s simply a process of discovery.
The way I see music is similar to the birth of a strange, alien creature that has come out from nowhere. Even if the music you’ve created sounds completely foreign to you, it’s important to be patient with the material as later in the production or mixing phases, you learn to gently tame something raw and undeveloped into an evolved creature with a unique personality. If your music sounds a little different than what you set out to do, I believe that’s a good thing.
If you’ve been reading my posts over time, you’ll know I strongly encourage The Bonsai Method, and the habit of not spending too much time on any one track. Working quickly and finishing fast will significantly sharpen up your production skills, and you’ll be a much more prolific producer for it. You want your sounds to be a little raw, out of control, and strange. These sounds are the unsculpted gems you can only do when you stop censoring yourself. This is the stuff you are striving for.
Embrace unexpected results, and embrace change.
Imagine the number of ideas you’ll have to work with if you start 20 tracks from scratch as opposed to trying to polish one song for 20 hours. Spending too much time on one track will often take away from the rawness of your initial recording. This liveliness is precisely the sound that made us excited in the first place, and it’s important to embrace these unexpected noises, rhythms, and grooves. Taking away all the rough charm of your material could be compared to photoshopping a beautiful and natural adult woman’s body into the thinness of a child to achive some measure of perfection. Here are a few essential tips to starting your tracks off right ~
Your work is whatever you want it to be.
As a people, we are always evolving, and our tastes in music will evolve as well. It’s ideal for your music to sound alien to you and progress yet understand that your progression may happen in an order you can’t predict. Through time and work, who you really are as a musician will begin to take shape.
Hearing the music you’ve made in the past is like looking at pictures of yourself from another time. It leaves a stamp. Find the photos of yourself from the past and pay attention to the ones you love. They might be aesthetically good, but I’ll bet that your favorite images will be the ones that recall a particular moment in your life. See it with raw, original sounds you find. The ones that are bold are the sounds that will stand out through years and perhaps bring you unexpected attention.
Tip: Bounce a version of your track before saving and closing your project. Compare how it evolves. Share it to people who know you. See what freak them…
As always let me know if you have any suggestions or questions about this post and leave a comment below and tell me what projects you are working on right now.