Getting started… It’s often one of the hardest parts of making music. And it’s not limited to music. All forms of creativity rely on your going from nothing to something.
When inspiration isn’t hitting you it’s too easy to say: “I’m not feeling inspired today.” and leave it at that. But the key to making music you feel proud of is starting a beat.
So we at Producer Confidential want to give you five tips and tricks to get your creative juices flowing, and getting you started making music.
If you don’t already, now is the time to get organized. Set up a template DAW with all the things you use most often. If you always send basses to one bus and drums to another, create a template with those busses.
Do you always use the same reverb and compression chain? Add them to your template. Likewise with your vocal and master channels. Add all the things you use often and so you don’t have to spend any time thinking, or getting lost in bus routing when you could be creating.
The same goes for your samples. If you’ve been producing for a while chances are you’ve got a lot of samples. And there are only two ways to organize samples on a computer. They can either be a hot mess or beautifully streamlined.
It doesn’t matter how you chose to organize them as long as you can find what you need when you need it. I group mine as DRUM, BASS, LEADS, and SFX, and then break them down inside there. so for DRUMS, the next layer down has KICK, SNARE, TOMS, HATS, CYMBALS, PERCUSSION, and LOOPS. So if I’m working on something and I need a kick or a snare I can find some options right away. I also keep my favorite samples in a favorites folder, so I can find that resonant snare I love without too much digging.
Spend half a day organizing your project templates and samples folder once. It’ll make your life easier and give you fewer excuses for not starting your next killer track.
Start somewhere new
The majority of musical styles have a few common elements. Drums, bass, and leads/vocals. If you always start your tracks with a bass line, maybe try starting with a lead instead. Or if you always start with your lead then try starting with your drum sounds instead. This will get you thinking about music differently and could send you in a different direction than you might normally follow.
Try out new sounds or samples. A resonant snare that would normally clash with a lead could be a centerpiece of your track if you start with your drums first. Likewise, you might make your drums much more intricate if you’re writing them in isolation. But if you have to fit them with an already complex lead line, you’re going to stick with four on the floor.
Same, if you normally start with some pristine-sounding drums which make up the center of your track, why not try to write a lead part on its own. Then spend time harmonizing it and dialing in the sound design. Starting from different parts of the track can help you think about the music differently, and could help you to make something new and exciting. At the very least you’ll get to deep dive into one element and bring those skills into your next track.
If you’re starting with chords this Producer Confidential music theory refresher will get you started: Chord Progression Hacks: A Music Theory Crash Course
Only one sample
Pick a sample or melody you feel inspired by. Whether it’s one from the Producer Confidential Production Stacks or something from your existing sample collection. Take one sample, and try to build a full track from it Stavinsky once said: “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.”
Dramatic? Sure, but he’s not wrong. If you only have a limited palette to work with you have to get creative about how you use it. So by taking one sample that inspires you and making everything from it. The drums, the leads, the bass, and all the ear candy you want to sprinkle on top. You’ll force yourself to think outside the box.
If you’ve never done this before you’ll have to work with the material in a new way. Speed it up, slow it down. Change the pitch. Chop up tiny details to use as drums and percussion. And resample any sustained notes to create something you can play to create bass and lead lines. Reverse it, and slam it through every plugin you have available.
You’ll be surprised at all the creative ways you can use one sample. And it will add a lot of tools to your creative arsenal.
Get outside what you normally make. You can do this in several different ways, but a straightforward one is to remix one of your existing tracks or elements of a track and make something in a different genre. That way you’re not starting from scratch, and you can focus on learning the conventions of the genre instead of having to make everything from scratch.
This is not going to work so well for all genres. Genres short on bass or lead lines are going to be harder to move around. So if you normally make techno or ambient music you might struggle a bit. But you can still try to take elements of your tracks and use them to make elements for a hip hop beat, or something to make a pop crowd sing along.
If you normally make house, try taking the melody or chord progression and slowing it down, and adding some hip hop flair. You might surprise yourself and discover a new creative outlet. Or it will help you to think about the music you already make in a new way.
Check our article on arranging EDM, hip-hop, and R&B for some tips on those genres.
Pick up new tools
How do you normally start a track? On a keyboard? A drum pad? A mouse? Try something different. Nowhere are we more influenced when making music than by the tools we use. So if you’ve always worked in the computer maybe now’s the time for a change –or vice versa.
You don’t have to do something as drastic as learning to play an instrument. Even something as simple as using a free music app. I’ve started a few tracks on Figure. Music I never would have gotten to if I hadn’t changed up how I was working.
You can also sing the lines into your DAW and then turn them into midi later. No singing skills necessary. Or maybe take a portable recorder, or even your phone and go out looking for sounds in your environment. New sound sources and ways of working could help spark your creative imagination and help you take your music in a different direction.
Getting yourself out of a creative rut is all about sparking your imagination by trying something new.These tips have been created to help you to think differently about music, but the key is to have fun with it. You might make your next dancefloor filler, but even if you don’t you should have had fun and learned something along the way. And the process of making great tracks is all about learning.
Want some new samples that will definitely spark your creativity? Check out the Producer Confidential Production Stacks. They’re packed with samples sure to get your creative juices flowing.
Do you struggle with finishing instead of starting a beat? We’ve got you covered. Check out our three part series on Finishing your tracks:
- How to Finish your F*cking Tracks: Part 1 the creative bit
- How to Finish your F*cking Tracks: Part 2 the technical bit
- How to Finish your F*cking Tracks: Part 3 other tricks
Or check out our article on the best tool for making beats free: