It’s very easy to hit a wall where inspiration doesn’t come and it feels like you can’t write or create anymore – but there are ways out!
We’ve all been there: You have a day with nothing on, you think you’ll sit down and pick up your instrument or load up your DAW and start working on something new and just see what happens. Then nothing sounds right and eventually you give up feeling like you got nowhere.
Whether you’re just learning how to create music or you’re a veteran of writing and producing it can happen to us all!
Here are some tips that help me and others I’ve spoken to when we’restuck in a creative rut and find ourselves at a loss for inspiration.
Learn something new
Are you a lifelong pianist? If you’re looking for some inspiration, try playing the guitar. Oh, you’re a guitarist at heart? Well try doing some rhythm. You’re a multi-instrumentalist? Open up a DAW and try some digital production!
Whatever your forte, breaking out and learning something entirely new opens up a whole world of opportunities for you. You may have never picked up a keyboard before in your life but you can easily learn a couple chords in a day. The way they sound so differently to playing them on any other instrument may provide you the blueprint to start creating something new.
It’s refreshing having a new sound, even if you’re playing the exact same melody on a different instrument it can provide an entirely new feel.
Likewise if music production is your game, getting into physical instruments can broaden your horizons and potential massively when recording. Or even getting a brand new sample pack of sounds you would never normally think about using. You may not like, or you may find yourself creating music that sounds like nothing you’ve ever made before.
Connect with other passions
You likely have hobbies, talents, and pleasures beyond music which inspire you and bring you joy. Reconnecting with other passionate pleasures is a great way to find inspiration that you can bring into your playing.
Perhaps you’re a nature lover, going out and getting wild may give you the touch of green that sparks a creative fire in your head. Look at the number of songs inspired by birds, sitting in your garden or local park may provide an inspiring new melody. Maybe you love painting and getting your brushes out spurs you on an inventive drive that you can bring to your music.
Whatever loves you have beyond music, you want to make time for all of them to feel thoroughly fulfilled and other activities are a wonderful source of inspiration.
Experiment! Get weird with it
By and far the easiest way to lift myself out of a musical funk is to throw out the chords, forget the scales, get some weird sounds together and just have fun with music.
Try putting your fingers where you wouldn’t normally on your instrument. Load up a strange sample or a bizarre synth sound and start building some weirdness.
Getting rid of the rule book or the sounds you’re used to is a fantastic way to discover a new sound that catches the ear when it comes out. Of course it may well sound terrible but the point is that you’re having fun by not taking it seriously!
It’s very easy to get stuck in a creative rut because we take music too seriously and have a certain set of expectations of what we’re supposed to create. Going a bit wild sets the creative juices free and allows you to have fun without having the pressure of needing to write something.
I often find that breaking the restrictions of “trying” to create I will find a unique sound I want to work with or an interesting sequence that I can build on. Most importantly, I’m having fun playing!
Listen to other music – or don’t!
For most of us, listening to music is where a lot of inspiration comes from. Hearing a beautiful chord sequence can enliven the songwriter, an incredible lick can inspire the musician, even something as simple as a fat 303 kick can get the sparks lit up in a producer – it makes you want to create something that has that power and that feeling too!
Listening to music that you love is inspiring in many ways. It can make us think about the way songs are structured, about how the layers of music are combined together, how certain sounds are created, about the themes and conventions that make the blueprint of certain styles. It’s the best way to learn by example.
On the other hand, sometimes listening to other people’s music can invade our creativity. We get stuck with a song in our head and as we try to create we can’t escape the sounds of other music. I’ve certainly been there where I’m playing something out and realise I’ve just been recreating a song I’ve listened to a lot.
So sometimes it’s good to take a step back from other people’s music and immerse ourselves in our blank slates and let the music we hear in our heads come into fruition of its own volition.
Take a break
Too many creators expect their creativity to be on tap at any time but honestly; it sadly isn’t. Creativity can come in waves and you can certainly drain yourself of inspiration by working too hard.
Trying to force some creation is only going to hurt your motivation as you feel increasingly exasperated by not being able to bring anything to the table.
Taking a break from music making is one of the greatest things you can do to come back with a refreshed mind and a new-found spirit to your instruments and equipment. Kit-Kat’s were on to something universally valuable with their marketing.
Bonus video for lyricists
Andrew Huang has some creative advice for getting words down specifically.