How to get over producer’s writing block

We’ve all been there. You sit down at your PC, you light up your keyboard, you load up your plugins and stretch out your fingers… but nothing comes.

When you’re finding inspiration hard to come by, follow these tips and hopefully you’ll be back on track to producing better than ever in no time.

Produce to improve, not conclude

Instead of going into your DAW with the mindset of finishing a project in progress or starting one from scratch, produce with the aim to practice and improve. It’ll take away your own niggling pressure to complete a track and instead open your musical possibilities and directions within your DAW without stress. You’ll have a finished track and have furthered your craft and skill before you know it.

Removing a common interest

One of my favourite producers, Bonobo, uses this interesting technique when writing his complex and incredibly layered songs:

“I just build up layers and layers and layers, and then remove the common element that was there to start with. Then you’ve got these two sort of disparate sounds that originally had nothing to do with each other but after you remove the common framework it makes sense in a weird and wonderful way.” – https://www.ableton.com/en/blog/bonobo-path-to-migration/

You can use this technique to write new, related melodies that you can use in evolving sections of your songs. Try writing a ‘foundation’ melody, writing 2 melodies that accompany and compliment the first, and then delete the first ‘foundation’ melody; the common interest.

Write to the moving image

If you’re struggling to find any inspiration, then choose your favourite advert, music video or short film clip, mute it, and try writing along to it. This will change up your familiar and conventional song structures, dynamic changes and preferred pre-set sounds. The moving image will introduce new imagery, feelings and atmospheres into your track that you may not have come up with on your own.

Apply limitations to yourself

Applying limitations into my workflow and my DAW has enabled me to produce some of my best work. Think of restrictions that you’re not allowed to break, such as:

  • Only using plug-ins within your DAW.
  • Produce a whole track using only vocal samples.
  • Produce entirely off grid/without quantising.

Producers can easily be overwhelmed with the number of plug-ins, tools and DAWs available to them. Introducing restraints into your workflow will increase your comprehension and appreciation of the tools and techniques you choose to use.

Remove any conventions

Don’t restrict yourself to any conventions. Opening your DAW with the aim of writing and producing a specific genre risks you shutting down any musical ideas you have that don’t conform. Cross pollination of genres has led to the creation some incredibly beautiful and innovative music. Try using using samples from genres you never would have thought of blending with your own style and creating something new, after all, if it sounds good then go with it.

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