With a new month comes a new focus, and this month we’re concentrating on Inspiration and Creativity! There’s a million different reasons I could go into, to explain why this is so important to concentrate on throughout your career, but my focus is how to help you through the times when you might have writer block, or you're demotivated, or similar.
So to get us underway, today I want to help you with my 4 main ways I find creativity when I feel like I’ve exhausted all of my resources, in the hopes it’ll help you if and when you find yourselves feeling the same.
Let’s dive in!
I think this is often the one people think of most in order to spark more out of yourself in a session, but it’s genuinely a great way to feel motivated again. I think it’s no secret that new gear, especially that which you’ve had your eye on for a while, can make you feel more inspired and breathe new life into your playing and writing. However, as much as a new microphone, guitar, or similar might do this, I find I don’t always have the funds for such big purchases to take place over and over again for months on end - plus, I think I’d run out of room here in the studio!
But there are ways you can still do this, but more in the form of libraries and software that might do the same. I know that my plugin subscriptions always get me excited and looking forward to new concepts and tools to work with, and find myself feeling particularly inspired and creative when I have a new channelstrip, EQ or compressor to work with. But I think once you get used to writing with sound, it’s common to start to feel too familiar and fall into a certain way of working with that sound; so this is where sample libraries can really help to keep the creative flow going.
My more recent addition when feeling like my writing was stale, was the Spitfire Audio: Olafur Arnalds Evolutions sample library which contains some incredible patterns, instrumental layers, and more from the ways you can play around with it. But of all the things that this library can do, the best feature is the ability to randomize the patterns and settings so you constantly find yourself discovering new, and unexplored ways to write and create from. Another really great tool that you may even have at your disposal without knowing, is a sequencer within a synth that likely has sat unused, however sequencers will give you a similar feeling to what the library from Olafur has.
Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evolutions is a wonderful tool to constantly inspire new ideas in every session - you'll be surprised at just how much these libraries can help when staying creative.
Old Dog, New Techniques
Something I found early on in my career to help me stay creative and motivated was by constantly trying to teach myself new ways to explore the realms of what's possible in recording. I wasn’t able to record drums as I had wanted to but that was simply due to the space I was without, but I did have the ability to work with more than one microphone, and in fact a pair of matched microphones; so naturally I started to wonder what was possible in the aspect of stereo recording.
Thanks to my curiosity early on, when I found myself with more room, a drumkit and a great drummer, I already had all the knowledge at my disposal to get a great sound; but it wasn’t so easy to learn for me. Due to both a lack of viable sources to work and learn from, and the only alternative being a plethora of forums with a lot of people preaching their views and arguing with anything that they deemed to be false information, I ended up just being confused and found it extremely hard to decipher what was indeed worth learning from.
Luckily, now there’s a bunch of places you can learn from, which we’ve just covered in our last months focus on growth - but we also have some ways for you to learn straight from us at JZ with a range of topics I’ve written about in this blog, and indeed eBooks you might’ve missed as well! You can find one of my favorite eBooks I’ve written, describing 7 Stereo Recording Techniques right here, which should hopefully save you from trouncing the internet and poorly moderated forums and leave you with all the knowledge you need to get started on learning new creative ways to work in your next session, and continue to improve your recordings in general at the same time!
Change Up Your Environment
This seems obvious, yet for a lot of us our studios can become quite hard to move around due to fixed positions we rely upon our desk, speakers, and acoustic treatment needing to reside in so we can listen in the best way within our environment. But this doesn’t mean you can’t change your environment in other ways; lights, new smells such as oil diffusers or candles, and more can help freshen up the space you spend most of your time in and have definitely helped me much more than I would’ve expected.
Another really important thing to do is simply get out of the room when I feel like you’re exhausting your creative ability. A simple walk, moving to another part of the house or into a different room to let your mind rest and recuperate within sessions can do wonders, allowing you to reset your mind and switch off for a second.
I often walk for a while in the morning to make sure I feel fresh, followed by a clean up of my overall environment so I feel like my mind is less cluttered. It might sound like a small set of tasks, but I’ve found that instilling this routine allows me to remind myself to get up and walk when I need to during a long session of recording or writing and it genuinely does help you reset and rethink the immediate problems stopping you from finding the spark with it’s missing - try it next time, and you’ll see what I mean!
Challenge Your Musical Tastes
One of my most recent discoveries was that, despite already having a rather expanded and varied taste in music, I was sticking to a large group of bands that I had previously found over the years which I relied upon for a lot of my inspiration and writing for both my own project and bands I was working with. After a while of listening to the same bands, I had found myself recycling the same sort of patterns in my ideas and of course, this ended up in less satisfaction in my finished pieces, and less of my ideas working in the studio with other artists which led to further disenchantment with my own ideas and a little less self-esteem if I’m completely honest with myself.
So, there seemed to be only one thing logically left to do - find new music. But this was easier said than done as if you listen to the same sort of things for a long time, you find it harder to get into new bands and artists naturally, due to not knowing what to expect. So I then went a step further and created a challenge for myself: find a range of new bands from genres I typically don’t listen to, and listen through to at least 5 pieces of their work and see if there’s anything I found inspiring.
And inevitably, I found a menagerie of wonderful new music! A few of my favorites if you too are looking to challenge your musical tastes, are Mammal Hands (a jazz trio), Olafur Arnalds (as already mentioned, a wonderful film and classical composer), Lubalin (contemporary hip hop and pop artist), and both Still Stayer and Pollen (both more technical and progressive metal/post-hardcore).
Mammal Hands playing live is a constant flurry of inspiration, I urge any of you who aren't aware of them already to take a listen!