Up until very recently, I had gone through a period where I was struggling to compose new music. Every time I sat down to come up with new ideas, I struggled to take them anywhere and I eventually lost interest. I think the problem was that I have composed and released so much music in the past, I had started to put pressure on myself. I felt like I really wanted to make great music. But that was the problem: I was focusing far too much on the end result I wanted to achieve.
Last weekend I had something of an epiphany. I decided that instead of trying to compose whole pieces of music, I would just have fun and get any good ideas down. I decided to relieve myself of the pressure of having to create a finished piece of music. I started playing around with sounds and started saving separate ideas and saving them with numerical file names consisting of the date followed by an additional number.
Very quickly, in the space of one day, I created 7 different musical ideas. You see, now it didn’t matter whether one idea fitted with another idea to create a piece of music. It didn’t matter whether an idea could be connected to anything else at that moment to make anything bigger. It didn’t even matter whether an idea would ever be part of a finished piece of music. All that mattered was having fun.
Of course, later that weekend I also finally got the knobs on my Akai MPK Mini MKII to start working with Propellerhead Reason. So I suddenly started having some great fun adjusting synth parameters like filter cutoff and resonance. I had wanted to do this for ages. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why I bought the MPK Mini MKII in the first place: to be able to control synth parameters in real-time. It’s bizarre that it took me so long to figure out how to make it work like that.
But anyway, back to my original point. It just goes to show that being too focused on the end result can be the very thing that stifles creativity. I think this is one great reason why doing music just for fun is better than trying to do it professionally. If you do it professionally you will always be trying to get some kind of end result.
I remember when I saw the film Imagine, about John Lennon’s life. There was one period in his life, sometime around the mid-70s I think, when he gave up making music for a while. Then one day, while on a nice vacation with his family, he picked up his guitar again. Suddenly, because he was no longer trying to write songs, he found it really easy. He wrote loads of songs precisely because he was putting no pressure on himself to try to write songs.
So anyway, now I have a bunch of unfinished ideas. Will they all make it into finished pieces of music? Probably not. Will any of them make it into finished pieces of music? I don’t know. But the main thing is, I really enjoyed myself, and that’s the entire reason I ever started making music in the first place anyway.
With any form of creativity you do for fun, it’s best to focus on the process and keep it fun. Forget about trying to make a finished product, and just enjoy doing it.
I think we need to trust that if the ideas become good enough, they will naturally form into finished pieces. Sometimes an idea just grabs you and takes you over. That’s the state you want to be in when you are finishing a piece of music. Not a false state where you are trying really hard to make it work.
What do you think? Why not let me know in the comments section below. I would love to hear your thoughts about this.
All the best,