We put together a set of tools for you to help defeat your arch-nemesis. Learn how to kickstart your tracks and beat the beat block!
Writer’s block, beat block, never-finished-a-single-song-at-all block – we’ve all been there.
The crippling frustration of starting up an empty project in your DAW, only to find yourself staring aimlessly at the screen can be tremendously discouraging.
But when you find yourself in that moment of despair, you can take the opportunity to actively work on bettering your chances for future success.
Here’s some key advice for you to break out of that mental prison, get past those frustrating moments, and, most importantly, have more fun making music.
Determine Your Goal
Determining your goal and getting to the root of why you’re doing what you love in the first place provides a sense of purpose that will guide you when you’re in doubt.
Examples of goals:
- Learning new techniques
- Developing your skills
- Bonding with other artists
- Practicing social skills
- Making money
- Impressing somebody
All of these intentions are perfectly valid, but it’s a good idea to take it a step deeper and get to the core of why it’s important to you. Be brutally honest with yourself and get as close to the truth as possible.
Chances are that if you make music because of an intrinsic value (like “because it makes me feel good”) you will last longer, experience fewer writer’s blocks, and generally lead a more fulfilling life.
Spend some time thinking about it and then write it down:
I make music to ________________, because ___________________.
Tip: Use a separate piece paper; don’t draw on your computer screen.
Get Inspiration From Elsewhere
Just staring harder at the screen is proven not to work. If you don’t have any motivation, or actively wait around for inspiration to strike, you will go nowhere.
We need inspiration. Inspiration motivates us, and motivation leads to action.
So sometimes, it’s much more worth it to take some time off, switch up the environment and give space for the inspo-genie to strike.
Discover new music, do something you love, learn something new, or why not try everything at the same time.
We can’t be certain when the genie will visit, but when it does, be sure to have a notepad and a way to record your voice on hand so you can capture the ideas that genie gently whispers in your ear.
If your laptop is close by, and Soundation is there ready to make these ideas real.
Come Up With a Theme
Coming up with a theme will help you paint a mental image of the end result and give you a sense of direction. Everything you do should serve this theme.
For example, let’s say we’re making a cowboy-themed song. What are the first three things you think of?
I hear the main elements clearly: banjo, harmonica, and a steady, fast-paced rhythm. By referring back to the bigger picture, any other sounds or details should come to you quite naturally.
Make It a Challenge
Psychologically related to the last point, making a challenge for yourself provides you with an expectation to live up to. Even if you don’t have a winner’s mentality, most people seem to thrive under a healthy dose of pressure.
Here are some examples of challenges you can make for yourself:
- Spend 30 minutes a day making music
- Make a full song in a day
- Make one loop a day for 30 days straight
- Damn it, even opening your music tool every day is a valid challenge
Remember that the challenge should serve as a motivator and not a measure of your self-worth. Don’t beat yourself up or stress out if you miss a day or two. Depending on how much time you can spare, starting small via baby steps may be a better idea until you develop the routine, resilience, and discipline to make one or several songs a day.
Routine practice is no different from physical exercise, your brain gets stronger with time.
Make it a Collaboration
You found a writing partner, and you’re both inspired. That’s a great first step. Sometimes it just clicks, and you’re able to sufficiently vibe off of each other.
But for an ultra-smooth workflow, it’s a good idea to determine your roles beforehand. For that, you need to know what motivates the other person, because we’re all different.
So have a conversation with your collab partner where you ask each other questions like:
- What part do you enjoy most about making music?
- What do you consider yourself best at?
- How much time should we spend on this session?
Depending on how many people are involved, your roles will look different. For example, Jamie might make drum patterns, while Sophie lays down keys and bass, while you focus on arrangement and transitions.
Set a Deadline
Without external expectations, take the chance to create some internal expectations. You can fabricate a motivational drive for yourself until you have the flow going all on its own.
Deadlines in a hobby environment are highly underrated. Once you have a clear goal with a specific project, set one. That’s the way to kickstart tracks and beat the beat block!
Even if you don’t always meet your deadlines, it’s better to aim high and land in the middle. You will thank yourself later.
Make a Checklist
When you’re far enough along in your process, good old-fashioned checklists are a great way to declutter your mind.
Write down everything that needs to be done, and check them off one by one.
You are on a good path to mastering your own mind and making great music! That’s how you kickstart your tracks and beat the beat block.
Here’s another great article with a scientific twist written by Ricard Magnusson.