Written by: Kyle Novak
You’ve no doubt heard interviews and sound-bytes about prominent creatives waxing poetic about their unique journeys halfway around the world unearthing inspiration for their next project.
Let’s face it, the majority of us can’t or wouldn’t want to just drop everything we’re doing to travel.
It’s important to know this:
You don’t need to embark on an epic trip, spend loads of money, and change time zones for inspiration in your life, musical or otherwise!
(To be perfectly clear, this is not in any way meant to lessen anyone’s experiences and I’m not advocating that you should always avoid travelling out of your comfort zone. You have the freedom to do what you like, so if it works for you to be spontaneous and push your boundaries then by all means go for it!)
I just want to dispel a false assumption that you can’t be inspired unless you undergo some sort of overly romanticized experience. It should also be clarified that doing so isn’t going to 100% guarantee some sort of magical “Aha!” moment of convenient creative energy that will be ready and waiting for you the moment you want to write a song.
Inspiration really comes down to getting into the right frame of mind, and sometimes getting to that point requires a bit of coaxing. It’s there to be found in and around your community. A scenic walkway, a local art gallery, a park or nature reserve, hundreds of places that are just waiting to be discovered right in your area. It can be found after reflecting on gatherings with friends and family. Everybody has places where all things creative come into focus.
Many highly productive and successful musicians, authors, and visual artists will settle in, do something as simple as setting a timer, and just dive right into work until the timer goes off. Claiming you absolutely need one of these massive trips for inspiration shouldn’t be an excuse to avoid writing the music you are truly capable of.
- Eliminate distractions
It’s incredibly easy to be drawn into a buzzsaw of disturbances, falling into a cycle of watching episode after episode of a popular TV show or browsing the internet and social media for hours before realizing how much time has passed. Unplugging from the smartphone or tablet can be a liberating force, freeing you from distraction and allowing your creative thoughts to emerge. For many, the process can be further inspired by literally putting pen to paper in the form of sketches and outlines in a notebook or journal. A portable handheld recorder is a great distraction-free technological tool for quickly taking down your thoughts, ideas for lyrics, or singing little melodic snippets whenever an idea begins to take shape.
- Learn to read music and study music theory
Knowing how to read music and learning the basics of music theory will ultimately make writing your own music a much easier undertaking. Nearly all of today’s music software requires you to know the layout of a piano in order to maximize every feature. So what if you don’t have any formal music training or are in need of a serious refresher? AMS offers a number of great books that can teach you to read music and learn the tools to compose and arrange your music for different instruments. Look into theory classes at a nearby college, or enroll online Reading music is just like learning a new language. The most exciting thing about this particular one is that it’s universal and used by cultures around the globe.
- Build the right personal recording space with gear and resources from AMS
A very basic recording setup in a bedroom, media room, or basement is all you need to get started. AMS has a wide number of very price-friendly and easy-to-use recording interfaces and bundled software for your computer, tablet, or smartphone. After connecting an interface to your device through a USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt cable, you can plug your instruments (keyboards, guitar, bass) or microphones directly into the interface and easily record first drafts of your work. The visual layout of recording software allows you clearly visualize and edit sections of your song accordingly. Be sure to check out our Buyer’s Guides for more detailed information on gear for your specific needs.
- Make time to write and experiment with different processes
There is no template or specific order you need to follow when composing a song. Some people will think of lyric ideas or an underlying message to lay the groundwork before writing melodies and chords. Others choose to work in a different order, experimenting with the musical elements first and crafting lyrics later. A song can be completely improvised from stream-of-thought and doesn’t need to be based on a particular message or have any lyrics. Even if you music is drawn from other sources, our unique thoughts and compositional methods are what make our music truly our own. So, set aside time to write, not every session is going to yield something permanent, but it’s an important part of the process.
- We’re all different and have our stories to tell
Everyone’s mindset is different and no two sets of personal circumstances are the same. Some of us are box-checkers with routine to-do lists that tackle tasks with a laser-like focus. Others are daydreamers and multitaskers who look at jobs from every possible angle, sometimes with breaks in-between. There will be bouts of frustration, anxiety, and self-doubt that are completely normal and unfortunately, it’s not all peaceful, positive, uplifting events in life that inspire us – negative emotions such as anger, sadness, and frustration end up playing a role in defining our voices as well. Every aspect of ourselves can guide the creative process and even if you’re unable to write music at this very moment, don’t stop thinking about what you hope to write about, and most importantly, keep coming back and make time for your writing again and again.