Anyone who creates knows how amazing it feels when that initial spark catches fire. Whether it’s from an outpouring of self expression or a productive streak of in-the-moment focus, an experiment gone perfectly right or a happy accident with surprising results – the adrenaline that builds as each element emerges is a rush like no other.
It’s then that things get a bit trickier. Until it’s finished, this piece is in a fragile state of almost-existing: huge potential, but can vanish if you don’t finish it right. And in those shaping and finishing stages, it’s easy to lose perspective and start to do your own head in.
So, how to balance creativity with the objectivity required to carefully craft a finished piece?
We asked a few tips from our team of producers and trainers, here’s some of what they’ve learned works for them:
When I’m stuck on a track I usually try to step back from it for a little while and work on something different. It feels like a waste of time to force something when it’s not making me feel good. If I don’t have the luxury of time though, sometimes I like to bounce an idea and listen to it in iTunes while I sit back from the computer and watch something else – kind of like an AMV.
I’m a very visual person, so I find that listening to the track while looking at something other than my DAW helps me to imagine that I’m an ‘average listener’ and not the producer. From there I can more easily make notes on what to do next.
I’m mostly working on club music and for me rarely any track that needs lots of work to finish will end up being a good one. Most of my best tracks were quick to finish. If I’m wrestling with a song, I take a break for a bit from it to gain a new perspective. Then I just duplicate all the parts excessively and chisel things away as quickly as I can to find new shapes and sections to work with.
If I hit that wall it can help me to get out of my own track for a moment.
I’ll take a break and listen to a track I’ve been really into, think about which particular elements I’m drawn to or how it’s structured – to get some refreshed insight into how it’s put together, or little things to try out that might take mine into a different direction.
I think always having a bit of space is good – sometimes even a few weeks away from a track after trying different things and getting nowhere is all you need.
MADE IN PARIS
I like to go for a long walk and stream new music as well as tracks I’ve been loving playing out. Also some feedback from trusted fellow producers can get you past an area you’re stuck on.
Let it Go! Feeling OK with not finishing everything is good. I’m comfortable scrapping ideas rather than pushing through, there’s no point beating your head against a wall when there’s plenty of new music waiting to be written. If I find myself struggling to finish something I often think that’s a sign that an idea that might not be that good anyway.
Getting more sensory input can really help me. It doesn’t have to be as extravagant as a walk in nature – I usually go down a youtube rabbit hole until my brain resets or I get an intuitive idea.
When I get stuck on a track of my own I pretend I’m remixing someone else’s song and it detaches me from it – it gets me out of my head and seems to always work.
I think if I spend too much time on an idea I tend to smother my creativity. I think it’s helpful to try and detach from the piece for a moment and look at it objectively. What am I trying to do here? What’s the function of this track etc? As sterile as this sounds, sometimes answering these types of thoughts helps me become a lot more free with it.
If I’m really stuck on a mix and it’s not working I’ll save a version and completely re-balance the track – muting all elements then bringing them in one by one – de-activating or adding track processing as I go.