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Subject: Dealing with writer's block


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Original Message 1/25             16-Mar-00  @  10:35 AM   -   Dealing with writer's block

rak3889

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Ok so I've got some time set aside to work on tunes. I've got my gear set-up the way i like it. Now lets lay down a nice simple bass line or drum pattern to get things started. As I start to program a certain feeling begins to overwhelm me: "Nothing is coming. This is all crap!"

How do you guys deal with this? Since I'm relatively a newbie it's frustrating. Half the time I can't come up with something I feel "worthy" of even saving, and the other half of the time I come back like a day later, listen to it and go "Shit! this is crap!" It's the most frustrating thing. Am I being too critical? Should I just lay down a track i'm not overly happy with just to get the experience? help me out here plz.
Thanks,
Rob
(I keep my drum machine, IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!)



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Message 2/25             16-Mar-00  @  10:45 AM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

uvc

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The most obvious thing is if your feeling like that take a break etc, do something totally different. I write my music bit by bit, so if all i come with for tune is a bass line and nothing else, well thats cool because overtime i'll finish the tune takes about 12-15 month time period. There is nothing wrong with being critical with your music, again just let it grow - give it time. Eventually you will find that right 'zone' to write music.



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Message 3/25             16-Mar-00  @  10:49 AM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

rak3889

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But I even have trouble at times just writing a simple bass line. I don't know if i'm too critical of what I'm playing. It's weird, if i have a friend over and they play something for some reason it sounds like 100X better than what I have. Again, I don't know if that's just me being critical. Even when I do like something I write I sometimes delete it like a week later when I come back and am like "Ugh, this sux".



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Message 4/25             16-Mar-00  @  11:02 AM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

R-Tek

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agree with UVC. Also, make sure your studio is setup so that your comfortable with everything.
I Msuffer from writers block all the time, ideas just don`t flow when u try and force yerself 2 have an idea, whereas great ideas always pop into my head while I`m at work or on the train.. My way round this was 2 buy a cheap dictaphone 4 like 30 squids and hum any idea I get into it......only problem is, I`ve got too many ideas now (with more coming all the time) and not enuff time 2 translate them into music. Still, its a nice situation 2 b in - u go into the studio knowing exactly what yer gonna do and u don`t get all frustrated.



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Message 5/25             16-Mar-00  @  11:43 AM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

Caruso

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Music is like food. My mannicotis were too cooked and the sauce missed some basil, but still everybody asked for a second serving. go figure...



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Message 6/25             16-Mar-00  @  12:35 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

mikec

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Sometimes I have a deadline which means that I'm simply not allowed the time take a break and wait for something good to come out of me.

Admittedly, sometimes I sit there for hours deleting everything I do, but in the end I get so pissed off with it or have so little time left that I just put down the next thing that comes into my head, and don't touch it at all. I just keep on adding stuff in the usual way and eventually it all turns out okay.

Recently, I had to do a platform game type thing. Everything I did was complete arse. I was trying to do nice tunes with real instrumentation (which I've done before), but it all came out like General MIDI rubbish. So I deleted everything and used 100% synth sounds (apart from the snare drum and hihats). Everything worked out fine (apart from the mix which was a complete nightmare because the lead sound was really quiet but peaking like a madman).

So there's another tip - change your instrumentation. If you are always using a 303 sound then try an acoustic bass sound or something.

MikeC



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Message 7/25             16-Mar-00  @  12:41 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

marcphillipps

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One thing I'd recommend is never deleting anything, I've had bits and pieces sitting around for ages that I hated but stick them in the right context and it all seems to work. Another thing that'll get in your way is dedicated writing time, this just puts the pressure on you to produce, let it flow and it'll come :o) . . . Marc.



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Message 8/25             16-Mar-00  @  01:22 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

99devils

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I tend to just shit things out. If nothing's coming, save whatever you have and go on to the next thing. Every day or so, come back to it and try to get a little more out of it. Sometimes all it takes is a tweak here, or a different sound, or maybe a different tempo or beat and then the ideas start flowing so fast you can't keep up.

BTW - I have about a 60-80% throwaway rate... So if you've written 10 things and you think 8 of them suck, then you're not doing any worse than me, or a lot of other people either!

I personally save all those things that suck (on casette, seqences, whatever). Sometimes you can listen to them a month later and think, hmmm that lead would make a great bridge in this other tune I'm working on...

Just don't give up. If nothing is really coming, then take a break.

-Craig



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Message 9/25             16-Mar-00  @  01:59 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

rak3889

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Hmm,
Craig the throwaway rate seems about where i'm at. hearing that makes me feel a tad better. thanks for all the advice from everyone so far.
rob



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Message 10/25             16-Mar-00  @  04:04 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

Luci077

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yes, Craig, you're right on. I'm in the process of finishing up a track I had "thrown away" a few months ago out of disgust for how it was turning out...dead, lifeless, forced...I listened to a shoddy tape recording of the thrown out version recently, and it got me all excited all over again. I'm taking the bits and pieces of audio of the original and reconstructing it the way it needs to sound...totally different, and not a direction I would have attempted when I first started on the idea! Will be posting soon.



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Message 11/25             16-Mar-00  @  05:01 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

johnny

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Yeah, I've gone back to old and forgotten tracks committed to minidisc (not that old then) as evaluation recordings.

The only problem is when you find and old, archived but unfinished track, realise how great it was and then try to find the f@*!ing MIDI files/samples/patches/FX you made it with!

Guess I'm not very organised, but even then just listening to old stuff can add oil to the music machine.

An interesting avenue to go down when you are at a geniune block is to try and recreate (OK, copy) some of your favourite artist's tracks. Doing this completely eliminates the 'I've got to come up with something!!!' urgency. You're under no pressure to create rhythms, harmonies, grooves and melodies - they've all been done so you can just be using your gear in a different way, but making music all the same. And then what happens? The material you're creating suggests new ideas and new directions, and the track you were recreating develops into one of your own invention, albeit under direct inspiration.



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Message 12/25             16-Mar-00  @  05:03 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

paleblueice

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try changing perspectives.

meaning if you're used to writing from the drums up, start with the melody. or try some different software. or a change of scenery. when it comes to lyric writing, i always have to go to the park or mall or somewhere - i get so claustrophobic in this damn bedroom all the time. if you work in a different pattern it's easier to write different patterns than what you're used to.

also, a good epic movie always helps me transcend the mundane. gives me a kind of purpose, y' know? 'excalibur', anyone?



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Message 13/25             16-Mar-00  @  07:13 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

Ellipsis

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sit there and write as much as you can...even if it sucks, just keep going and going and going and going...until you are exhausted, then take a 2 day break....when that is over, you will feel refreshed, and ready to make good toons...also...concentrate on theory and more abstract concepts when you are having problems actually writing...



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Message 14/25             16-Mar-00  @  08:28 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

errata

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I program new sounds...play with samples...etc. It doesn't always have to be a finished track!

I also go toy with this demo of Rebirth...it's a total crap production tool (my opinion, I know)...but you can instantly turn out mindless trance jams on it for like 2 hours...that'll get the crap out of my system everytime...sometimes it settles my desire to work as well...

I just try to remember that i don't HAVE to work on music every waking moment. Sometimes it's good for the "ol' Muse" to remember who's boss...eh?

Also: I think everbody I know that makes even decent trax (some folks on this site included) thinks their own stuff is crap! I'll be in heaven and after a gig I'll go up to the musician or DJ and they think their music's so LAME! Every time...It's that way with all kinds of creativity...it's hard for us to except that what we're doing is good music! Let some friends hear your trax! They may be dishonest if you ask for opinions but the way to tell what they really think is to wait for them to bring it up again. If someone comes up out of the blue and says, "I like your trax!" Thats truth!!!



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Message 15/25             16-Mar-00  @  09:05 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

oz.

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smoke a joint.

seriously.



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Message 16/25             16-Mar-00  @  09:10 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

Ellipsis

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errata...i 110% aggree with the desire to create better in your post...cause i think that many people whos stuff kicks the shit out of mine think their music is crap...and it is because of that that keeps them striving to get better...i think my stuff is crap compared to what i COULD make...what i ernvision...i am nowhere near what i want to make...so weather or not it on its own is any good doesnt really matter to me...i know i can make better stuff, i just havent yet...



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Message 17/25             16-Mar-00  @  11:32 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

sitar

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I put something I wrote 5 months ago into a new track and voila. What I do is lay down a track in midi. Then I go through synth patches until I find something that makes that track shine more. Then I go about molding that synth patch into something that is my own and works (hopefully) better. Then I usually wind up changing some of the notes in the track because that new patch shines more if there is maybe a syncopated note her or there or a different harmony. And it goes on like that. There are days when I hate what I thought was sounding good yesterday. I'll go back to another song sometimes. It's all about manipulating ourselves to keep going. Finding tricks that work for us to keep us interested. Starting a new piece maybe. Or reading my Logic manual for a relaxing break   That gets me back to writing a new bass line in about 30 seconds.

I don't think any of us should spend too much time dwelling on how bad our music is. It ain't bad. That's a trick our minds play on us too. It's like "Caruso's Manicotti" (do I hear a name for my next track? woohoo!)



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Message 18/25             16-Mar-00  @  11:36 PM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

sitar

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One more thing. I sit down at my rig with a great idea. A couple of hours later it doesn't sound so great. The idea actually was great but is not complete in it's 1st go around. Sometimes it's almost unrecognizable by the time I am finished with it days later. I have to get used to allowing for that process to play itself out.



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Message 19/25             17-Mar-00  @  12:11 AM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

nobody

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you could always hire a clown.

or attempt to get a pet monkey. i think i would love to hear monkey-inspired rhythms.. i like to bow hunt grizzly bear, up in alaska myself



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Message 20/25             17-Mar-00  @  12:32 AM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

AietaD

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Well said sitar, you have to allow the thing to grow and change. You create a new patch or play a new chord combo on a familar patch....then that feeling comes of....yes Im onto something here, you add and add , cut and paste, sample and resynth....suddenly its all gone, not so, its just change, perhaps for the worst....its here where you dont stop, keep pushing....still crap...push some more....still crap....push even harder....cccrrraaaccckkk, it breaks and you have it, finally it all falls into place.

You have to reach that place , like the painter with knife in hand ready to slash the canvas thats taken months to create. It doesnt have to be that dramatic, just recognize that you may have to go through it, once you do you will almost enjoy it, because you know that soon, youll come out of it.

Its a journey!



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Message 21/25             17-Mar-00  @  02:41 AM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

errata

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On that note:

I often start out with a few ideas...get them looping and like where it's going...toss in a few more things and then find the the extras work better without the originals. Just tonight I ended up with a totally different backing breakbeat than the one I started out with...

They really do write themselves...



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Message 22/25             17-Mar-00  @  03:10 AM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

CATASTROPHIC

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go to the record shop and listen to as many tunes as you can dont listen to all the records that are the same style listen to as many differnt styles as posible and pick there production to bits take notes if you have to that helps me then ask your self what you like best ie: that bass line was good then re write it in you own style ...im ther same as 99devils 80% of the stuff i do is shit but i dont delete it i keep it for a rainy day ..and speak to other producers dont be afriad to ask how that do stuff ......
-----you learn from teaching-----



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Message 23/25             17-Mar-00  @  05:36 AM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

Jasper

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Rak3889, your right that you should lay down a track for the experience it gives you even if the original idea is lacking.

You'll find that making an arrangement makes you work in a different way than just looping a midi pattern, might give you some ideas.. In fact I'll stick my neck out and say that you WILL get some other ideas.



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Message 24/25             19-Mar-00  @  06:11 AM   -   Don't throw stuff away

Andreas

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I have been reading all the post about dealing with writers block and they are all good tips, but I have another tip. Get somebody to work with you on a track, they don't have to know anything about music really. I have had friends sitting by saying stuff like "make it faster", can you add some of that "ticki ty tack" stuff... and so on. And of course they will say things like "yeah, man that is so cool". They will spur you on if you are lucky, some people don't so try different people.

And of course, never throw anything away. I always save things even if I think they are complete shit at the time. I even save unquantised jams and just wierd loops. When you listen to them a year later the can give you ideas, maybe you won't continue on the saved bits, but they will sometimes inspire, and midifiles are so small anyway.



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Message 25/25             19-Mar-00  @  07:18 AM   -   RE: Dealing with writer's block

Jasper

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I just gave this guy I'm going to be working with a load of my old dat's (he asked for them), he was listening to bit's that I was thinking 'oh crap I never wanted anyone to hear this' and ripping them out going 'we'll use this'.

I mean to him it's fresh stuff, to me it's old and tired but I just know he'll use the bit's he's got in new different ways I would never have thought of.



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