Experiencing writers block? Try this

posted in: Creativity, Production | 1

Fun challenges to beat writers block in music production


It’s truly a question asked very often: How to beat writers block?

The twist with experiencing writers block is this: You want to be creative and lay something down but your mind just stops the output. It’s kinda like trying to describe something but not having the slightest idea which words to use. It is knowing the what without knowing the how.

spooky blank daw canvas (how to beat writers block)
The spooky blank DAW canvas we all know and (don’t) love

We’re gonna get behind that today and look at some ideas on how to beat writers block in music production. But let’s take a look at sports first.


Breaking the barriers


In sports competitions there is no going back. Going back would equal giving up. The better the sportsman, the better he is at breaking mental barriers to just start and push through whatever lies on the way to reach his goal.

Don’t see filling the blank canvas as a creative task you don’t know how to approach. See it as a deed, an exercise, just like in sports. Do something, because you have to. Even if this is in no way creatively inspired, it’s better than nothing and might spark fresh ideas later on, as the newly created content – no matter if created with inspiration or not – is input of some sort either way.

In fact we could end this topic right now by just enacting the rule of ‘Do it’ but many may now say: ‘You can’t just force yourself to do something you don’t know how to approach!’

And while I only partly agree in this case, I can understand the argument. So in order to give you some more creative strategies to beat writers block, let’s continue.


1. Replicate, Innovate

Sounds fancier than it actually is, but it can actually do the trick. Take a song you like (it doesn’t matter if it’s not overly complex) and load the audio into your blank DAW canvas. Now try replicating or ‘covering’ it step by step. You can decide if you want to be as precise as possible or if you want to bring in your own twist.

This can be pretty helpful because whilst having to be creative in some way you don’t have to come up with something totally new. Instead you’re just looking at something that’s already there and try to replicate all the little pieces one after another.

It is in fact extremely difficult to create a matching remake to an original song which will leave you with a totally new song concept when looked at on its own. Pretty cool right? Now you can remove the song you initially covered and start working on the new template!


2. Screw it up

Yes, you heard it right, screw it up! What exactly? Well, you get to choose…

Take whatever old project of yours there is and load it up. Now change it. Go mad. For example you could mute, add or change effects on some tracks. Or you could just start dragging items around and putting them somewhere else which will result in a new arrangement or even song structure!

Another thing you could do easily is changing the tempo of the project or pitch shift some melodic sequences by a couple of semitones. No doubt, there are countless possibilites.

I don’t guarantee that the result will sound any good, but only the process of doing this and playing with an old project might ignite a new creative fire within yourself.

Here is a video of me screwing up ‘Spark’, a track from my EP ‘Heart Trip’. I set a ten minutes timer and changed some stuff I thought would sound pretty funny.

Of course the result doesn’t sound good, but it’s got some different elements now which might be used to create a whole new song straight in that project. With only 15 additional minutes of more serious editing, it sounds like this:

Still not perfect, but you get the point.

For instance you could isolate all the drums and percussion, and build new melodic material around that. This would be a good idea for this project because the other sounds don’t really fit the DnB vibe.


3. Blind composing


I’ve done this an unbelievable amount of one times. Still, I immediately recognized the benefits of blind composing.

  • ‘What even is blind composing???’

The concept is pretty simple. You take away the major element – which is your ears. Open up the DAW, start from scratch and go about starting a song as you would usually do. Just don’t use your ears. Unless you exactly know which settings to choose to get a certain sound this is pretty much like randomizing sound design and puzzling together a song structure. You could set a timer of, say, 60 minutes. This then gives you an hour to draw midi notes, put item after item, sample after sample into the timeline. Also don’t forget to twist some knobs on the synths you use. Just don’t listen to it. Once time is up, play back whatever abomination you came up with.

Music Youtuber Andrew Huang made a video titled ‘Making music without hearing it’ some time ago. Make sure to check it out if you want to get a better understanding of what I’m talking about here.

It’s a fun experiment and who knows what the result really has to offer in the end? Plus, if you do this regularly it can be a great exercise to learn certain tricks in composing and sound design.


4. Just jam man


Yeah man… just jam.

No seriously, if you happen to play any instrument (which most electronic musicians do), record yourself jamming for as long as you like. No problem if it’s the dumbest bullcrap. Just make sure to have audio recording in the end. Now act like it’s a fine wine or some fancy food. Let it sit. Come back later and see what you can make out of it. This is a very cheap tip and actually requires a bit of creative output but I think it’s still worth trying out. Also it brings us straight to the last thing I have to say about how to beat writers block.

There are many little melodic concepts in these two minutes of fiddling around with the tongue drum.

5. Give yourself time


Unless you make a living from making music it’s totally okay if you take a break from time to time. If none of the tips work or you just don’t feel it get some time off. Do other things for a couple of days. For instance you could do sports, go for a walk, read or even write something yourself.

Many of us miss inspiration after a long time of straight music production with no other side activities. Taking a break from that will surely fuel you with fresh ideas and thoughts.


Conclusion

As you probably already knew, experiencing writers block is never funny. But there are some funny ways to work around it or in the best case even get rid of it totally. With writers block being a very mental thing, it’s benefitial to do things that don’t require that absolute creativity you’d need to create something from scratch. Instead, go and make music using existing material to serve as inspiration or even the actual basis.

I hope this episode of the blog was of any help for you. If you enjoyed, make sure to check out other entries and my social media. All the best!


  1. […] talked about this in the blog episode ‘How to beat writer’s block in music production’ and it’s something a lot of producers deal with: That creative blockade that doesn’t let you […]

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