Maybe this is just me trying to find any half plausible-sounding excuse for having such a distinct lack of musical talent I make a drunk bum who just found a penny-whistle sound like Mahler, or maybe (and I hope) it's a problem some of you also have and have found a way of dealing with.
I'm an on-again off-again producer with no skill to boot. I can't play any instruments and am terrible at composition. The only thing I can do is the sound design/generative conditions, and I'm not even much good at that.
Getting inspiration is absolutely not a problem for me, I get inspired to make music all the time. My trouble arises once I've opened up a DAW and get started. I am never content with anything I make because it's not as good as what inspired me. After a while I realized it isn't that it's not as good, it's because it's not the same.
If I was inspired by Chopin's Piano Sonata #2, I might have written Bach's Cello Concerto #1 and still dismissed as not even worth Ctrl+'S'ing it because I can't focus on anything other than how good the music that inspired me is. It's even more frustrating if I was inspired by a Tehn song and try to make something, then hear and get re-inspired by something of a completely different genre, like Oyaarss.
Avoiding other music whilst writing is an easy enough method of overcoming the latter, but do any of you have any tips on the former? I guess I'm basically asking how to lower the threshold of - or even completely turn off - my internal quality control.
For myself anyway, most of the joy comes from the process. I'm not above being frustrated that my tunes don't live up to the work of the musicians who inspire me. But I just love making music even if the end product is comparatively sub par.
Do you enjoy the process? It seems like maybe you don't even like that part?
I can't play an instrument, but I've been teaching myself a little music theory over the past year or so and that has really opened up my world as far as composition goes. I hate to be "that guy" because I do believe you can compose music, to an extent, with no formal background--but music theory gives you a language to think about music in. When you get stuck knowing a little gives you a way to ask questions and look things up for yourself.
Some will take issue with this, but I find composing melodies only with a mouse, clicking in notes totally uninspiring. I like having a keyboard around to noodle out ideas on and sometimes record my own audio or midi phrases.
What do you get out of writing music? When you open your DAW what is the motivation?
Relic: I used to enjoy the process, and I think I still would, but my current motive is that I feel pretty useless in life right now and want to have been responsible for something good. I want to make something I'm proud of. I understand that might not be your favourite reason or even a good reason full stop, but it's where I'm at.
If I could put some notes down that I was happy with and get on to tweaking the patches to suit I think I will start enjoying it a lot more, but with the type of music I want to make at the minute I feel I need to know the melody to make the voicing and not the other way around.
I do have some basic music theory in my head - I'm not going at it completely blind - but I could definitely do with some more. The trouble is I get so disheartened by the problem this topic describes that I can never get motivated to read up on it. If I could make a piece or two and get enthusiastic, I'm sure the balance would start tipping toward enthusiasm and getting over this whole thing. Does that make sense?
I'm not here to judge your motivations about making music man : ) I just felt it might help us figure out what's up. Absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to make something you are proud of! And if you are feeling useless a creative hobby is always a great solution.
So, it sounds like you are currently trying to write melodies first and worry about sound design later? That is the process I would suggest--not that you can't work another way, but it would seem if you want to get the most musicality out of a composition starting with melody rather than timbre is the way to go.
Have you thought about combining writing a song and learning something new about theory? I would always read a chapter in a theory book, then go write a song (even if it was just an exercise song) to apply what I learned. Helped things sink in.
Also, have you thought about collaborations? I've found that really inspiring lately.
I don't want to read too far into your response and get all personal on you, but it sounds like you might be dealing with a little bit of acute depression? I'm not any kind of expert, just a guy who has been there. Sometimes its OK not to make music--I've often felt like I really wanted to write some songs, but it ended up being the most depressing thing I could have tried to cure my depression.
Also, how much electronic music in general do you listen to? I'm on a heavy binge at the moment, but generally speaking it composes only about 10-15 percent of what I listen to (if you don't include hip hop).
I've got a pretty full plate as far as music at the moment, but I would be up for a collab if you were not worried about timeline. I have a few things I need to get on (other collabs). But maybe we could work something out that would help kick start the old muse in you?
I can think of nothing I would like more. I definitely want to make music by myself so that I can listen back and know that it was entirely from my own mind, but a collaboration seems a perfect foot-in-the-door to get me to a stage where I can do that later on. I would be honoured to try one with you, but expect I am severely lacking in skill and would only frustrate you, and make your schedule tighter still.
I agree with the melody-first approach where musicality is the focus (which it is, to some extent, in what I'm currently trying), but whilst this might be the logical approach, it makes reaching the later stages much harder for me.
I've tried the new-theory-new-song method and it works, but they always feel like token efforts upon listening back, which furthers the whole "this is an impossible task reserved only for the greatest of brains" mindset. You're about this too though - if I can persuade myself to stick it out past one attempt this time around, I'll definitely try more of them.
You're probably even right about the depression, too.
Dependant on what you qualify as "electronic music", my percentage might be quite high. If Massive Attack and Bjork do, then I'm probably around 60%. If they don't, probably around 30%. To give a rough idea, the last 10 artists played from my PC are: Tehn, Oyaarss, Akkord, Portishead, Thomas Tallis, Nihls Frahm, Opeth, Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto, Lamb of God and Chopin.
I don't think would frustrate me. Don't let that stop you. I've really just got an EP I'm working on with someone and my own project. But I like that you are listening to Massive Attack and Portishead. I could do something in that direction for sure. And if the mixing and polishing the track worry you, I'm happy to handle that part.
Most of the other musicians I'd have to school myself in...besides Bjork, but I just don't listen to her music much.
Just shoot me a PM if you end up being interested. Otherwise I'm not sure what else to suggest, maybe someone else will pop in here and give you some better advice ;p
As for what you are listening too, maybe change that up. I find throwing some totally new stuff into my playlist helps get my ideas going a lot of times.
How much time are you spending on a track before considering it not up to par?
Also I'll never be near as good as what originally got me into electronic music so these days I don't even try. You just have to do the best you can within the scope of your ability and measure your success by your own improvement from one track to the next.
Do you finish stuff at all typically?
Just pushing through and finishing, no matter what, has probably taught me more than anything else I've found, read, or tried.
The music I'm hoping to make at the minute is much closer to Tehn/Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto than Massive Attack/Portishead, but that could definitely be my future solo-project as it's much more intimate. PM inbound.
I've actually gone through that exact same struggle; hating everything I make even though people around me consistently say that it's good, I would always compare myself to other artists or the level I thought I, "should" be at.
At the end of the day, I think the answer is you really just have to let it go. Especially in western society, it's *really* easy to get caught in the mind set of, "I need to be X good by X day and if that doesn't happen I'm a total failure!" but that's just not how learning and skill-building works, especially in a creative, subjective field like music.
I'd recommend trying to find some kind of activity that you can use to de-stress yourself whenever you notice these feelings rise. If you start feeling like your work isn't what it "should" be, take a minute, do some deep breathing, go for a walk, meditate, whatever floats your boat. Focus on the fact that your skill today simply is what it is and let that be enough for today. Letting go of the need to be good can be intimidating cause we feel like we'll suck if we don't try hard enough, but I think relaxing and taking your time opens your mind to learning whereas stressing and comparing just shuts you down and slows the whole process.
Way easier said than done, but that's what worked for me. Be ok with what I can make today, and take comfort in the fact that if I make something today I'll be even better tomorrow, and just enjoy the process in the meantime.