Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Beat-Block: Why We Get It And How To Overcome It

I’m sure we've all experienced it at one time or another, and I believe everyone who pursues creative endeavors experiences creative blocks regularly, whether that be weekly, monthly, or daily.

Now for me, I experience some form of ‘beat block’ at least once a week, sometimes once every two weeks if I’m already on a roll. In general I make around 10 – 20 beats every week, and no matter what eventually I will reach a point where I am (seemingly) out of ideas.

When I used to get creative blocks it would stress me out. Because I pride myself highly on being able to create music, and I consider myself a very creative person, when those ‘creative’ juices that bring me joy stop working, it’s a bit of a drainer to say the least. In the past I would sometimes try ‘force’ the music out of me (which doesn't really work, at least for me), or I'd listen to a bunch of music trying to force my brain to come up with the next genius track idea.

This didn’t seem to work either.

After a while I realised that my tactics for getting rid of these creative blocks didn’t seem to be working, and i’d have to try a different approach. I started looking into what was causing my lack of creativeness, by studying my mindset both in ‘creative mode’ and in my creative ‘slumps’, and trying to figure out what was the difference between the two.

Lets Get Into Causes Of Beat Block

Inspiration is psychological. It’s a mindset. No matter what you’re creating, physical, intellectual, musical, whatever, it comes from that thing between your ears. Now any form of art is highly creative, and relies heavily on ‘inspiration’. This means that no matter how much you try to logicalize your music, your ability to create is really going to depend on how ‘inspired’ you are at that particular time. It depends on your mindset and what you’re thinking when you’re looking for that perfect melody or chords progression to fit those drums.

So that being said, why can we be super-inspired one day, then the next it seems we have ZERO ideas. I’ve broken down some of the reasons i’ve identified when i’ve lost my inspiration, as well as ways i’ve tried to fix them.

First of all, look at your REASON for making music.

I’ve noticed a lot of the times when I seem to be lacking in ideas, it’s because the reason i’m sitting down to produce a track is far different from the reason that I’m making a track when i’m feeling inspired.

Specifically, when i’m feeling inspired i’m making music purely for the love and passion of creating. I want to make music because i’m in the moment, and i’m loving music at that particular point in time.

However, when i’m experiencing a ‘beat block’ ive noticed my focus to be considerably different. I might be making a track for money reasons. I might be making a track to reach a self-set beat-quota, which is putting pressure on me to create. Because of how largely I define myself as a creative musician, I put unecessary pressure on myself to create, and on top of that, create GREAT music. This puts me in a position where i’ll be comparing my music to others, or to my previous work, instead of just creating for enjoyment, which is what I should be doing.

So, i’ve found that everytime beat block occurs, i’m creating music for the wrong reasons. Music should be enjoyable, fun, and should be made from passion. Once we as musicians lose site of that and start making music for the wrong reasons, the inspiration stops coming.

So now that we’ve identified the REASON for beat block, how do we get rid of it?

Firstly, remember that you’re making music for enjoyment first! Even if you’re making a beat to ultimately sell for money, the cash should still be a secondary motivator.

The primary reason for producing music should be because you love it! Sometimes just reminding yourself of that fact will help take the pressure off yourself, and help you just enjoy the process.

Next, I like to listen to music that I haven’t heard before. This might mean exploring new artists and genres, and new styles of music that is unfamiliar to me. This often helps me with ideas that I may not of previously thought of.

You could also try listening back to your favourite albums. Albums that you love. This can help push you back into the mindset of ‘enjoying’ music, rather than focusing yourself to create or pushing your mind for ideas.

Note: Another great ‘inspiration generator’ are youtube videos. Watching videos of other inspiring musicians has helped me numerous times. Ryan Leslie is one of my favourites.

Another thing I like to do is try ‘practicing’ my music.

This means taking the focus off finishing an entire beat, and just focusing on ‘practicing’ and improvingspecific elements of my music.

For example I might create drum loops and practice creating more intricate patterns, improve my mixing skills and learn new plugins, practice my piano chords and progressions, pretty much anything related to my music production.

However the main point of this excersise is not only to improve your music, but to take the ‘pressure’ off of finishing a beat or track. A lot of the times I start off practicing I end up finishing a beat anyways, but I see that as a bonus.

Lastly, if nothings working and you’re still not getting any ideas, just stop. Focus on other things in your life. Go play some Xbox, or watch some The Office reruns (one of my favorite shows). Wait until you get the urge to create again (and trust me, it will come) until you decide to bang out a few more beats!

I hope that helped any of you who are going through beat blocks right now! As musicians these creative blocks will come up regularly, but the main thing is to remember that they always pass. If you just follow this article you should be able to get over them. The main idea is to take the pressure off yourself and gain sight of why you make music in the first place!

If any of you have your own techniques/ideas on battling beat block, i’d love to hear! Leave a comment below.