Have you ever found yourself sitting in your studio with tons of great tools at your disposal, but absolutely no ideas? If you answered 'no', then you're a dirty liar. Sooner or later we all have bouts of writer's block. It's incredibly frustrating, and if you happen to be up against a formal deadline, it can be even more stressful. So how do you drag yourself out of these creative doldrums? Sometimes you just have to experiment until you find what works for you personally, but here are a few ideas you might find helpful.
1.) Change Your Environment
I absolutely hate moving. Yeah, it's bad enough to have to box up everything you own and haul it in and out, but for me it also means dismantling my studio and rewiring it somewhere else. The one really positive thing that always seems to follow this, however, is that I feel creatively recharged and eager to get to work again. Your surroundings and work environment can have a tremendous impact on how you work, so if you're feeling stuck, try taking your laptop somewhere where you normally don't make music and see if that gives you a bit of a boost. It doesn't have to be anything drastic. If you normally work downstairs in your house, try working upstairs. Nice weather? Go to a park with some headphones and see if working outside inspires you.
2. Flip it and Reverse it
If you're having trouble getting started on a new song, try taking something you already completed and reversing it, either the audio or the MIDI. It may not lead anywhere, but you may just hear an unusual melody, rhythm or progression when you listen to music this way that gives you a direction to go in.
3. Art Cross-pollination
Try creating a soundtrack for a scene in a movie you like. Better yet, get more obscure and create a 'soundtrack' for a famous painting, photograph, sculpture, or city. Concentrate on representing visuals through music. Try to communicate a specific emotion solely through use of melody or rhythm.
4. Remix One of Your Old Songs
Take a song you've already completed, and do a remix for it as if you were remixing another artist. Let yourself disconnect from your usual 'rules' and self-consciousness and go nuts. Try to put the song into an entirely different musical context from the original. Once you've completed it, try taking out the vocals and any remaining melodic elements from the original and use this remix as the start of a brand new track. Or, in a similar vein, try taking a musical loop from a song you like and building a new song around that sample. Then, remove the sample and see if what you've got might be a good start on a new track.
5. Do Anything But Music
Although it might sound odd, sometimes the best remedy for running into dead ends in the studio is to get out of the studio. Go for a walk. Clean out the garage. Exercise. Your mileage may vary, but I personally find that some of my best ideas come to me when I am away from the studio. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we sit down to write a new song, so take some of the pressure off by getting away from that intimidating blank sequencer screen and see what happens.
So there are some ideas to get you started. Do you have a personal method of breaking writer's block that you prefer? Tell us about it!