Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I realize most of you have never been in my studio before, so the answer might not be obvious, but my studio computer is gone. If you've been reading this blog recently, you already know that my studio computer recently stopped powering up reliably. I took it in to get fixed, and although they didn't locate the problem, I have an idea what the problem might be, so I'm picking it up today.

But this isn't my point. The point is, for the past two weeks, my computer was in the shop and work on my album and single pretty much came to a stop. This has become a bit of an unwanted tradition for me. For the past few albums, every time I am in the last few months of work, something happens to keep me from working on it. Last album, it was a flooded basement.

Obviously, this sort of thing only adds to the stress of coming up against a deadline all the more intense, but I've come to realize sometimes this isn't the worst thing in the world. For the past couple of weeks I did something I hadn't done in ages. I just sat down at my keyboard and -
played. It used to be that I played and improvised all the time and this was primarily how I wrote new songs. In recent years, however, I've tended to write in my head and only sit down to the keyboard to translate the ideas I've been kicking around into full songs once they've developed for awhile. Not only did I realize how much I had missed just playing for the sake of playing... I actually ended up coming up with a great new song in the process.

This reinforces a theory I have had for many years now that one of the best things you can do now and then is to try a creative process that is different from your normal routine. Try working in a different DAW. If you normally write on guitar, try writing on piano. If you generally save vocals for last when working on songs, try recording them first to a dummy track and build your arrangement around that. If you have been writing music for a long time, it can be easy to get into a creative rut. It's important to shake things up now and then. I think I lost sight of that and it took a 'forced vacation' to make me remember.


visitour said...

and things end up differently depending on the process/tools you use

ronnie said...

+1 on "It's important to shake things up now and then"

When I first used my MIDI controller I got new inspiration, when I got away from my standard DAW a totally new sound/style came out from I don't know where, when I pick up an acoustic instrument I normally don't use, fresh things come out, etc.

It's great to know your tools well, but it's also great to explore new things and find how they can bring new ideas and direction.

Tom said...

Visitour - Very true.

Ronnie - Exactly. I'm a lousy bass player and pretty much clueless on the guitar, but I own both instruments because the progressions or melodies I come up with on both are completely different than those I come with on the keys.

THC1138 said...

Word to the bird. I recently acquired an old analog synth called a Korg 700. It was Korg's first synthesizer. Cheap ($150), sounds great (used for a lot of the leads by The Cars), and it has no cv/gate, no way to use it other than play it (though it can be modded). I have to say, this has been great for me.