Create a cover version
This is the easiest way to get started on a project and can quickly kick-start your creativity. Try to cover a song outside of your usual comfort zone, or completely change the style of a song you love. Often you’ll find that by starting with a cover, you’ll end up creating original ideas that could end up being your own track. This can also work if you can get your hands on a full cover-version acapella, importing it to your DAW first to help form a structure and prevent you from getting into an endless-loop paralysis when coming up with ideas.
Use old projects and unfinished ideas
Hands up if you barely ever finish tracks? Yep, us too. This is 100% the main difference between amateur and professional when it comes to being an artist or music producer. Go back and look at your old projects, commit to finishing them. Give yourself a deadline and get them done!
If it’s not possible to open old projects for whatever reason, then mine their folders looking for audio gold. Start compiling interesting loops and sounds that you can use as a starting point for a new project.
Give credit to an edit
If you’re a DJ, then there’s always an edit or basic rework to be done. It doesn’t have to be anything revolutionary, but it’s a great time to quantize and warp up those wonky vinyl rips or beef them up with a fresh kick and some EQ and compression. Doing this process and reminding yourself of the music you love to play out should make you want to make your own tracks, but if it doesn’t you’re filling up your setlist with exclusive edits!
Programme synth sounds
How often do you actually just try and program your synths? Even getting stuck into freeware soft synths can not only generate ideas but can leave you with a stack of new skills! Try to recreate your favourite sounds or learn a new style of synthesis such as FM or wavetable.
There are plenty of freeware synths on offer but you probably haven’t even dug deep into the synths that you already own. Challenge yourself to make an entire track with just one synth, programming drums, percussion and everything else!
Produce audio samples
Don’t commit to making a whole track if that seems to be the pressure that’s making it harder to find an idea. Get weird, make loops and samples, record things around the house, rip fragments from YouTube [for non-commercial use, obviously – Ed] and then use this audio to build unique single hits and loops.
Timestretch, pitch shift, warping and reverse are your friends here. The audio functions in your DAW can transform even the most mundane sounds into unique bits of audio ready for resampling, layering and retriggering as fantastic kits or instruments.
Don’t forget you can tune any sound by looking at a visualisation tool and seeing the peak fundamental frequency and using a frequency to note chart. Or by looping the main body of a sound, using a tuner and your ears to guide you. Make sure you label the key and the tempo of any sounds for future use!
From Dropbox and Drive to browser-based and mobile music-making like BandLab and Soundtrap, there are many ways to share your ideas and work with others online. Apps like BandLab even let you search for musicians of a particular genre, style or even instrument. Plus, you can open – or fork as they call it – another users project and create your own version. But ultimately, using some of the methods above and then combining them with collaboration will have you creative juices flowing in no time!
What techniques have you developed to keep the creative juices flowing? Let us know on our Facebook page.
For more ideas to inspire creativity, check out our other features.
[Editor’s note: BandLab is owned by BandLab Technologies, the parent company of MusicTech.]