4 Ways To Jump Start Creativity In Your Productions

Alright, let’s talk about writer's block. We’ve all been there, eyes glazed, staring at our screen trying to figure out where to start or what to do next. Inspiration is unreliable at best and if we only worked when we felt inspired, would we ever get anything done? Besides, if the session starts at noon then you better be ready to create at noon. Creativity is such a deep topic and there are a ton of great resources out there, but with this post, I’m just going to focus on a few quick practical ways to jump-start your process. If you’re interested in going deeper, I’ll have a few resources linked at the end!

1) ARRANGEMENT MAPPING

Start by picking a reference track—either something similar to the track you’re working on or just a track you enjoy the arrangement of. Drag the track into your DAW and use locators to mark each section. Logic’s arrangement feature is great for this, as once you have marked the sections, you can slide them around and it will move all the MIDI and audio in each section with it. Once you have the arrangement mapped out, you simply “fill in the blanks” and create your song! Don’t get too attached to the form though, it’s only a starting point. Feel free to move things around once you get rolling. 

As well as being a great starting point, this is a great study tool for arranging. One thing I like to do is mark where each instrument comes in and specific moments in the reference track like fills. Again, your track doesn't need to follow these exactly, but pay attention to the context and the reason behind these choices and apply that thinking to your track.

2) STACK AND SPREAD

One of my favourite ways to start a track is by setting an 8 bar loop, dragging a snare onto the backbeat, and going to town building as many layers as I can possibly fit. Start with a melody, beat or chord progression and then just keep adding until you run out of ideas. I find the trick with this is to follow your gut reactions and do whatever feels exciting! Don’t overthink it. Once you can’t think of anything else to add or the loop sounds complete to you, you’re ready for step 2! Now that you’ve got your “stack,” it’s time to spread it out. The goal is to create a whole song by using the elements from your loop. I like to do this by copying the loop through the whole song. I’ll then play the song from the start and in real time mute and unmute regions until I get a form I’m happy with. I find that this gets me about 75% of the way to a finished track in some cases. Once the form is there, you’ll want to fine-tune each section and really get into the details.

3) SET LIMITATIONS

I have a demo version of a soft synth I really like that shuts off within 10 minutes and won’t save any setting. Before I could buy it I had a session where I ended up using it for almost every synth part in the song. The catch was I had to commit to audio within 10 minutes or I’d lose the sound. This forced me to move quickly and to commit because once the file was bounced, I couldn't go back and change it. I liked this workflow so much that I’m still using it in demo mode today.

Nothing kills creativity faster than having too many options. Next time you sit down to produce a track, try setting some “rules” for yourself. Maybe only use sounds from a single drum kit, or only use analog gear. Maybe try and make the whole song using no more than 5 sounds. Or build all your synths in the same plugin. I find some of the best ideas come when you’re forced to create within a set of boundaries!

4) STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST

As the saying goes, good artists borrow and great artists steal! If you’re not sure where to start, try grabbing something from a song you love. Grab the tempo, chord progression, or groove—any element of the song that catches your ear—and use that as your jumping-off point. Sometimes I’ll take a drum groove and write my own melody over it before going back and changing around the drums. Remember that this is only a starting point! Use it for inspiration and build your own track around it. 

Another fun way to spark an idea is to try and re-create a song you haven't heard in a while from memory, focusing more on the vibe and less on the specific parts. Think of it like doing your own version of that song. Once you’re done play yours next to the reference and most of the time you’ll find that your track sounds completely unique from the reference. 

CONCLUSION: WORK THE MUSCLE

I think of creativity like a muscle, the more you work on it, the easier it gets. I find that it’s less about feeling inspired and more about sitting down and doing the work consistently. If you start making creativity habit-based instead of luck-based, you’ll find that inspiration isn’t something you wait for—it’s something you create.

RESOURCES

The Art Of War
Steal Like an Artist

Robbie Townsend

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robbie Townsend is a pop producer from Edmonton Alberta and is a member of the band Milq.


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