It is safe to assume that inspiration doesn’t come out of nowhere. With that said, we need to prepare and plan for creativity, be it musical or related to any other activity.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
In a first instance, you need to have a clear goal in your mind, something that you want to achieve. Then you start doing whatever you need to do to achieve your goal, like evaluating, reading more about it, gathering as much information about it as possible.
In no time your mind will start to process all this new knowledge, start to make new connections adapted to your goal. Take the time to explore the different solutions that arise. Slowly but surely, things will start taking shape and the pieces of the puzzle falling into place.
Finally, you proceed to what is called the verification stage, which is the time when you actually test your idea by bringing it to life using whatever medium you choose. In this process you will be making adjustments, as needed, until you have the final product in your hands, ready to be shown to the world!
This is a very generalist approach. However, much of the music creation process can also fit these stages and I would dare to say that there are also four stages that you go through.
1. The Exploratory Phase – Research and gathering materials
2. The Planning Phase – Establish a structure; organise ideas
3. The Problem-Solving Phase – Focus and deal with problems that need solving; harmony, counterpoint and orchestration, arrangement or connecting and developing ideas
4. The Producing Phase – Record, edit audio and MIDI, mix and master
PREPARE TO CREATE
Try to begin your journey based on some goal(s) you want to achieve. This can either be a concept that you wish to explore through music or sound or even certain harmonic landscapes, arrangement approaches, etc. If research needs to be done to find influences or get acquainted with some aspect of the music you want to make, so be it! You will start taking note of all the ideas for sounds, instrumentation, melodic themes and harmonies that pop up and that you eventually want to explore or add to your music.
The notes that you can take from listening to music are basically an analysis of what you perceive is going on or what calls to your attention. Don’t worry about specific things like the actual notes in the melody or the chord progression because we don’t want to imitate that.
Create a list with the events in your favourite piece of music. There’s a reason or many reasons why you like it. Use the following prompts as suggestions to guide you through the exercise and write down what you notice:
- What is the tempo of the music?
- What instruments are being used?
- How often chords are changing (the harmonic rhythm)?
- What is the music structure or form?
- How are instruments making their entrance throughout the arrangement?
- Does it have modulations? In which sections?
- How is the melody evolving? Is it relatively stable on a given note? Does it move by step, leaps and where?
- What type of chords are being used?
- What is the basic groove that drives that piece of music?
- Notice any music production FX or sounds that you would like to use?
- Whatever else gets your attention…
After you finish the exercise, you will be left with a list of things that, most likely, could be used to describe many songs. What you just did was to create a template that you can use as guidelines to make something new… your music!
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