How To Write Music Series: 6 Ways To Recover From Depressing Musical Discouragement

There comes about 136 times in every musician's life where you can forget how to write music and become incredibly discouraged.

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Maybe a few of these things apply to you:

  • You think your music sucks
  • Someone you know becomes successful (while you still haven't made your dreams come true)
  • You can't seem to figure out how to write music freely and expressively.
  • The idea of music just becomes dull to you, or you don't enjoy playing as much
  • You feel like you've plateaued and aren't growing or discovering new things anymore.

No matter which of those apply to you (and there are a bunch of other ways you might be feeling that I just didn't address), these are some really important ways I've learned (based on my experience with personal musical discouragement) to help you get out of it.

How To Write Music Tip #1: Understand That Discouragement Happens To Every Musician

Seriously, did you think that I just made up that above list?

No way! I've personally experienced all of those things, and I know tons of other musicians who have as well!

This is not a rare occurrence! In fact, it's one of those things that every single musician goes through.

Trent Reznor experienced it, Charlie Looker did, Maynard James Keenan did.

Everyone that you know who is famous or successful in music (and many people you don't know) has been discouraged musically hundreds of times.

A lot of the time you don't even realize that you feel discouraged! You just know that the idea of music doesn't excite you in ways that it used to.

So the first step to recovering from that is to realize that:

  1. You will recover from that feeling, given some time, positive thought, and struggle on your part (there's nothing wrong with struggling)
  2. This feeling does not invalidate you as a musician (or songwriter) whatsoever. It is normal, accept it.

After you've accepted that this is normal, lets try a few of the following things bring back your passion for music, and encourage yourself!

#2: Experience The Live Performance Of A Band That Really Inspires You (At Their Concert, Or Their Live DVD)

I can't tell you how many times that I've gone to a concert, and it deeply inspired me to become a better performer.

Just the feeling of inadequacy in certain cases (or the opposite feeling of "I'm just as good as that!") is enough to make you work harder and get excited about playing music again.

There's something about that magic in the air when you attend a live performance that is really special. It gets you much more excited than most albums can.

It's a combination of being surrounded by like-minded people (who LOVE music), seeing some of your inspirational heroes in person, as well as the adrenaline that runs through you brain that just makes things pop again.

The Dillinger Escape Plan live will cure all of my discouragement.

How often does adrenaline run through you with your current musical routine? Be honest!

If there are no nearby concerts, then just put on a live DVD. I can't tell you how many times I've blasted the Colors Live DVD through my surround sound at full volume to pump myself up.

You might find that this one thing will turn your discouragement around completely! It could be just what you needed to get excited again!

Just remember, go for the live concert, it's the best way to get excited, and the best way to support bands that you love. If there are no concerts around, you can use the Live DVD as a backup!

How To Write Music Tip #3: Force Yourself To Listen To New Music (Use Your Network Of Friends!)

Have you ever considered, after 7 years of playing rock and roll, that maybe, just maybe your brain might be sick of all that damn rock?

As a musician, you should consistently be listening to new artists (or artists that are new to you) that will expand the way you think of music.

Like James Blake

A lot of music that is new to you might be difficult to listen to at first, but if you can get recommendations on good music that is outside of what you would normally listen to, it can really help get you back into the groove-of-growth!

It helps to prevent monotony and keeps everything from turning gray!

If you don't have a network of friends who can feed you new music, then take a look at my Music Artist Directory. I've basically hand-picked a bunch of artists that I think are tremendous; any artist on that list will likely inspire you if you've never heard them before!

#4: Learn A Cover (Of Something New!)

Learning covers can really help you to expand yourself musically.

If you try to play in new styles that you aren't used to, it forces you to learn previously-unknown techniques that you didn't know about before, and just keeps your growth regular.

Remember, it's the expansion of your skills and musical ability that prevents discouragement. Discouragement is created through the frustration of being stagnant, so you need to get rid of that stagnancy!

It's important to remember that you need to pick a cover that is somewhat within your reach.

If you pick something that is way out of your league and above your skill level then you will probably feel even more discouraged then before!

In other words, don't pick a Yngwie Malmsteen cover (or his covers of covers). Not because they are hard, but because he's a dick!

And something too easy simply won't inspire you.

Pick something that makes you say "Man, if I knew that, I would be pretty happy", then go for it! Practice it every day until you get it perfect.

How To Write Music Tip #5: Be Experimental

Sometimes you just need to make some noise!

Stop focusing on being coherent, and stop focusing on sounding "good". Just grab an instrument or effect, and start playing it in ways you've never heard before.

Forget any sort of structure that you might want. The purpose of this is not to write a song. You are simply trying to expand your boundaries, and grow a pair of balls.

Seriously, so many artists are afraid of trying something new because of what people might think; like the kid in class who is afraid people will make fun of him if he is interested in Philosophy while all his classmates are still learning multiplication.

Ball defined.

The truth is, people crave something different. Besides, people are going to make fun of you no matter what you do.

Playing it safe doesn't make you exempt from being made fun of! If you write good music, bad musicians with bad taste will make fun of you. If you write bad music, people with good musical taste will make fun of you.

So stop worrying about it, accept that people will hate you (Many will love you as well!), and experiment with some bloody noises!

Some of the best music I've written started out with non-cohesive pieces of experimental garbage; they just kind of morphed into something amazing.

Trust that your mind will be able to pick out the parts of your experiment that are usable. And if you come away from your session with nothing new; don't worry about it.

You expanded yourself, and that's what's important.

How To Write Music Tip #6: Notice My Subtext?

Did you notice that none of this had to do with writing new music?

When you are discouraged, you often write music you aren't impressed with, making yourself even MORE discouraged.

Mind you, you'll have to start writing some music at some point. But just take a break and allow your subconscious mind to build up some new idea's for you to use the next time you decide to write music.

If you keep trying to write (Even though your creativity has run dry), you'll just continue being discouraged.

Sometimes you just need to accept that it's a phase, and allow yourself to be organically inspired by something that happens in your life.

My last tip is to put your heart into it!

Don't expect to get any results if you aren't genuinely trying each idea to it's full capacity! The life of a successful musician is a difficult one, for this reason exactly; lack of engagement.

So prepare yourself for the challenge!

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My name is Andrew Muller. I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story.

If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O'neils home cooking eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham.

Among my friends, it's a "Muller Classic Move" to eat Mcdonald's at 2am because it's cheap and open 24/7. The joke here is that I'm an idiot. 

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