One struggle that I find to be incredibly difficult, is when you feel particularly inspired, but you simply don't know how to write music that really reflects the way you are feeling.
Maybe I sit down with my guitar, or at the piano, and it just seems that I'm trying hard, and meticulously going through how to play music for each individual note and rhythm that I'm playing.
And after writing some riff for 25 minutes, that I've examined in every possible way, I put it into context with a band, and it just…
...loses it's zeal.
The music I wrote seems dead, and lifeless. It's not something that you would get famous on, nonetheless be proud of.
So how is it that there are days like the one I just described, where you try so hard and get no where, but then you can wake up some mornings and it just seems like the creativity flows out of you, like you just took a course on how to write music?
You just put your fingers onto the guitar, or your mouth on that saxophone, and every single thing you write is superb. You know exactly how to write music that is pleasing to the ear.
In fact, it comes so easily that you aren't really even sure if it's very good. It couldn't be good if you wrote it so easily, right?
I definitely find myself falsely discounting music that I write in this space, thinking "I hardly had to even try to come up with that awesome chord progression, so it must not be very good". I question whether I really do know how to write music.
I listen to incredibly complex arrangements like what Sufjan Stevens writes, or Beethoven, and you think "Well they put countless hours and days, and understood the theory behind all of those orchestral arrangements. "
I really don't know how to write music that way, so I think "If I don't do the same, then my music can't be any good!"
I'm going to let you in on an awesome little secret. Learning how to write music is simply learning how to let creative energy flow out of you!
This involves getting rid of negative energy too! Learn Why Suppression Stops The Flow Of Creativity (And How Communication Can Fix That!) in your band.
So how to you tap into that positive energy?
How do you force yourself to be in a mindset where your subconscious can bubble out into your fingers, and you can hammer out chord progressions, arrangements, and riffs that make you proud every time?
These are the things we are going to explore here.
First realize that you can't actually force yourself to be creative. It isn't a "Mind-over-matter" thing, or a matter of being "Disciplined" enough. In fact, if you force yourself to be creative, you are actually stopping yourself from being creative.
It's like trying to speed up the flow of a water hose by putting your finger over 3/4 of the nozzle; it might seem to be moving faster and more intense at that time, but in reality there is much less water coming out (It just has more pressure).
You cannot make yourself be more creative in such a "Brute force" manner.
In reality, being able to tap into this energy has to do with being honest with yourself, and being in tune with yourself and your emotions.
You have to coax this creative energy out of your system, like waving some food in front of a dog trapped in sewer pipe; you have to seduce him into coming to you.
You can do this by placing yourself in an environment that stimulates creativity, rather than suppresses it.
If you are trying to write music in a hostile household, where you know everyone around you is simply annoyed that you play guitar anytime after 7pm, you will probably find yourself struggling to write creatively.
If the band you are playing in is constantly critical of everything you write, you are going to be much more distracted by the thought "What if they don't like this?", so you won't be able to focus on letting your personality be reflected in the music.
You literally can forget how to write music by putting yourself in that type of environment.
"I don't particularly like the sounds of that suspended chord...you devil-worshipper!"
As of 2013, I live in a hotel with 25 other roommates. Many of us are musicians. Not only am I in a place where music is welcomed, but I often get musical help from them.
This breeds creativity for me, and I often find that it's hard for me not to know how to write music that inspires me.
Getting rid of distractions is a key part of learning how to write music creatively!
Put your damn cell phone in another room so you aren't constantly hoping some cute guy or girl is going to reply to your invitation to ask them out.
If you have hostile relationships with the creative forces you are working with (Other people in your band) then you certainly are going to be suppressed.
Freely writing genuine music that translates from your mind (your ultimate goal) is the opposite of musical suppression, so you need to remove aspects of your life that suppress you in order to write music that accurately reflects you.
REMOVE THE CHAINS THAT BIND YOU!
This doesn't mean that you need to remove limitations on your music though. For example, you might create the limitation that your song needs to be written in a certain key, in a 7/8 Time signature, with a shuffle-style drum beat. That is a limitation, but it actually helps you to be more creative.
For example, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez tried to write a song that was under 1 minute long. Now he didn't actually accomplish that goal, but he did end up writing the Grammy Award Winning "Wax Simulacra" because of it.
For goodness sake, stop thinking about what your friends and family will think of the music you write.
My parents listen to freaking 80's rock, so do you really think they are going to fully appreciate the experimental electronic music that I write? Maybe they'll like it, but you simply need to accept that not everyone is going to like your music.
If you music is happy, then hipsters will say it's childish. If it sounds dark, people will say your music is pretentious. If it's heavy and death metal, legalistic Christians will accuse you of being demonic (these have all happened to me!).
More demonic than any heavy metal band you've ever heard of...
Accept that if you are going to be a musician, that means you are actively expressing your musical opinion, and you are expressing that opinion in the strongest way; by creating music based on it; this is a much stronger implementation of an opinion than any music critic review ever could be.
So you can expect that people will hate you for it. Because if your music disagrees with what they think in any way, that means that their opinion on music is now invalidated. And no one likes feeling invalidated.
In order to protect themselves, they now need to make you wrong. They need to say that this strong opinion that you have is wrong, and the easiest way to do that is to say that your music sucks. Because if they can invalidate your music, then they will be validated and they can continue living life uninterrupted.
Although some people aren't quite as simple as just saying "Your music sucks", but layer themselves in justifications and rationalizations about what is technically wrong with the music.
If you write awesome music, people that you personally know might criticize it simply because they are jealous that they couldn't write something as good.
Jealousy: Courtesy of The Adventures of Mr. Superman and Mrs. S
And there you are, feeling bad because someone else felt emasculated as a result of your music being so good.
Doesn't really make any sense for you to feel bad about their negativity, does it?
That's why it's so incredibly important for you not to listen to what other people are saying...
...because there are about 6 million different motives they might have for criticizing your band, and about 5,999,930 of those reasons have nothing to do with the music whatsoever, but have to do with protecting their own ego's.
So get rid of all those distractions in your mind, and get ready to experience a world of openness, creativity, serenity, and oneness with your music.
Oh, and I suppose I should mention that you should pay attention when someone says something good about your music. That builds you up! And that type of positive energy will help increase the flow of creative energy.
Negative energy only puts a cork in your creative spout, so get rid of it! It is not how to write music that rules!
Unless you're super angry about something and you need to write it out into lyrics (I know Maynard James Keenan wrote amazing lyrics in this mindset, see Aenema), but other than that, only pay attention to positive things, and eliminate your distractions.
I'm Andrew Muller, and I wrote near this whole flippin' website. As you can see in my picture, I'm an intense fellow.
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. Pretentious much?
I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for my semi-electronic & vocals act My Goal Is Telepathy. Take a listen to the latest sound here.