If you haven’t first read my first article about being creative, please do so now. It has some essential information comparing being a creator VS destroyer, and why those two things are equally important.
Being destructive has to do with taking a bunch of ideas you’ve created, and editing them down to something manageable.
After you’ve spent all of your time creating new riffs, lyrics, vocal lines, and other tracks, you always need to spend time thinking “is this the best it can be? Is this so good that it belongs in my song?”
Without trimming mediocre ideas out of your song, you’re left with exactly that: mediocrity.
It’s always better to come up with a 20 minute EP that is complete gold, than to release a 40 minute album that has 20 minutes of gold, and 20 minutes of so-so.
I’ll repeat that: even if the first 20 minutes is identical to that “20 minute gold EP”, you can really stain the album by adding in another 20 minutes of unfocused music. It’s always better to include simply what’s needed and well thought out.
Think minimalism here. We want what’s best, and forget the rest.
“Oh but I worked so hard on that! I have to include it in the album”.
If you don’t think it’s absolutely fantastic, then release it on a B-side (if not at all). At least that way you can keep your reputation and people will be far more apt to listen to your music. Don’t you love those albums where you don’t “skip to your favourite song” because ALL of the songs are your favourite?
Aim to write that album.
You might not be able to do it, but it's something to strive for. Aiming to write that album is what will produce the best result possible.
It can be difficult to be creative. There's always that pressure to “do better than you did last time”, and if what you did “last time” was pretty good, that can be paralyzing!
But when you are able to be a ruthless editor who never lets a bad idea get published, you give Mr. Creative a lot of freedom to experiment however he likes, because he knows he’s protected if he comes up with a stupid idea (which he most definitely will).
Before your final draft, always make sure that you really love everything that’s gone into your music. If something about your music makes you dissatisfied with it, give it a week or two, and then come back to it and edit it with a fresh set of eyes.
When you are working really hard on a song, you might become especially attached to something that isn’t even very good. But because you spent hours writing it (and I guarantee you that the riffs you work hardest on are not necessarily the best), you might feel obligated to keep it.
Don’t allow yourself to think that way. Think about whether the music itself is fantastic, not about how hard you might have worked on it.
In an ideal world, you would be able to erase your memory and listen to your music as if you had never heard it before (known as "fresh eyes").
Everything I’m saying here applies to lyrics as well. You want to write lyrics that only include your core message (try not to add in tons of extra “filler” words. OVER-deliver on the density of your lyrical content) so that people will be compelled to study and read into your lyrics.
Cut out the points that aren’t important, and use repetition to emphasize the lyrics that ARE important (I generally reserve my most important lyrics, or the core message of my lyrics, for the chorus of a song).
I personally like to get a little bit of feedback when I’m done a song. Generally, if I’m asking someone who has good judgement when it comes to music, they will make criticisms that I already agree with, but may have been too shy to admit.
I might have a friend listen and say “I really like this and that, but I think the chorus lyrics are a bit hard to hear”. At this point, I take a listen and realize, “Hey! I actually agree with that!”
You shouldn’t change your music completely based on other’s opinions, but you should allow them to confirm things that you already know deep inside; it can be hard to criticize your own creations!
Conversely, you can also be your own worst critic, but I find that these two ideas aren't mutually exclusive if you look at them the right way.
In the music realm, a good producer can be the equivalent of the “editor in chief” of a newspaper. He knows how to work with technical equipment, and he can fulfill your musical visions in the studio.
Finding a good producer can be really difficult, but one that’s worth his salt will always offer you creative suggestions to help your music stand out even more.
If you’re having trouble getting your vision for your music “just right”, consider hiring a producer.
When hiring, I would recommend just trying him out on a section of a song, or just 1 song, before you hire him for an entire album. Of course, if he already has samples that you love, you might already be sold on his abilities.
I recommend the “1 song” rule so that you can see if he is the right guy for the job. There are hundreds of different production styles, and it would be a shame to pay thousands of dollars for a producer who doesn't even match up with your type of music.
How much more of a shame if he doesn't even understand your vision!
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.
I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for My Goal Is Telepathy. Take a listen to the latest sound here.