Recording 101: Figuring Out Your Creative Process
Far be it from me to attempt to explain the creative process and why with any art form that 1+1 never really equals 2.
The process itself is far more mysterious than that.
There‘s no ‘secret’ manual detailing ‘best practices’ to songwriting. Well, not in my opinion. Every artist I’ve ever met has his or her own innately unique way to create and there is not a three-step program to hit song writing.
When I think about my creative process over the past 20 years, I shutter to think of all the moments of inner angst I experienced during songwriting sessions. It hasn’t been up until very recently that I can honestly say I’m able to embrace the creative process with complete joy – here’s why.
Much of my own challenges came from within. The inner critic was a powerful force that would challenge every move. At maximum capacity, it had the ability to completely suppress a song from taking shape. What I eventually realized was missing with the help of my own teachers was the principle of trust. What I eventually realized was missing was the principle of ‘trust.’ Not to be taken lightly, I believe this one Idea can help elevate so much of the unnecessary scrutiny every artist faces during the creative process.
When I allowed trust to enter the equation, I no longer focused on a word or imperfect phrasing. Rather, I trusted that if I stayed with the process, I would eventually find the right combination of chords, melody, words, etc.
Imagine a shapeless stone that eventually transforms itself into an object of beauty by the hands of a sculptor. The sculpture didn’t just appear; the sculptor chiseled the beauty out of a shapeless form one strike at a time. The same can be said of an artist painting a blank canvas. Without trust in the process, it’s easy to see how an oddly shaped piece of stone, or mishmash of colours on a canvas would discourage anyone.
Sequential order to the creative process is also an interesting idea to contemplate.
I use to think I needed to have a solid first verse before I could move onto the rest of a song. The lesson: linear thinking = bad idea.
Ideas need to flow and should be given the space to do so. Staying open to the notion that a chorus line can come first, or bridge sequence of chords, or even starting the song with a drum groove are all fantastic examples of staying open, and trusting in the process.
I’ve found that going into comparison mode during the writing process is also a VERY BAD idea. And I mean BAD with not only a capital B, but A and D too! BAD! It’s normal to reference other artists we like when thinking about our own music. We’re all a subject of our influences and that isn’t a bad thing. However, the trap I would succumb to would begin when I trusted myself less and resorted to referencing other bands I loved as a way to get unstuck. For me, that move would almost always set me back three steps.
If you’re like me, you want to avoid this as best you can. Trusting and remembering we are unique creative beings is so important. Besides, how on earth could you ever compare yourself to an artist you love?
What’s helpful to remember is that the artists you and I look up to, also face the same challenges we do. For example, I found it very comforting to learn that U2’s The Edge would either re-record or re-mix every U2 record if he could!
Distractions such as the television, laptop or cellphone can also be harmful to the creative process. Anything that has the ability to pull your attention and focus away from your emotions/feelings will water down the potency of your song, performance and message. For those spiritualists out there, I also happen to believe that the time of day, and what day it is, actually do affect the creative process. Have you ever wondered why Sundays have a certain feel to them, or why Mondays can often feel sort of rough? The collective consciousness of each of us is vibrating out an energy that can be felt. I know, perhaps that’s a little too hippy dippy. But, I do find this to be my experience and typically plan my writing sessions around it.
Here’s where I like to get you involved. We all have different ways we get inspired and I would love to hear what yours are. Riffyou.com readers, please share with us what gets you in the ‘mood’ to be creative! You can post your comments below.
Check back next month for another instalment of Recording 101!
About the Author: Jeff Eden is an established Composer for Film & TV, and a 20-year veteran of the recording industry. He is the Owner & Head Engineer at Studio8.
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