The guitarist’s guide to boost your creativity | Guitar.com

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In an age when the musical instrument market is bursting with ever more impressive sound options, it’s tempting to assume that the process of music creation is getting easier. Not so. While technological advancements certainly expand the range of sounds on offer, the entire process of writing and composing unique, courageous, revealing and beautiful new music remains as difficult and elusive as ever.

While most musicians develop their own writing techniques, the reality is that even the most experienced writers face creative brick walls. At such times, it can be helpful to reassess the way you work. By shedding light on your working methods, it may be possible to refine your processes and empower you to create even more inspiring and innovative works.

Image: Quartet Module

Get inspired

“Creativity,” observed Albert Einstein, “is seeing what everyone has seen and thinking what no one else has thought”. Certainly, this is a highly personal and individual process with the imagination, thoughts, emotions and memories of the creators fueling the idiosyncratic whole. This is quite clear when it comes to the first step in the process – inspiration.

“Getting inspired to create can always be a challenge for musicians and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where creativity comes from,” says Craig Stratton of Modulus Quartet, a London-based string ensemble that is proud to work with contemporary composers and perform new pieces. . “There are countless things around us, sights and sounds that can trigger our creativity. We can be inspired by listening and looking at others. Let us also not forget that great art, music and literature were created through love and tragedy.

When it comes to creating new music and lyrics, the possibilities are endless. A headline or sentiment alone can trigger an entire narrative, as can a phrase heard, a powerful emotion, sadness, elation, discontent, or a desire for political change. The key is to listen to find inspiration and act on it. Many are just waiting for inspiration to strike. But for working creators, that’s not an option.

Quartet Module
Image: Martin Sean Photography

Set your own deadline

The most important advice is to “keep going”. The key is to devote yourself to the art of songwriting or songwriting, devoting hours to it even when you sometimes seem like you have little to show.

“If I show up and devote my time and focus, something will happen and the more frequently I do it, the faster and richer the results will be,” says singer-songwriter and musician Emily Breeze, who teaches at BIMM in Bristol. Breeze says she has long been impressed with the disciplined writing approach taken by Nick Cave.

“Apparently he has a desk with a piano and typewriter and works on his nine to five songs instead of waiting for the planets to line up and a fully formed song to come out of a dream. He says, “Inspiration is a word used by people who really don’t do anything. I go to my office every day when I’m in Brighton and it doesn’t matter whether I like it or not ”.

It is a philosophy cited by many creative minds throughout the centuries. As Picasso said: “Inspiration exists, but it must find you working.” “

Creative spark

For most songwriters and songwriters, the mere seed of a good idea is enough to compel them to take the plunge. “Sometimes I wake up with an idea that I need to sing along to my iPhone right away,” says Bishi Bhattacharya, a London-based singer-songwriter, musician, producer, songwriter and DJ. “Sometimes musical phrases come to me when I’m in the metro. Sometimes ideas arise simply by improvising with instruments and pedals.
As a teenager, Bishi said she would deconstruct songs, which she said was a great method for finding out why she loved a piece of music. “I apply the same approach when I study orchestral scores or Indian ragas. I want to experiment with techniques to further unleash my creativity. While I myself manage and run a platform called WTCiH, I’m always on the lookout for creative ways to take the stress out of spinning a lot of plates.

Bishi
Bishi Bhattacharya. Image: Zuzanna Blur

Writing techniques

Writing and composition techniques vary wildly, of course. Some writers will flesh out a prominent motif, skeletal chord sequence or melody, just when a lyrical phrase or theme may have arisen. Others, like Emily Breeze, will focus on the lyrics first, and those will guide the direction of the song.

“I’m a lyric-driven writer, so without a theme or line, a chord chain doesn’t make sense,” she says. “I recently wrote a song about Anna Nicole Smith after seeing her wedding photos. A pretty pastel chapel, rows of vacant folding chairs and Anna, sculptural in a virginal white orgasm of frothy lace and roses, gazing fondly at his future 89-year-old Texan oil billionaire J Howard Marshall (63 years her senior) in a white tuxedo and wheelchair.

“The photo is truly beautiful and seemed to me to be the most extreme example of the transactional nature of love. Female anti-heroes inspire me and I think it is brilliant, terrible and exciting in three dimensions .

Breeze says she enjoyed the voyeuristic research process and says it informed the deals. “I wanted something that sounds like a cross between Link Wray’s To scold and one Bind theme with a strip club beat and a production cellophane sheen. Sure, it probably looks like neither of those things, but I reached out and am proud of the results.

Quartet Module
Image: Quartet Module

Dealing with the creative block

Having a strong and clear idea from the start is invaluable when creating a new work. But even if the writer has only the most sketchy ideas – just a sentence, a pattern, or two chords – the general advice is to start and not to worry if some of them sound bad at first. Don’t be tempted to start editing or strive for perfection as you go, but explore and harness your thought processes as fully as possible.

But for all those musicians with prolific creative output, there are an equal number for whom the process is utterly tortuous. Problems arise of course when inspiration fails to appear in the first place or you reach a creative cul-de-sac. In such situations, the general advice is to take a step back and try something completely different.

“I would advise any musician who feels stuck in their creativity to meet other artists, listen to music, read and of course practice, even if it’s just a job. technical, ”says Craig Stratton of the Modulus Quartet. “There is nothing like a social gathering to inspire creativity and you certainly don’t need instruments to generate artistic ideas.

This is a point of view taken up by Bishi Bhattacharya. “I encourage people to try writing different styles and to experience the writing process with other people, where you can combine your strengths. When you’re on the same page, only good things happen.

Make changes

Some believe that creators who struggle with their work need to take an even broader approach, changing their lifestyle and well-being in order to flourish creatively. Andrew Armor, senior lecturer in business at BIMM in London, says creatives will have great motivation, but inevitably put pressure on themselves.

“We often talk about ‘flow,’ that almost timeless sense of focus and dedication that people get when they’re ‘in the zone,’ he says. “To some people, this motivation may seem unreasonable and even obsessive, and it puts a lot of pressure on talented people themselves, as well as their friends and family. Recognizing this and learning to balance that kind of motivation is something every creative person faces.

Armor emphasizes the need for creators to be kind to themselves, focusing more on the present and small, step-by-step achievements. “Being resilient means focusing on the small gains, the steps you want to take,” he says.

He also advises creators to make slight changes to their systems and habits. “Manage yourself and be empowered, because it’s incredibly positive,” he says. “What should you stop doing?” What can you start to do? What do you need to do more?

Armor also advises musicians to stay mentally fit, exercising “that muscle of curiosity,” perhaps by examining areas of interest outside of the creative industries such as history, science, or cooking. By focusing on something else, designers will feel refreshed when they return to their work, he says.

Emily Breeze Group
Emily Breeze Band. Image: John Morgan Photography

Self-help techniques

One self-help exercise that can prove to be extremely useful, he says, is the Pomodoro technique. “It just requires working really hard, in short bursts of 20 to 30 minutes, then stopping and then starting again,” he says. “It creates freshness and concentration. “

He also advises creatives to avoid spending too much time “regretting the past” or “wishing for the future”. Accept that creating is a frustrating process and most people get stuck, he says. Then continue. Everyone has to find their own way to build what’s right for them and take care to build what’s important to you and your job.

This is a view shared by Emily Breeze, who believes there is a danger in overthinking the entire creative process. “There are two ends of a pole with a sliding ladder,” she says. “On the one hand, we have a careerist or academic approach, which is analyzed out of existence by considering how the song will be received before it has had the chance to develop and the creative choices will be governed by data and trends. Then at the other end of the pole we have the tear-stained journal entries of the complacent poet who believes their emotions and experiences are worth casting in bronze and applauded for eternity with no regard for technique. , editing or public appeal. . Trying to strike a balance between these two poles on a constantly shifting line is a fascinating challenge that keeps me in the game.

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