5 Music Making Tips to Get You Started (or Unblocked!)
We all love music, but we don’t all have the tools to create it. Yes, tools. Making music isn’t a privilege, and you don’t have to be a divine virtuoso to pen a tune or two. Today, we want to inspire your inner music maker and provide a basic music making toolkit. We’ve included tried and true exercises that we’ve all done. By we, I mean us, the folks behind Open Labs. We range from music listeners transitioning to music makers (me!) to expert performers and producers. If you’re already a pro, you may want to revisit some of these fundamental ideas and do the exercises yourself. You never know what will cure sporadic writer’s block.
Tip #1: Record Ideas
Creative sparks come and go at the most inopportune times. Be prepared. Have a tool to record random thoughts and spurts of inspiration. Our suggested tool: your smartphone. You can start by using a simple voice memo. Start recording ideas as they come up. Once you’re in a groove, graduate to a more comprehensive tool, like Stagelight. Create a new song and add an audio track to make the most of your built in mic, or use the full-screen drum pad to tap out a beat. You can resume your song later, or build it out when time permits. If this doesn’t resonate, you may be the pen and paper type. We encourage you to pursue your analog ways! Whatever works.
Exercise 1: What’s the first sound you hear in the morning? Birds? Alarm? Traffic? Record it. Does it change? Does it have repeating element or a rhythm? Analyze it. Who knows, this may the beginning of your very own morning theme.
Tip #2: Immerse yourself. Do All the Things!
Let me explain. Music is a creative pursuit, and creativity isn’t limited to one channel. Celebrated artists draw inspiration from different sources. Diversity is key. Are you super into music but not that into visual art? Try going to a local museum and walk around for a bit. What grabs your attention? Why does it grab your attention? The point is, find ways you can experience different products of creativity. Being exposed to the outcome of another person’s creativity can inspire. Another option is a cultural experience. Maybe there’s a craft fair coming to town this weekend. Or, don’t leave your house, instead, watch a critically acclaimed foreign film, or animation. Be open to the creativity around you.
Exercise #2: Pick a piece of art you like. Painting, sculpture, photograph, animation, poster, anything. Write down why you like it. Is it the colors? The movement? How does it make you feel? Next, think about how these traits correlate to your taste in music. You may find a pattern, and that pattern is your perspective, your style.
Tip #3: Collaborate.
In the spirit of immersion, lets also touch on collaboration. It’s important to expand your horizons. And, once you’ve defined your taste, it’s time to share! Collaboration keeps you fresh. As stated in Tip #2, be open. We cannot stress this enough. Interesting things happen when you push boundaries. Newness is the product of the unexpected. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Partner up with a neighbor, sibling, or coworker. Don’t have neighbors, siblings, or coworkers? No problem, you have the Stagelight Community. We love collaborations! In fact, here’s a recent one: Zayed Hassan and Amarelle, both active members of the Stagelight Community, got together and created Make a Move (listen below). And, they’re not even on the same continent! No excuses, start collaborating.
Exercise #3: Share an idea of yours with someone who, you feel, has a different perspective. Make sure this person is open and positive. No haters allowed. You don’t need a finished song or beat. Just have a conversation about your idea and jot down their thoughts.
Tip #4: Less is More.
Now that you’re good and inspired, it’s time to start to start the actual music making. If this is your first hurrah, keep it simple. You need rhythm and a few sounds. Add a vocal track if that’s your thing. You don’t need much else. We’re being vague on purpose. Have a guitar? Tap on the body for your beat, or pluck a few strings. Add some chords or vocalize sounds for your melody. Experiment with what you have. Your first song will not be a full orchestration. You’re not Mozart, sorry. Don’t have an instrument but have a phone / tablet / computer? Use Stagelight. Get your idea down with as few tracks as possible. Can you do it in two? You can always add more later. Know what matters and approach everything in chunks.
Exercise #4: Deconstruct a song and recreate it. Pick a simple song, it can be the theme of your favorite TV show or a beloved childhood nursery rhyme. If you’re more experienced, pick something more complex. Mimic the rhythm, the melody, the movement. Make a new song from this framework. You’ll be surprised what you can do with an unofficial template.
Tip #5: Don’t Get Caught Up with Words.
Everything doesn’t have to rhyme. Really, it doesn’t. Your lyrics don’t require meaning so deep you’ll be cited by future philosophers. Like Tip #4 advises, keep it simple. And, if you’re only about the music, you don’t need words, make instrumental music. If you like the idea of lyrics, but don’t fancy yourself a wordsmith, pick a poem, pick some dialogue from your favorite movie and use that to get started. Remember, you’re only going to get better. Keep at it. So, for now, borrow words. Revisit and revise as you get more comfortable.
Exercise #5: Pick a poem or a movie monologue, maybe your favorite comedic bit. Try and fit these words to your music, but don’t force it. Does it work or does it not? Why does it or doesn’t it? Pay attention to each word, its sound and syllable count. Does it compliment your song, its beat, its sound?
There you have it. Our tried and true tips. The secret sauce to what helps us make music. We hope you enjoyed our little journey. Keep us posted on Facebook and let us know if our advice helped you demystify music making. If you happen to come up with a fresh track, enter the Stagelight Monthly Music Contest II. You might be our grand prize winner!