It's been a well-known problem for authors, traditional musicians and songwriters for as long as these art forms existed, but creative block for producers, beat-makers and electronic musicians is just as problematic. Luckily, there's a host of tip-top technological and traditional methods for re-igniting that creative spark...
Use your voice
You don't have to be a singer to use your voice to inspire you! Scream and shout, let it all out...
Try beatboxing, then slicing these audio parts to a new MIDI track, using those MIDI events to trigger real drum and percussion samples. This can be a quick way to create interesting and unusual rhythms. Even if you're not a singer there are tools like auto-tune and Melodyne to put those vocals in key. Or try spoken word, pitched down, or double tracked at two different pitches for more interesting effects. A good vocal hook can spark a whole track so creating your own vocal sample, (even if it is mashed beyond being recognisable as a vocal) is worth pursuing. Don't worry about the lyrics, try opening a book at random pages and reordering a few words until you find something interesting.
Try a new or unusual plugin
Although you shouldn't always think that new gear equals new ideas, there are so many amazing tools available now it's easier than ever to find inspiration in technology.
There are a huge amount of tools designed to inspire creativity or help you unlock skills you don't have. From chord and harmony creation plugins, such as Captain Chords, InstaChrord or Scaler to plugins designed to add randomisation and effects such as Effectrix, Turnado and LiveCut. So whether your finding your fingers reaching for the same chords or always chopping up loops in the same way these are all great tools to break your habits. You can even go as far as using software like Photosounder or Image Line's BeepMap synth in FL Studio which can convert images into sound or synth patches! Time to put all those selfies to good use...
Don't be shy! We guarantee that most of the electronic music you thought was original, was based around samples. It's the origins of most genres, so as the saying goes, if it it ain't broke, sample it!
Although you have to be make sure you have the rights cleared if you are looking to release a track that contains a sample of commercial music, it can still be a great building block to start with. Building a track around a famous acapella for example, can easily speed up your arrangement and groove. Mute the accapella and continue or make it your own with a fresh vocal. Also, don't discount sample packs or looking for royalty free samples online. There are so many to choose from now such as SampleMagic, Beatport Sounds, Loopmasters, Noiize
Find some fresh MIDI
The power of MIDI data shouldn't be overlooked, often fresh MIDI parts are much more inspiring and flexible than audio samples.
MIDI is overlooked as a track-starting tool. Unlike audio samples, MIDI doesn't already have a style and sound stamped all over it and can be easily tweaked. You can even find full, multi-track, MIDI versions of famous and popular songs online if you search hard enough as MIDI was often used to make karaoke machine backing tracks. Be careful what you use though as even though it's MIDI it will still have musical copyright and intellectual property rights attached. So use it for inspiration only or considerably change the musical data and tempo, like you would starting with a commercial sample.
Attempt a cover version
There are many examples of a cover version that has improved, or at least become better-known than the original recording. So learn your favourite record and start recording...
If it's a great cover, then that's still a cool project! Plus, often trying to cover a track will actually inspire you to go in a completely different direction, forming a completely new idea or track. It's also a nice technique, taking a cover and reworking in your own style. Think of it like remixing a song but without the original parts. Check out albums like Tom Middletons's Cosmosonica or Crazy Covers or some covers playlists on Spotify to be inspired by what others have done. There's also a heap of modern pop songs turned into retro cheesy 80s covers on YouTube too.
Two heads are better than one! Plus those heads don't even have to be in the same room with the host of file sharing methods available online!
It's easy to end up sat in front of your computer with a blank arrangement page, staring into a creative abyss. Collaboration stops all of this, whether you're sending loops and project files backwards and forwards online or get together in the same room, having another person to critique, inspire and impress will get things moving. Even if that other person isn't a producer, having someone else's input can add some spark to a project. Think about all the DJ and producer duos that work so well, even if someone is just bringing the spark to a project, that can be invaluable if you're washed in a creative darkness.
FIND OUT MORE
Want free software? Check out all our Free Software Friday blogs here
Interested in production, plugins and sound engineering? Why not take a look at our hugely popular music production and sound engineering courses?