Making Sure You’re Getting Your Inspiration Nourished Properly – By Jesse Cannon
While I recognize I am about to talk about nutrition to a bunch of energy drink swilling, TacoBell ingesting people whose idea of exercise is cranking a snare drum to tune it, understanding how to nurture your mind to make great music is crucial to making great records.
There’s a famous saying that gets tossed around a lot that you’re the product of the five people you hang out with the most. In finance they say you’re as rich as the five people you talk to the most. Well, this also goes for musical influence. The five things you listen to the most will largely shape what you create. With years of music listening this can be diminished down to what you listened to over the course of your life. However, for beginners, this is especially crucial since you don’t have years of accumulating influence, standards, and a palette to draw from.
After establishing that inspiration is research, we need to recognize that you should be conscious of the inspiration you’re taking in as if it were a diet. When I’m trying to get inspired for a record, I try to consider my inspiration diet. I then nurture myself for what I’ll need to make sure I’m inspired for a project.
Here are considerations I often take in when trying to make sure I’m going to be on the best diet to be inspired on a project:
Favorites Vs. Fresh
It can be easy to get lost in your favorite records. Getting to know them as best you can is some of the most important listening you can do to figure out what you love about them. Plus it feels great to listen to them! But you also need to be taking in new records to gain new and fresh ideas. Even if these records aren’t music made in recent years, you need to continue to get inspired by new source material. The inverse can also be true. You can be too focused on new records versus exploring your favorites and figuring out what makes them tick. If I give a concentrated listen to many of my favorite records even decades later, I can still find new details from them to get inspired by, but there’s nothing like fresh new ideas to get you inspired.
The Greats Vs. The Local Trash
Everyone has a favorite local band that’s doing amazing music that the world may never hear. There are also the other ten bands in your local scene who aren’t that special and far too often, musicians put too much time into listening to them. I’ve seen many musicians get lost in listening to their friend’s music that’s poorly done versions of great bands. This drives their standards down. It will make them think subpar ideas are great, instead of getting used to the high standards they need to achieve the greatness of the greats.
Bells & Whistles Vs. Solid Songs
On some records, an artist can be filled with inspiration for song structures and hooks, but when it comes to how to do some crazy soundscapes they may be coming up blank. I’ll often go on an inspiration diet depending on what a band needs for this. If a band needs help coming up with soundscapes, I may end up listening to Mars Volta, Brian Eno, Clinic, The Talking Heads and Chrome to get ideas of what we could do. But if the band has a mind for those bells and whistles, I may try to get into the mind of their favorite songwriters and make sure we stay focused on solid songs. Consider where you feel deficient inspiration wise and consciously take in inspiration that’ll help nurture what you need on a project.
Inspiration opens our brains to the possibility of what can be done in music. The more we are reminded of this possibility the greater connections we can make to do great things in music. Making sure you get the right inspiration is far more important than another hour spent, no matter what your job in music is.
Jesse Cannon is a Brooklyn based record producer, mixer and mastering engineer. He is co-founder of Noise Creators a service that connects musicians to the best producers in music today. He is the author of Get More Fans: The DIY Guide To The New Music Business and the upcoming Processing Creativity.
Click here and listen to Jesse’s guest URM Podcast episode where we discuss strategies upcoming audio engineers can use to promote themselves, and lots of juicy mastering tips.
Click here to read Jesse’s previous URM blog entry, “Band Practice Is Toxic To Your Creativity.”
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