Is musical creativity something that comes naturally?

Discussion in 'General Music Discussion' started by will_shred, Feb 5, 2019.

  1. will_shred

    will_shred Wannabe audio engineer

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    I've been playing guitar basically all my life, I went to music school and learned music theory/jazz guitar and audio production, and I play in two bands. I'm a pretty good player, I know many chores and many modes and scales and arpeggios, I have a huge internal library of songs that I can play by heart, and I can learn how to play just about anything. I even teach guitar for some extra money on the side. My tastes are pretty wide ranging, I listen to a lot of psychedelic rock, post rock, prog, jazz, jazzhop, and blues based music. Not as much metal as I used to but still put on Defheaven or Wovles in the Throne Room from time to time. I still love metal, but I just listen to a much wider range of music than I used to.

    But I don't think I've ever written a song that I was proud of. In both my bands I make almost no musical contribution besides holding down the parts that are given to me and playing solos. Though lead playing is probably my biggest strength, in my solos I try to put melody first and showmanship takes a back seat. I think people expect me to be a good songwriter because I am a good player, but I'm really not. Try as I might, I just don't think I have that sense of musical artistry that seems to come naturally to so many people. I often feel bad about it. With my setup at home, I could easily produce my own album, and I have always loved the idea of doing so, but I just don't think I have that kind of creativity in me. Sometimes it really bums me out.

    Is there anyone else in this boat?

    Also, some artists that have really captured my attention lately.

    Chon

    Polyphia

    Khruangbin

    Marcus King

    Vulfpeck

    City Girl

    Shubh Saran
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
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  2. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    It sounds to me like you are in your own head.

    Try writing a song. Then keep trying. Make voice memos of riffs or melodies you like.

    You have a lot of knowledge, so let it come out without too much thought process. Write with feeling.

    Good luck!
     
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  3. Miek

    Miek POSTING ON INTERNET

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    it absolutely doesn't, writing music is work even when you have a lot of inspiration.
     
  4. p0ke

    p0ke 7-string guitard

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    There's a lot of different ways of composing music, but I'd say the more you do it, the better you get at it, no matter how naturally or unnaturally it comes at first. For me it was a bit difficult at first, and all my "songs" would just be collections of variations of parts from songs I liked. But I just kept trying, and at some point my songs started becoming actual songs. I didn't get that in the beginning, but these days I might hear a riff in my head, then I sit down and find out how it's played and then record it. I didn't have that kind of imagination "naturally" as you say, I had to learn it.

    As for the different ways I mentioned: sometimes it comes naturally and quickly, whereas sometimes you really need to put sweat and tears into it to get anything out. And neither way is better than the other. And then sometimes nothing helps and you just need a change of scenery or whatever you happen to need.
     
  5. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I'm only just barely reaching a point where I actually like the songs I write. It's not a "natural" process at all for me, especially for lyrics. I'm a terrible lyricist. But I feel much more confident with what I come up with because I've practiced. Write 100 songs and maybe you'll like 10 of them.
     
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  6. Given To Fly

    Given To Fly Contributor

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  7. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    I go through periods like that, and I say that as a guy who HAS written some stuff he's really proud of. My suggestions, in rough order of importance:

    1) the biggest writer's block I have is my own mental filter - "no, this isn't good enough to be a song." I broke a several year dry spell by just telling myself I was going to write a song a day for a month - they didn't have to be good songs, they didn't have to be unique songs, they just had to be songs. I made it a week - not because I was struggling to come up with ideas, but because of the seven songs I'd liked, four I was jazzed enough about to want to go back and extend my verse-chorus demos into full arrangements.
    2) If you're been listening to a lot of the stuff you're influenced by lately, and you're having writers' block, stop, and listen to a lot of stuff you want to sound nothing like, but you enjoy. Sometimes it helps you reset and puts you in a different mental place.
    3) If you HAVEN'T been listening to your main influences lately, and you're suffering from writer's block, start. Nothing gets me more motivated to write killer instrumental music more than, after a long period away, spinning a few of my favorite Satch or Timmons albums and remembering how cool instrumental music can be.
    4) setting limits can be a way to boost creativity, paradoxically. Pick an interval or something, or make up a phrase of musical terms - "ascending diatonic sixths," or something. Then, write a song based around that. Make flash cards or something.
     
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  8. Xaios

    Xaios Foolish Mortal Contributor

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    Missing gratuitous references to trucks, dirt roads, romantic river banks, girls in tight jeans and booze.
     
  9. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    I'd say the key thing is just to write something. Then, if it's not what you want it to be, and it probably won't be, do what all of the best writers do - rewrite it until it is what you want it to be. Never overlook or underestimate the power of rewriting; while it takes work, it's often the difference between something that is great and something that isn't.
     
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  10. chopeth

    chopeth SS.org Regular

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    a pack of beers is often necessary... or two if you want to like what you write
     
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  11. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    I'm sure this was tongue in cheek, but some people think it's true. It isn't.

    In 19 years of guitar playing, booze has never made me improve my playing in any way. I only get sloppier.
     
  12. p0ke

    p0ke 7-string guitard

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    Playing - yes, I agree. You don't get better by drinking. But writing music? It can work sometimes. For me at least, it works the same as with social interactions. I'm pretty shy, but once I have a bunch of drinks, I'm mr. confident :lol: The same works with music, the unnecessary filters go away. It has made me keep a bunch of riffs I threw away the next day too, but most of them turn into something.

    And yeah, I'm not talking about getting absolutely wasted, but a few drinks can do wonders sometimes. It doesn't work every time (nothing does), but sometimes it can be exactly what's needed in order not to be too critical. Again - when WRITING music, not when recording or playing a show.
     
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  13. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Taking booze or drugs to make your writing "better" is just a hacky workaround for whatever is actually inhibiting your writing process. :2c:
     
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  14. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    And whats inhibiting is usually thinking the part isnt good enough.

    Learn to get out of your own way sober and you're on a good route.
     
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  15. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Shameless Contrarian

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    Are you literally me? Because this sounds like literally me.
    I'm the best guitar player that I know in terms of what I can play, but almost every other guitarist I know is better than I am at actually creating things.
    Ditto on the setup, my home studio is frankly ridiculous compared to what I actually use it for; I feel like I'm wasting it but whenever I try to write I just feel like I'm trying to force creativity and that doesn't work.

    I don't have any advice for you bro, otherwise I wouldn't be in the same spot. Just lettin' you know you are totally 8,000,000% not alone.
     
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  16. Descent

    Descent SS.org Regular

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    Some people are just not born composers...oftentimes I find that technique and proper music schooling is detrimental to song writing. You've learned the rules...now try to discard them.
     
  17. p0ke

    p0ke 7-string guitard

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    Yeah, I'm not saying it's the right way to do it, but it is A way to do it. And of course there's the possibility to get addicted because you think you need to be drunk or high to create stuff.
    Anyway, if creating feels forced and bla bla, don't worry about it. Just keep forcing it and in time, it will become less forced.
     
  18. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Potentially unpopular take: If writing music feels forced and unpleasant.... then just don't do it. There's no shame in playing music without also being a writer. Play covers. Join a band where someone else does the writing. Or practice until you get somewhere you're happy with.
     
  19. Randy

    Randy Sous Chef Super Moderator

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    In reference specifically to the thread title:

    I don't think creativity comes naturally, per se, but the circumstances that surround allowingcreativity to flow and commitment to rendering your work come from places we either have or don't have long before we're conscious of them. That's a conversation that can go into the weeds VERY fast, but some basics would be work ethic and 'handiness' (being able to utilize the tools you are given), and those are absolutely things that some people are lucky enough to have cultivated in them early and others have to learn much later in life.

    In my case, nothing to do with music came naturally to me. I think I spent half a year just being able to get the guitar to make sound when I pressed the frets down. Musically, song writing was always difficult but I was lucky enough to fall in with a couple bands full of people who were creative and become involved enough in the process enough to know how it works.

    For reference, I've been playing music on my own since I was 14-ish, I'm over 30 now and I'd say I've only just tapped into my creativity in music in the last couple years.

    On my musical journey, I think the thing that's stuck with me the most is like the old Edison adage about the lightbulb, something like "I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work" or thereabouts. The projects I played in that yielded the best material, we'd write maybe 35 songs, maybe even to the point of gigging and even recording them, for every 10-ish songs we ended up liking enough to put into a finished album.

    That's to say, art and creative thought are things that are constantly being remarked onto us and we might see 1,000 influential things in a day but you never know how much it 'sticks' until you've acted on it. And often times you WILL act on it, only to discover maybe it's a little hokey or doesn't fit "you", so you scrap it but in the process, you refine and find maybe one or two new things that DO fit. And those things you stash away for your finished works.

    But the point is, you need to make the commitment to your muse and try those things until you find your fit. The mistake a lot of people make (what I spent 15+ years thinking and fucking up) is thinking all your best ideas spill out on the first try and that that's how 'creative people' work, and that if you don't make something Earth shattering the first time you hit the recording button then you're just not good enough and that's false. Fight through the stinkers.

    Last little bit I'd like to add... You can, at a certain point, know and accept who you are in the creative landscape. I've known people who wrote music infinitely less polished than I'd envision being but they had an identity and they committed to it. And that identity can and DOES evolve, which is the point.

    After I kinda came to grips with my sound and my abilities, I read a great book about songwriting. One of the main exercises in the book was timed creative writing, and the time you were given got shorter and shorter. They include a lot of examples in the book, some from 10 minutes exercises, some from 30 second exercises. The pieces I liked the most just barely resembled the subject they were given by the time they reached the end, which was kind of the point. The goal of the exercise was to learn to "go deeper, faster" , jump into your most abstract thoughts and instead of running the marathon from the opening gate every time, it gets you in the mode of starting from where you left off (as far as creative depth) way earlier in the process, so that you were always covering new ground.
     
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  20. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    I think writing music and other similar kinds of "creativity" are very much skills that take time and work to develop. I've spent a lot of time writing music because I enjoy it. For years I hardly wrote anything I liked or was proud of and I had big problems with various aspects of the process. But I enjoyed it so I kept at it. And now many years later, I still think it's hard, but now I can come up with things that I actually think are good, or even great. It got easier the more I did it and the results got better.

    On the other hand, I've never had the time or patience to sit down and practice technique on the guitar, and I suck at actually playing the instrument. But that's okay. I can't put in the time it takes to get good at everything. So I focus on the things that I enjoy, and those are the ones I end up getting better at.

    A lot of things seem to come naturally to people. Someone might hear a song I wrote and assume that I'm "creative" or whatever. But they didn't see the process. They don't know how many hours I spent on that thing, all the meals I skipped, the sleep I lost. They didn't hear all the shitty riffs I came up with that never ended up in the finished song. Or all the shitty songs I wrote before that one.
     

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