You're not alone if you experience beat block or producer's block from time to time. That's why I wanted to put together a list of some great techniques to get over your creative block and get back to creating and finishing projects.
Producer's block is phenomena every producer experiences. It's happened to me more times than I would like to admit, but over time, I have learned how to manage it. I actually now view producer block in a positive light.
So what is it and how does it affect the producer or writer in us?
Beat block can simply be described as sitting down to create or work and nothing comes out. Or maybe it is so bad you can't even get yourself to sit down and create. There aren’t any good melodies flowing from your hands, the drum groove isn’t coming out how you want it to. Nothing seems to be working.
To be honest, this can be a crippling experience. Especially if you have a deadline to meet and don't know how you're going to get it done.
I think the secret to getting over beat block is to be aware of the few ways we can lack inspiration as producers. So lets get started...
1.) Explore new sounds, presets, or samples
I know what you're thinking, a guy who makes and sells sounds and samples telling you to get over your creative block by exploring new sounds and samples. But hear me out...
I used the word explore for a reason. You probably have unexplored sounds or samples on your hard drive right now. New presets, loops, or samples can kick off brand new ideas and get the creative juices flowing.
I like to section off the process into two discrete steps based on the track I'm working on. For instance, if I'm having a hard time coming up with a unique sounding top loop for my drums, I would go hunting for some loops. Maybe in Maschine, or a sample pack.
If I need to kick off a melody or chord progression, I might open some new presets in my favorite synths. This is the reason I love to make soundsets. It's going to sound corny, but I really do like making sounds that help other producer's create. Because I have been there and done that.
I still buy Nexus expansions from time to time for this very reason, presets and samples and sounds help make it easier to create.
2.) Open up an old, unfinished project
This is a great way to get over producer's block. I have used this method on many occasions. Opening an old session or project that you never finished can help you feel good about your growth as a producer, which is always nice, but it can also be a good way of finding content you can bring over to your more recent production(s).
One time I took a hi hat loop from an Indie Folk song and imported it into a Hip Hop track I was struggling to finish. I had to chop the loop from my other track and adjust the tempo, but the acoustic hi hats really added a unique vibe to the track. It kick started me experimenting and adding in some other organic instruments into the final version.
3.) Listen to new music for some new inspiration
This one is obvious, but it needs to be stated. I will say, there are some less than ideal ways to go about doing this. You don't want to just steal ideas from other songs.
Hunt around on Soundcloud or some slightly obscure Spotify playlists to find some new ideas that hasn't saturated the entire market.
Another great way to use music as inspiration is to listen to a genre that is very dissimilar from what you are working on. A few months ago, I pulled inspiration from a film score with
4.) Spend an hour learning some new music theory
Music theory is the DNA of all things music. Sometimes learning a new chord, a new inversion or a new time signature is enough to catapult the brain into a frenzy of creativity.
I like to study chord progressions of famous songs or rather, songs I admire from a production standpoint. You can also learn new chord extensions like 7th chords, or suspended chords.
If you play multiple instruments like guitar and piano, try playing the one you haven't played in a while.
5.) Open a seldom used plugin
This could be a mixing plugin, an effect plugin, or a synth you hardly ever touch. Humans like new things. There’s a region in our midbrain called the substantia nigra/ventral segmental area or SN/VTA. This is essentially the major “novelty center” of the brain, which responds to novel stimuli, or new things. This part of the brain can also play a factor in creative processes.
6.) Take a break, eat a sammich or have a coffee
No seriously, sometimes all it takes is living a little life outside of your music or a simple break to get the ideas to start pouring out.
I love to stop what I am doing when I find myself in a rut and have a coffee. Usually takes about 10 minutes, but I come back to my desk refreshed and jacked up on caffeine.