The Day The Sequencer Stood Still

By Roy Nash

You've been sitting at work, or at home maybe even walking your dog and you get that flash of inspiration. No one thing ever causes it, but you know the instant you get that wide eyed feeling that you have it. A constant loop of your next synth pad or huge window shaking bassline repeats in your mind like some scratched cerebral LP, as you build upon your next chart conquering piece in your mind adding all manner of different elements while milling over other ideas. You, now almost salivating with excitement, impatiently wait for work to end/get off the sofa at home/abruptly end the dogs walk and make it to the consecrated ground. The hallowed location where all your ideas turn to gold (or in some cases maybe not) ..... the Studio.

So, there you are, everything turned on, all manner of lights blinking at you, anxious and eager. You then prepare to get the main inspirational thought down into music first when, like a bolt of lightening somebody has pulled a encephalonic plug and everything just goes ..... gone, black, nothing !! Where there was once a hive of neural enterprise crashing about like a dodgem ride at a fair ground, it is suddenly replaced with a barren ghost town replete with the stereotypical cooky old man on a rocking chair laughing insanely at you as you sit, the glow of the many flashing led's creating hazy spots of red and yellow on your face, and wonder what the hell has happened. You think harder trying to recreate that glorious moment of revelation, only to re-surface in your mind what you ate for dinner earlier or the colour of your first real girlfriends knickers !! This is the very occurence that plagues me everytime I so much as breathe near a sampler or synth, complete and utter unyielding writers block.

I suppose its comparable to setting up a date with a girl you really really like in a big way, getting all excited about it, arriving early to give a good impression at the designated rendez-vous only to be stood up and then never hearing from her again, like it was some cruel joke. Ok, maybe I'm over-reacting abit there, I mean music is far more important than that but I think you get the general essence of what I'm saying ..... you do, don't you??

Actually by now your probably wondering why I'm even writing this, well I'll answer that. I suppose this is a joint rant / supportive piece, where as yes I am highlighting my personal musical dilemma but I also understand that I am not the only one who suffers this damn curse, and I suppose there are times when you feel like giving up. Well I say no don't do that. Even if you try to quit, you'll end up going back to it and there are no support groups for borderline suicidal musicians. So the question is what to do when you have "writers block" and that is a good one which, unfortunately, has no one single answer.

You could start by what's called "messing with sounds". Basically sitting down with your setup and instead of going about actually creating a track you alternately create sounds or "textures", beats or basslines, or melodies. This process can be used in the hope that something you design will indeed lead to something else and then something else and before you are even aware of it you have fifty percent of a track produced. Or if thats no good you have a sample cd ready to release ....... well you might as well make some money !!

Another possible way of tackling "writers block" is to remix another artists track. Now this has the distinct advantage of you basically re-working somebody elses material and takes the pressure off you creating something from scratch as the basic foundation of a song is already available. Obviously the idea of this method is that while remixing the song you gain extra ideas which you can take over to your own production which hopefully spurs a positive reaction.

Also what I've found interesting is genres can have a negative effect on your creativity. If you are heavily genre influenced then you may end up discarding perfectly good parts of your track because you feel it dont fit your proposed genre. Well you can stop that right now as theres nothing more restrictive than a genre, and this alone can stall a track that before you doubted it was working brilliantly. Of course you have to place your track somewhere but worry about that after its completed. Dont start by deciding to compose a "House" tune or a "Trance" tune, just see what comes about. I'm not saying this is a major reason for "writers block" but maybe one of many.

Now before I finish and stop boring you all I will go over one way I got over an earlier bout of the dreaded "Block". I remember struggling terribly with my ambient material and always becoming totally stuck after about only a minute or two of track time and I couldnit fathom for the life of me what was preventing me from starting, let alone finish, any of my tracks. When one day it hit me, I had been listening to alot of other ambient artists, more contemporary, melodic ambient and I remember loving and wishing I could create the same kind of material. What had struck me that day was that I was so taken by their material that I was trying to recreate it in my own productions, against my natural creativity if you will. It was then that I realised that I needed to stop forcing something out that my musical development was ready to do yet and to get down to what im capable of now, and if I do later on create music like my peers then it will be because I allowed my self to mature to that standard over a period of time. You know what?? ..... it worked like a charm and I wrote a whole new album (which at the time of writing will be released very soon). So again while im not saying this is a reason for your writers block, it might be worth finding out where your current development lies and try and restrain yourself from recreating your favorite artists methods for now.

So thats it now then, I hope I have helped even a little here and I know there could be tons of other reasons why your musical ideas arent flowing like a mountain stream but if you persevere you will get round it and you'll feel better for it. Me, well I have writers block again (which is why I am writing this article !) and I am just biding my time in hope of it lifting like a morning mist....or if I'm really unlucky I'm just totally fresh out of talent (thats if I've had any at the start) and all the previous stuff is the last decent stuff I'll ever do, mind you that's a matter of opinion haha. But if that was the case then I guess I'd live with it and just plod along, its not like im doing this to make money anyway, its just a hobby !!

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