The COVID crisis is like a double-edged sword for musicians and other creative types.
Many of us have found ourselves with lots of free time which could be used for being creative, but there are other pressures and stresses that come with the current climate, and it can be hard to stay motivated as a result.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to making music during lockdown, with the help of some of the members of the Spinnup Community Facebook group.
Don’t pressure yourself
Preserving good health is more important than anything, and right now mental health needs a lot of careful attention too. So above anything, do NOT beat yourself up if you are not finding yourself feeling creative or motivated or productive right now. The point of this guide is to give advice about how to help make those feelings blossom inside you organically. Putting too much pressure on yourself will only be counterproductive.
Of course, those of us who have a lot of free time at the moment all feel like we should come out of this difficult period with something to show for it. But it’s a good idea to eradicate the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary at the moment.
Do what makes you happy.
Do what makes you feel good.
And if you try and make music and you can feel that it’s not working, just step away, and try another day. Getting frustrated and stressed will only make things worse.
Set achievable goals and have fun with them
It’s better to aim for something more flexible and less pressured than saying you’re going to complete an album during lockdown or you’re going to finish a track every week. The important thing is to try, and to try as regularly as you can or feels enjoyable. Try and set aside regular time to sit down and just have a non-committal play about with your instrument or software. You never know when inspiration might strike or a spark might occur, and the more often you sit down and explore, the more likely you are to strike gold. “Practice, try stuff and be patient” says Spinnup community member Jon House. “It will come, and it’s magic when it does!”
These designated sessions could be used for working on an existing project, trying out different software and hardware and developing new sounds, messing about with effects chains, playing with chord progressions, writing lyrics, making drum loops or anything else that’s relevant. The goal doesn’t always have to be ‘I’m going to write a full song right now’. “Practice your instrument or vocation, whatever it is” says Kamphor. “Practicing also means to just have fun with it. You are not working on writing a masterpiece every time.”
Fun is a really important word when it comes to making music. Remind yourself why you started making music in the first place. Hopefully it was because you’re passionate about it and you enjoy it, not because you want fame, success or money! Anything you can do to keep a playful spirit when making music will help bring you back to that passion and help you forget about all the other distractions and temptations that surround music. So keep it light, keep it loose and make it fun!
Learn from others
There are a huge number of free resources out there to learn from, whatever style of music you make. It’s all too easy to forget to further your education once you reach a confident level of music making, but you’re never too old to learn from others — whether they are of a similar level to you or advanced pros.
“Listening to other professionals from the music industry has been really helpful” says Brazz Ankh. “Some great online panels/webinars have been organised during lockdown. Music could be just a hobby [for you] but it’s interesting to have fresh ideas or reminders regarding music creation and even networking and collaboration.”
YouTube has thousands of tutorials for every subject and problem you could possibly think of. There are many inspiring documentaries on there too, and on all the major video streaming platforms. We have lots of recommendations of the best podcasts for musicians, from ones about songwriting through to lyrical analysis and production technique. And there are many inspiring and informative books written by, for and about musicians. Don’t forget that if you’re strapped for cash, you may be able to find cheaper second-hand copies on eBay. “Try to read and listen to new stuff, to get inspired and work towards new music/lyrics” says Kamphor. “Enjoy the art of other people.”
Collaborate with others
Now is a great time to reach out to other artists with ideas for collaboration. Everyone’s looking for ways to stay connected to the outside world, and without the opportunity to play live shows, many musicians are looking for new outlets for their creativity. Splice Studio’s collaboration service offers a seamless way to collaborate remotely, or you could stick to the old school method of sending stems and projects back and forth with Dropbox or WeTransfer or your own FTP. And don’t discredit video calls either. While the audio quality won’t be amazing, they can provide a more rapid and organic way of working on music together.
If you don’t already have some friends or other artists to collaborate with, scour YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify for artists you might want to work with. Of course, it’s best to be realistic and aim for artists who are at a similar level to you and whose style could fit with yours.
Be ready for inspiration
Inspiration can strike at any moment, particularly in this strange time when we’re all experiencing new feelings and thoughts. Be prepared to get ideas down as soon as they have appeared in your head. Don’t delay. Record a voice note. Open a project on your DAW. Write that lyric down. Read more advice about capturing inspiration as quickly as possible in our article about The Beatles and Prince’s studio techniques.
Ever wondered why some of your best creative ideas come when you’re not actually sat there making music? We all need to live life to keep inspired and have something to write, sign or play ‘about’. Musicians often talk about how they have to take extended breaks from the write album, release album, tour album treadmill so that they can soak up some life experience and have something new to write about. In the same way, you need to make sure your brain is kept refreshed during lockdown — particularly given that many of our usual diversions and stimuli are currently off-limits.
Taking breaks is really essential to get the best out of any sort of work or creative endeavour during lockdown, particularly if you’re staring at a screen for hours and listening to loud music. Not only will a break give your eyes, ears and brain a rest from concentrated activity, but it can also bring you inspiration. “I have found being stuck in my house too long can have a big negative impact on my creativity” says MicD, “so going for walks or even sitting in my garden for a change of scenery has been very helpful.”
It’s also proven that taking a different route to work can help stimulate creativity, and you can use this concept even during lockdown by choosing different exercise routes to help your brain develop new thoughts.
If you’re looking for more help on feeling inspired, check out our guide to getting over creative blocks.