[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Sırma Munyar. It’s the latest in our ongoing Life During Quarantine series.]
If you’re a songwriter or artist who depends on co-write sessions, this period we’re all going through together might be particularly difficult to manage for you. Sure, you can still write on your own, but how do you write when you don’t even go out and live like you used to?
It feels like we have all the time in the world now, but staying productive and motivated is easier said than done. Lots of artists are shifting their focus to staying active online, which might make you feel like you should do the same. They make it look so easy, right? How do they get excited about the future of their projects when everything is more unpredictable than ever?
Going through a writer’s block at a time like this is absolutely understandable. Needing the space and time to recuperate should be your first priority.
Still, I’ve found that striking a balance between creating and learning each day keeps my mood swings at bay. It may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, but personally, when I don’t feel like creating, I like learning about how others create. I enjoy trying new writing approaches, experimenting with new sounds and continuing to expand my skill set even when my inspiration levels are low.
I’m now at a stage where I can write, record, produce, mix and master my music on my own, at the comfort of my home. There’s no limit as to how far I can go, of course: in music, the learning never ends. But I did have a breakthrough recently and it helped me overcome an inner resistance I’ve battled with for a long time. I’ve come to the realization that in the past, I viewed music technology as exciting but daunting at the same time. Now, it just seems exciting to me.
The lesson I’ve learned from this is the fact that making an effort to know a thing or two about music production is never a waste of time in our line of work. And yes, that applies to even indie folk and country musicians who might have absolutely no interest in dabbling in electronic music.
Besides – taking a look at an online course about music theory or watching tutorials about mixing can inspire you to see your music in a new light.
Convinced but not sure where to start? Here’s a guide to help you put together your own skill set expansion plan.
1. Try one of these DAWs for 90 days.
If you own an Apple computer or iPad, GarageBand is not a bad place to start. It was good enough for Grimes to make her first album, and there are several professional musicians out there who still depend on it.
But if you’re ready to take music production more seriously, you’re in luck: you can now try Logic Pro X and Ableton Live 10 for 90 days for free! There are many other options out there, but for those who are looking for a professional program that’s also user friendly, Logic and Live would be my top recommendations.
2. Check out these free online music courses.
The online music school Soundfly offers a great collection of free courses. These are just a few of my favorites:
- Any Sound Will Do, which is a two-course series about turning just about any found sound into a musical instrument in Ableton Live.
- Theory For Producers, for anyone who has no formal training in music.
- Demystifying Synths, if you’re interested in learning the specifics of every standard parameter you’ll come across in most synthesizers.
- Demo Recording 101, which covers the basics of a small band arrangement and instrumentation that can fit into various genres.
3. Add this inspiring music podcast to your routine
Song Exploder is my favorite music podcast, hands down. Listening to artists like Lorde, Björk and most recently, FKA Twigs, break down their songs piece by piece and explain their creative process in detail rejuvenates me.
4. Follow this music creation-focused Twitch channel for daily content
Splice has recently launched their Twitch channel that is dedicated to live streamed tutorials, Q&As and song breakdowns. They go live every day at 5 pm EST and currently host series such as Artist Streams, Weekly Rhythm with Nick Chen and Level Up with 343 Labs.
5. Keep an eye out for free virtual instruments & audio effects
You can own Native Instruments’ Komplete Start, Mikro Prism, Supercharger and Guitar Rig 5 Player for free! They might seem a little complicated to beginners at first, but luckily, they come with some really amazing presets to help you get started.
As for staying up to date with free plugins and sale periods in general, Plugin Boutique is my go-to. I’m not a big fan of crowding my library: sometimes seeing all the options can do more harm than good when all I want to do is sketch out a new song. However, there always comes a point where I’m looking for something specific, or I simply want to find a new toy to design fresh sounds with. Plugin Boutique’s clean and well- organized layout (not to mention their rewards program) helps a ton in those moments.
6. Read up
Splice’s blog has an entire section dedicated to Tips & Tutorials. Flypaper regularly publishes helpful articles about songwriting, music production and just about any piece of information an independent musician might find useful.
I also find subscribing to the newsletters of my favorite companies, like Universal Audio, iZotope and Waves, to name a few. They all keep their customers engaged and informed by sending out exclusive news, interviews and even tutorials of their own.