Experiments in Writing and Recording Music: Using Limits, pt. 1

As noted in the intro to this series, there are a plethora of ways to tackle an impasse in the writing and recording process. I tend to advocate for an experimental solution rather than a ‘standard’ (read: boring and safe) solution. Try something that you or your band haven’t tried; not for the sake of novelty, but for the things you can run into during the discovery process.

The benefit of thinking outside the box is exactly just that; you learn to approach problems and solutions from a different angle. And with the pace of today’s technological advancements, there seem to be an infinite number of options at your fingertips. Getting used to considering all the possibilities on how to finish that song or find that one neat sound that makes the record come to life can help you overcome musical impasses more quickly in the future the more you get used to doing it.

Once you’ve allowed yourself to be open to all the directions that that song or sound search could go in though, there also arises the conundrum of sifting through the myriad of choices you’ve dutifully considered. How do you select the best idea out of a hundred? It can be overwhelming if you’ve really done your homework and truly considered all the options available. So my first rule of action when confronting these kinds of problems has always been the one that almost seems counter-intuitive (at first): use limits.

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Experiments in Writing and Recording Music; intro

If no one ever experimented or tried new stuff out, we’d be a sorry lot living in caves with bare walls throwing rocks at animals to get ourselves dinner. No bows and arrows, no wheels, no electricity, no computers, no space travel, no web conference calls discussing neutrinos, no s’mores. There’s also a lot of utter crap we wouldn’t have to deal with as well: pollution, cluster bombs, advanced marketing techniques for someone’s useless trinket, GMO’s in your organic brown rice, PR firms and microwavable s’mores.

This applies to music, arts and philosophy just as much as it applies to technology, science and commerce. There will be inspiring innovations, and there will be crap in its wake as well. The larger point is about moving forward through exploration, curiosity and creativity. You’re not going to learn how to ride a bike until you try; and that includes some scraped knees and elbows along the way. But you’re not even going to be able to do that until someone’s curiosity and ingenuity invents the tires, spokes, handlebars and metallic frame first.

Experimentation in the arts isn’t generally viewed as being as crucial to humanity’s fate as advances in medicine, food development and technology are. C’est la vie. But some of the earliest attempts at communication (and all arts are at their core simply a form of communication), from wall paintings, carvings and music to storytelling, constellations and early attempts at written symbols have generated more than their fair share to our general welfare and advancement. And if you’re an aspiring artist, writer or musician, or even an established pro in the creative arts, at some point in your development you’re going to have to try new things or new ways of doing things as part of the learning process.

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