Getting out of comfort zone

Or how to overcome writer’s block

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Please tell us more about «out of comfort zone» technique you mentioned in one of your previous posts. What does it mean, exactly?

David

Our brain seems loves patterns and keep everything under control. As a music producer, you know all of your tools, devices, knobs. But eventually your workflow becomes a sort of habit: you open a DAW, add certain plugins, choose some of your favorite presets, and draw the same MIDI-patterns. Or probably just copy and paste some project files from your previous tracks that worked for you well. That’s your “comfort zone”, everything is safe because you used to work this way.

Generally speaking, it’s not bad: you can speed up your routine and predict the result. If you use the same sounds or patterns from track to track, it becomes associated with your name and that is what some people calls a “trademark sound”, or “signature sound”.

And that’s fine as long as you keep your music fresh and interesting. But from my observations, most likely if you’ll make 10, 20, 30 same tracks, eventually they become dull and boring. Some producers call it a “writer’s block”, or simply crisis.

The solution is quite simple: rather that go with well-tried way, start with a totally blank project. Rather than do scientific approach, try to go creative way. Just to give an example:

  • Do you always start off your project with a kick and bass? Try to start with some melodies!
  • Do you always use Sylenth1 for your basslines? Try in some other synthesizer, preferably the one you have never used before!
  • Do you make music within some certain tempo range? Try to add ±5 BPM, or even make a track in totally new genre!

I guess you get the idea.

Obviously, working in a new environment is much harder, that’s why I call it “out of comfort zone”. This approach forces you to experiment and try new things, and the outcome can be a pleasant surprise. My latest release on JOOF Recordings titled Surreal is a testament to this:

Such getting out of comfort zone experience works really well even beyond music production, like in many life situations. Don’t be afraid to try something new, be afraid not to try.

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This post is a part of the “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as music production, sound design, performance, management, marketing, and career advice in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.



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