Mindset Matters. The fact is, there is no such thing as an overnight success in music, despite what the media might suggest. Whatever your vision of success looks like - a certain quality of production, ability to support yourself financially, being able to express yourself through music, or anything else - you'll need to adopt some level of consistency and a mindset that will get you through the long haul. Here are 7 different ideas that will help you automate your day to day, leaving you with more mental space to think of the big picture and make it easier to maintain a consistent momentum.
Set a Routine
This is the first step to lessen your mental load if you're trying to improve, and the best way to avoid burning out. Set a routine for your day to day activities, set aside a specific amount of time on a per day per week basis to work on production, instead of just whenever you feel like it / have time. This will help you power through when you're not feeling it because you know that during this time you need to be sitting down and working on something, and in the long run, all those hours will add up to a significant difference!
You should set up your routine to make it easy to follow and flow with your day to day schedule, leaving you time for any of the things that may sporadically happen, and can fluctuate if need be as the seasons of your life change. If you find that you're having a hard time keeping to your routine, don't just let it slide, reestablish a new routine that you'll be able to keep up with. This will greatly impact your long term success even if in the short term you don't see the changes you want, you'll likely find over the span of months and years that even a shorter amount of time than you think it takes to get where you're going will have compounded returns if you just show up every day and do what you set out to do.
This leads directly into the next important point, which will give your routine even more power.
Break Down Tasks
When you're creating your routine, don't just say "x hour this day produce music" and leave it at that. This creates a lot of friction to follow through with your routine which may end with inconsistency in sticking to it on the days where you don't have inspiration come. On top of that, there are many skills that go into producing music, as well as possibly a handful of other things not directly related to producing music that may be related to your goals, especially if your goal is career focused. Even if you're just producing for producing sake and your only goal is to get better, you can greatly benefit from breaking down the process and deciding a very specific thing to do on each day of your routine. This way, every day you show up, you have a specific goal that you know you will be able to accomplish. Some things you may consider sectioning off into individual days of the week during your routine session include:
-Learn Plug Ins
-Go through your samples/Find inspiring samples and put them aside in a folder
-Work on producing song in your main genre
-Work on producing song in a secondary genre that interests you
-Remake / Breakdown songs you like
You obviously don't have to do all of these things or these things specifically, but these are just some ideas which you can break down / utilize specific tasks that will help improve your workflow when you're producing music. Brainstorm some things that you think will help you most in your journey, and have dedicated practice for the things that you struggle the most with!
Switch It Up
If your end goal isn't crystal clear, or if you haven't had experience in a variety of different production styles or doing various things that can advance you in a potentially beneficial direction (such as creating different kinds of content, or putting yourself out there for hire to do specific music production related tasks like mixing or producing for other artists) you may benefit from trying a wider variety of things in your routine to gain experience and find out what you like doing the most. Try to open yourself up to different possible directions you can take to grow. You don't have to do everything at once, but maybe once a week you can try experimenting with something that you've been considering trying out, such as producing a new genre of music, streaming, writing blog posts, or anything else that interests you! This is a great way to keep it fresh and stay excited, as well as test out some ways you could possibly pivot in the future if you find you really love one thing or another.
As time goes on in your routine, you'll start noticing certain things, such as what tasks you are the most excited to dive into each week, or perhaps the way people are responding to your work in one way or another. Take note of these signs, and consider focusing on the things you're leaning towards more. This is largely a next step that comes after the previous tip, as the more variety you can introduce into your work the more opportunity you have to compare different things and see what's working the best. If you already have a laser focus, even if you have in the past tried many things and found the thing you want to focus on, it can be helpful every now and then to explore a new thing to allow yourself to take these comparative notes every so often.
When you do notice one thing that you're doing is more conducive to your goals than others, or you enjoy it more and want to consider developing your goals further to include this thing, don't be afraid to increase your focus on it to a certain degree! You'll likely not want to make every single day of your routine doing only this one thing, but giving it a higher percentage of your attention may start to take you somewhere. It's a fine balance that I'm always working towards, having enough focus to progress in an area but not so much focus that I'm losing perspective and ignoring other important parts of the craft and my overall goals.
This can also change over time, with different things in the forefront in different seasons of life, but by avoiding completely obsessing over one single thing and allowing some other important things to stay in your routine as secondary tasks, you keep developing in a well rounded way no matter what your focus is this season. It is also important to give things time before coming to a conclusive decision to prioritize or deprioritize it, more on this later.
Discover More Possibilities
Always keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to new ideas and new possible directions you can expand. You'll likely over a long enough period of time have several ideas or even fleeting thoughts / inspiration of different avenues you can potentially explore. It is important to take note of these as they come so that you can properly consider it, and may eventually insert something in your routine that will allow you to better explore that avenue.
There are many ways to spur these new ideas and inspirations, which can be exciting and potentially of great benefit to your goals! Some of the ways I like to browse possible ideas include listening to podcasts and audiobooks, as well as music that is different to what I would typically listen to every now and again. Sticking to the same old thing all the time can get dull after some time and eventually lead to a lack of inspiration.
Although I've been speaking a lot to the idea of having an open mind and trying many things, this should be balanced with a degree of focus. It's easy to go too far in either direction and lose perspective. If you don't give yourself ample time to develop the things that you're putting on your plate, it's difficult to really know if it could have blossomed into anything, and you don't get the benefit of really learning and diving into that thing. Typically, even if something doesn't seem from the get go like it's my favorite, I try to at least give it a few months of once a week effort if I've decided to try it.
If you're always shifting things around and have too much variety, it's hard to really gain depth of experience in any one thing, which is probably the most satisfying and rewarding aspect of any creative work one may embark upon. Every so often (3 months or so) I'll reassess my routine and the list of possible ideas I've had, and update if I feel something is not really my thing or I'm really eager to try a particular new idea.
It's important not to commit to too much, or you'll start burning out and not following through. Furthermore, if you've broken down your tasks like I've suggested, if you give yourself too much time for any particular task, you may lose efficiency. It is Parkinson's Law - Work expands to fill the time available for it's completion. So, if you have a goal a particular day to mix your track, don't give yourself a 5 hour chunk because you think that'll ensure you have enough time to get it all done, you'll probably be super inefficient and find all sorts of ways to drive yourself insane tweaking knobs. Instead, try setting a 2 hour time limit to get it all done, and you might surprise yourself with how fast you can work. If even that starts to make you feel like you're getting distracted and inefficiently using your time as you work, try setting an even shorter duration of time, until the pressure is enough that you can't afford to get distracted if you want to get it done.
You can also break down each task into smaller chunks of goals that are easier to focus on during your scheduled time for the day. For example, instead of "produce a song in x genre" you can set a timer for 30 minutes to write the chords and melodies, then set a timer for 30 minutes to arrange the music, then another 30 minutes to produce it (get all your sounds the way you want them and background fx & ambience etc). Something like this to keep your mind focused on a short term achievable goal and avoid getting distracted and getting out of the flow state, this will kill your inspiration. Studio time is sacred, do what you can to keep your mind on task the entire time you've scheduled to be doing studio tasks. This will produce your best work!
The ideas in this blog post are perhaps more subjective and abstract than usual, but with lots of thought on the subject and doing things in a variety of ways, these are some of the ways I've discovered really move the needle the most and keep me excited to grow as a producer. I hope you've picked up at least a thing or two to try to implement yourself or consider in your journey! I encourage you to check out my music that has come from utilizing these ideas under Ryahu for my dance music and philip j loaf-eye for my lo-fi music!
Until next time