When something becomes intuitive, it happens without friction - we just know what to do. Intuition, like a habit, is formed by repetition.
Every time we repeat something, it becomes more ingrained in our mind and makes it easier to repeat next time. This is true for both the things that we intentionally repeat through practice, as well as the things we unintentionally repeat. Some of the things we teach ourselves are 'good' in that they make our lives better and other things we, usually unintentionally, teach ourselves are more detrimental.
When it comes to producing music, simply expelling energy on doing so without being intentional about how we practice risks creating both good and bad habits/intuition - and that's not always an efficient use of energy!
In this post, I'll offer some practical tips on how to use your energy more efficiently and how to practice in a way that creates good habits and builds up your intuition as a music producer.
Understanding what makes you happy as a music producer is key to designing a workflow that incorporates positive practice and enables you to grow. Making music in a way that isn't aligned with your core values will cause a disconnect and effect your energy levels and sense of wellbeing.
A part of being a happy music producer is designing a workflow that incorporates processes that you genuinely enjoy.
Imagine someone tapping you on the shoulder during a session at any given time and asking you if you are enjoying yourself - if the answer most of the time is yes, then you're on the right track! If it's no, then consider how creating a different kind of workflow might benefit you.
In order to feel fulfilled in what you do, it helps to have the right intentions. Again, being true to your core values is important - making music that doesn't resonate with you because it's popular will sap your energy and prevent your from progressing, but making music that is a genuine expression of yourself, however weird and misunderstood, will keep you aligned with who you really are.
Whether you make music purely for fun, or your ambition is to become a world-famous music producer, a regular, disciplined practice can help you get more enjoyment out of what you do and make the kind of progress you want.
The key to designing your workflow and incorporating the right kind of practice is understanding that everything you are doing is a form of practice and contributes to the formation and reinforcement of habits, behavioural patterns and intuition.
With this in mind, try imagining yourself as a fly on the wall during a production session - what are the things you do that help to reinforce positive behaviour and what do you do that might be less productive, is not a good use of your energy and doesn't make you feel happy?
It also helps to clearly define your intentions and goals, as your ideal workflow and the way in which you practice should be tailored to this.
If your goal is simply to enjoy playing music, perhaps you know that by improving your finger drumming skills every day, you'll be able to play more freely and get more and more enjoyment out of the process. If your goal is to write music for films that millions of people watch, then it might help to study some of the great film composers, recreate music in their styles and learn their art so you can incorporate these skills into your own music.
If you're not intentional about how you practice then it's likely you'll take the path of least resistance, which isn't always in your best interests. You can be pulled in so many directions, driven by impulse or manipulated by addictive software and naturally you'll avoid expelling energy on something that doesn't offer immediate gratification, but might have profound long term benefits.
Carefully crafting your workflow and being disciplined about practising the things that will truly make you happy and fulfilled as a music producer in the long term are essential. Your energy won't be wasted chasing dopamine hits or participating in destructive behaviour, you'll feel good about making progress in the direction you have chosen and you'll be doing something that aligns with who you really are.
I'm naturally not a disciplined person and I chase things that offer immediate reward, but over the years I've begun to understand how to become more disciplined and it's actually quite simple...it's simply the act of 'doing'!
I've made all sorts of excuses with myself that I'm not a disciplined person and I'd rather just do what I feel like in the moment, but I've begun to realise that discipline is an extremely powerful force from which many other positive changes can flow.
Doing things repeatedly is practice and practice leads to the formation of habits and intuition. If you practice playing the keys every morning for 30 minutes, your fingers will become more flexible, you'll have more control over what notes you play and you'll be able to translate your ideas into music more quickly and with less energy. The energy you expel during practice is regained tenfold in the future.
If you practice self-doubt, obsessive behaviour or perfectionism, they too can become ingrained.
It really is that simple - decide what kind of progress you want to make, design a workflow that incorporates the right kind of practice, then do it regularly. As your new habits start to strengthen, there will be less friction, your practice will become smoother and your progress faster.
It's helpful to practice the things that don't offer immediate reward (but have the potential to offer a large reward in the future) when you are feeling full of energy. If you are already tired or you've been tweaking a snare drum for the last hour then you'll probably lack the energy to be disciplined.
Design your workflow with this in mind. Perhaps try doing the things that require more energy early on - you'll feel a sense of accomplishment and progress, which will generate more energy for whatever comes next. Or limit your time on any given task so you have enough energy stores to do the things that will lead to long term benefits.
Being with other people, sharing knowledge and ideas and having someone who can hold you accountable, give you energy and help you practice better.
If you currently make music alone, try finding someone to collaborate with, a practice partner or someone online who's willing to critique your work or practice together with you. Or if that's not your thing, even practicing other people's music by copying/adapting/remixing/reinterpreting it can help bring some outside influence in and inject new ideas and energy into your workflow.
Playing isn't just something that has to happen when we are children. It's an incredibly powerful way to learn and it easily gets lost through the formality of education and the mundanity of 9-5 work. Setting time aside to just play can do wonders for your creativity and wellbeing.
There is no pressure in playing, no strict goals, no rules except that you have to play! Just do what feels right, explore, experiment and enjoy the process. Don't worry about the end result, trust your instincts and see what happens 😃
It's easy to become disheartened with practice and feel like you're not making progress. Often, we measure progress by the end result, which is often difficult to measure accurately, so we end up perceiving how far we've come through a skewed perspective.
Instead, it can be helpful to measure progress by the art of practise itself. If we practise the right things regularly and we do our best, we are making progress. We simply cannot do anything more than our best, so with discipline and action we are making real progress.
Once you fully understand and believe that you are doing your best, you can stop focusing so much on the results of your practice and focus more on practice itself and enjoying the process. The ironic thing is, that the results of this will be more energy, more positivity, more ideas and more action. Chances are you'll be making more progress than you ever have ❤️