10 Sources Of Inspiration For Music
Whether you’re looking for good song topics or struggling to find motivation, here are 10 sources of inspiration, as told by some of the best producers in the game.
The reality of being a music producer or songwriter is that you won’t always feel inspired. Every musician has had those days in the recording studio where they just don’t have any good song ideas - that’s a normal part of the creative process.
How To Find Musical Inspiration
We spoke to some of the best music producers in the game from Chris Stussy to Mary Yuzovskaya, all of whom have suffered writer's block and gone on to release incredible records. Below, they reveal where they find topics to write songs about and the motivation to do it.
1. Other Artists
Listening to other artists is one of the best things you can do to better your own work and find creative inspiration, especially if you’re listening to something amazing.
Over the years, LA-based producer and modular synthesist David Castellani’s productions have benefitted from his obsessive listening habits:
“My main inspiration these days is listening to other artists and experiencing their range of creativity. I think it’s so interesting how we can all uniquely express ourselves. Though there is a lot of mirroring going on in art, you always have those stand-out artists that bring something fresh to the table.”
2. Different Genres
Somewhat similar to listening to different artists, getting to know alternative genres can open artists eyes to entirely new techniques. After all, original styles often sit on the cusp of a few different pre-existing genres.
Despite operating almost exclusively in the electronic music world when it comes to his own productions and DJ sets, multi-instrumentalist Words of Niō describes pulling references from across the musical spectrum:
“I love listening to non-electronic music like indie rock, classical, new wave and other forms of expression in order to get a fresh perspective on music.”
Asked when he feels most inspired, Chris Stussy tells me it’s not in the studio, rather “on the road”.
Travel, whether it’s local or international, almost always incites new experiences from which producers can draw songwriting inspiration from. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but in an ideal world you’ll be travelling for gigs and being inspired along the way. Steve Kelley also talks about doing just that:
“I get my inspiration from different environments, mainly travelling abroad, especially to Northern Italy where I hold a residency.”
Particularly if you’re making dance music, a good measure of a track’s success is whether it gets people dancing.
Words of Niō describes finding inspiration in the club, discovering new music and seeing what it can do:
“I go to the club whenever possible. Seeing a great set by Dixon or Mind Against for example can bring a lot of inspiration to my creative process. It gets me fired up.”
Think of Turner’s landscapes, the birdsong peppered throughout Björk’s ‘Utopia’ or the floral patterns adorning everything in your nan’s house. Nature hasn’t failed to inspire any generation of artists yet.
Founder of hypnotic Techno imprint Monday Off Records, Mary Yuzovskaya describes a certain sensitivity to her surrounding as one of her greatest inspirations:
“[I get inspiration] from the cities, architecture, and nature. From walking down the streets and staring at the buildings, trees, plants, sky and relation of all those.”
6. Random Sounds
Incorporating new and interesting sounds is one of the joys of making music. David Castellani speaks about using randomisation and generative tools to find them:
“Maybe my biggest source of inspiration is using randomisation and generative tools in my studio to come up with ideas. These days, this is what most of my process stands on. I really enjoy pushing the gear into undetermined directions and seeing where it takes me.”
English multi-instrumentalist and producer Kinnship speaks to a similar effect about his analogue instruments:
“Sometimes, as I play around on my violin or synthesiser or with drum machines, the sounds themselves will send me in a particular direction.”
Sometimes you get stuck. Let’s be honest, most producers have huge catalogues of unfinished tracks. If you’re losing momentum on a project that you actually want to finish, try asking your peers for feedback.
Chris Stussy cites friends who make music as one of the most inspiring forces of his career:
“Youandewan, Sweely, DJOKO and Locklead are a few of my friends who make great music and inspire me a lot. We send each other music and give each other constructive feedback.
I would advise anyone making music to send it to some of their closer producer friends and get proper in-depth feedback. It's helped me a lot over the years.”
Music discovery, whether it’s in the club, on spotify or at your local record shop is the crux of what inspires most artists to create. Latvian production outfit Queer On Acid point to radio as their primary source:
“We both listen to a lot of various radio shows and DJ mixes and do a weekly show ourselves, so we are always in the music flow, which cannot but inspire.”
9. Personal Experiences
Often emotion is inextricable from creative processes, and drawing on personal experiences can inspire great musical ideas. Similarly, if you’re feeling burnt out in the studio, spending time doing what makes you happy can leave you better equipped to make music when you get back.
Words of Niō describes his dependency on “personal experiences” and “people” for inspiration as such:
“Everyone has a method or methods they use, in my case I really rely on emotion.”
10. Films & Books
A great film or book (music-related or not) is probably one of the quickest, easiest and cheapest ways to jump-start your imagination.
If you need recommendations, we’ve compiled lists of the best music films and music books, recommended by our community of musicians for musicians.
How Music Producers Stay Motivated
The main goal of a music producer is to finish a record for release, either by themselves or as part of a team.
Music producers have to be motivated in order to make great music. If they're not, then they may find themselves procrastinating and putting other things ahead of their projects. This can cause problems for them as they try to get back into the swing of things when they finally do sit down at the keyboard or pick up their instruments.
Below, are three tactics that are proven to help music producers stay motivated:
1. Set Goals
Don't overthink how to set goals for your music production. Set goals for what you want to achieve with your music production career, both short term and long term.
These goals can be anything from getting an EP out by a certain date to touring internationally by 2025. Whatever your goal is, write it down so you can see it every day when you sit down at your workstation or when you pick up your instrument. Every day, remind yourself of what you want to achieve and how close you are to achieving it.
2. Make A Career Plan
Whether you are just starting out or already have some fans, creating a music career plan will help you navigate your journey and ensure that your efforts are focused on achieving your goals.
When making your music career plan, look at other artists' careers and see what they've done right (and wrong). We all want our dreams to come true, but this isn't always easy or straightforward. It's important to learn from others' mistakes so we don't repeat them ourselves.
3. Take Breaks
Working on music can be very draining - especially if it's something that takes hours at a time. You need breaks just like anyone else does. Take 15 minutes every hour or so to stretch, get some fresh air or get more coffee if needed.
As the artists above demonstrate, how to set goals as a music producer and where you feel most inspired varies person-to-person. Inspiration for music producers can come from anywhere, and the most inspirational topics for songwriting aren't always the most obvious ones.
As you spend more time in the studio you’ll develop your own process of how to get inspiration for music production. The only thing left to do now is book a Pirate recording studio and get started.