Where Do You Find Your Inspiration?

by Bill Hartzell

As artists, we all go through periods where the creativity just isn’t there. No matter what we do, we just can’t find any inspiration.  It’s not a matter of if, but when, it will happen to you.

So what do you do when you’ve lost the muse?  How do you break through the block?  I’ll let you in on two of my tricks for finding inspiration.

Trust In The Process

I get most of my musical inspiration from new sounds.  As long as I have cool, inspiring sounds I usually don’t have any problem writing new music.  Something that works very well for me is to have a process in place where I am constantly generating new sounds.

The first part of the process is known as Sound Harvesting.  This is where I gather new raw sounds.  The second part of the process is known as Sound Mangling.  This is where I take those raw sounds and begin processing them into ideas and motifs that I can use in my music.

Having this process in place pretty much guarantees that I always have new and inspiring sounds available when I need them.

Steal From Others

Another method that I use to consistently find inspiration is to steal it from another art form.   You’ve probably noticed the videos I’ve been posting recently.  They were all created with still photos.  For whatever reason, I’ve found a huge amount of inspiration in these images.

Your Assignment

To demonstrate this concept, here’s an assignment I recently gave my Advanced MIDI class that’s guaranteed to help anyone break through writer’s block:

What Does This Sound Like?

  • Write a piece of music depicting what this picture sounds like
  • You may use any techniques we’ve learned so far in class (at this point in the semester that meant analog synthesis, FM synthesis and sampling)
  • It’s OK to start with a preset, but you need to have actively programmed each sound to match your aural vision of this picture
  • You should not spend any longer than 90 minutes on this assignment

I encourage you to give this assignment a try.  If you do, leave a link to your music in the comments so we can all hear it.

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