Is making music hard? To me that’s very ambiguous question. Making music falls under a lot of topics, such as song-writing, music composition, writing lyrics, music production, and co-writing music in a band or group. So, which one are you asking about?
Regardless, making any type of music is not easy. Even experienced professional musicians get writer’s block at times. They can sometimes even go years without writing and releasing a new album. Why is that? And more often than not, a lot of pop stars have music written for them.
In this article I’m going to talk about why making music is hard, how musicians create music, and give you my best tips for writing music.
Is Making Music Hard?
Yes, in general making music is hard. Musicians have a gift for doing so, which they spend years cultivating. But that doesn’t mean you can’t develop and learn this skill too. We have an abundance of resources online and tools that can help us create music easier and make it more fun. You just need to know how to get started.
Why is Making Music Hard?
Like all creative artforms -whether it be painting, drawing, sculpting, music, film making, writing, and so on- you first need to have some kind of talent. Talent is defined as having a natural skill at something.
Just like how a physicist has a natural ability to solve problems and do mathematical equations, a musician has a natural ability to create music. We’re all unique. We all have different skills, abilities, attributes, and talents. I’m sure you do to, even if you don’t know it yet, or believe it.
Having talent is the first step but it’s not enough. You can’t rely on that alone. Hard work, dedication, and practice are what allows that talent to mature, develop, and flourish. All brilliant musicians spend years crafting and refining their music making ability.
But just because you don’t, or think you don’t have a natural talent for creating music, doesn’t mean you can’t. If you are here because you’re curious about how to make music, then I’m about to give some superb tips on how to begin.
First though, let’s thinking about the process of making music, how does it begin?
How Do Musicians Make Music?
Having been a musician since I was 14 years old, who has written music in bands, solo, as well as for film, and other creative projects, I feel I’m qualified to answer this question from first-hand experience. I’ve been lucky to work with a vast number of incredible musicians over the years and they all work differently.
There is no correct way, or a one fit formula for writing music. Every musician writes music in their own way, but all music comes from some sort of inspiration. It can literally be anything.
‘Blackbird’ by the Beatles was inspired by a blackbird. ‘Billy Jean’ by Michael Jackson is about a girl who was obsessed with him. Bob Dylan’s song ‘Masters of War’ is a protest song about written during the cold war, opposing those in government responsible for building mass weapons.
There are countless songs about love, personal struggle, sacrifice, but there are also ones with positive vibes too. Some songs celebrate life, just make you want to dance, and forget about your problems.
These inspirations all comes from an initial idea, and that brings us nicely to my suggestions for how to make music, even if you’ve never created a song before. This is how from my own experience, musicians work best.
Ok, that may seem over simplified, but it’s true. You need to just start with something. It can be absolutely anything, a title, lyric, melody, chord, sound, sample, or rhythm. Music has no rules.
All of the best songs in the world grew from a small idea. You could think of a theme, subject, topic, message, feeling, or emotion as a starting point. What do you want to say? What do you want people to know? Do you have a story to tell?
Just start with something and the rest will follow.
Don’t Overthink It
It’s so easy to cripple yourself with overthinking. Trust me, I know this from personal experience. You tell yourself ‘I can’t do this, I’m no good, it sounds terrible’. But you won’t be making masterpieces at first, no one does! You learn to make great music through trial and error.
Don’t get overwhelmed comparing yourself to others. Embrace the learning experience, but most importantly, have fun. Unless you’re planning on showing somebody or releasing it worldwide, who cares if it’s no good? Improve it, or move on and write something better.
Do it for your own enjoyment and never be scared to fail, it’s how we grow and learn.
Record Ideas When They Come to You
Making music is a jigsaw. More often than not, a musician or band come up with an idea, riff, or melody, record it, and come back to it later. Very rarely do musicians create a song in one sitting.
This is actually how I make most of my music. I’ll come up with the initial idea, try to turn it into a full song, but find that I can’t seem to develop it any further in that moment. So, I’ll put it aside and leave it for the time being.
Time passes, I either go back to it, or come up with a new idea and think to myself ‘hey, that would go great with that riff I recorded two weeks ago’. I put both ideas together and before I know it, I have the basic structure of song in place.
Record ideas when they come to you and you’ll be amazed how they transform.
A great way to prevent overthinking and get focussed is to give yourself a challenge. For example, set a timer and see how much music you can write in that time.
You could pick an emotion or feeling and write a piece of music about it. Or something that I love to do is to try and copy a music style or genre. I don’t mean make an exact copy -although you could also do that- but something similar.
For example, I really like LoFi music but never knew how create it. I challenged myself to make a Red Hot Chili Peppers song in a LoFi style. In that day not only did I learn how to play a new song, I also learned how to create a style of music that I love.
There is so much you can learn from setting challenges.
Learn from Others
You could play and write music with a friend, find a band, or group of musicians. That way you learn how to work with other musicians and see how they work. If you feeling comfortable sharing your music then getting some opinions can also be beneficial.
There are plenty of online forums and groups where people ask questions and showcase their music, looking for constructive feedback and advice. Members of these forums are usually very friendly and helpful, as they all share the same interests and passions.
Learn Music Production
Perhaps when you originally typed the question ‘is making music hard?’ you were referring to this. Learning music production is one of the most valuable tools you can acquire for creating music. Nowadays, there are even plugins that actually help you write better music.
Audio software (known as a DAW) allows you to record, sample, edit, mix, and master music to you hearts content. There are hundreds of websites, video tutorials, books, and courses available to help you on your way.
That’s the purpose behind my website, I designed it to help and inform people like you or who want to learn how to record and make music at home. I have a dedicated article about How to Record Music at Home if you’re interested.
Learn Music Theory
Ok, ok. Everyone gets nervous around this subject. When people think of music theory they think boring scales, many hours rehearsing, mundane exercises, and so on.
It doesn’t have to be like that. I’m not saying to become a music theory master. Just learn the basics, enough to get by. It will help you in the long run to make better music. It will also make you feel like you know what you’re doing, rather than scrabbling around in the dark.
Consider getting lessons to give you some kind of structure. Otherwise, there are an abundance of free and paid resources online to help you learn music theory.
It’s Never Been Easier to Make Music
I would argue that it’s never been easier to make music. There are so many resources online including courses, forums, videos, and music production tools that can actually help you write better music faster. So, if you want to try, you really don’t have any excuse.
Most importantly, making music is fun. It can be therapeutic and at times almost meditative. It’s a way to express yourself, your emotions and feelings, and it’s also good for the brain as it’s challenging.
There’s also nothing more gratifying than creating a piece of music from scratch. To sit back proudly and think ‘I made that’. Don’t be scared to just start, what’s the worst that can happen?
Did this article inspire you to make music? Let me know in the comments.