Not Listening To Other Peoples' Music For A While

Has anyone here ever tried taking a break from listening to music for a while? Perhaps a few weeks or months?

I think I’m going to try it soon, to see if it will give me more inspiration and musical ideas.

I think the problem I have is that if I am listening to other peoples’ music a lot, their songs get stuck in my head. So even during periods of downtime when I don’t actually have the stereo or headphones on, I am about 95% more likely to be “thinking of their music” rather than creating up new ideas for my own.

And I think when I do sit down at Renoise or Reaper or whatever and get to composing, my ideas are more likely to be influenced by other music. Which is not always entirely bad. Genres of music would not even exist if it weren’t for imitation.

But “originality” is something that has always been on my mind ever since I took up tracking almost 14 years ago now.

How do you find a balance between originality and imitation? I guess it depends on the individual and what their goals are.

I remember Mick Rippon telling me a while back that he doesn’t listen to much music from other people, for exactly this reason. (Gabriel Knight, you out there reading this??) And he’s one of the most talented Renoisers I know of. My girlfriend also doesn’t listen to a lot of OPM, and she always has lots of musical ideas.

Thoughts, comments, sharing of past experiences about this are welcome.

In some ways I’m agreeing with you here io. I’ve also benefited from periods of “no music”, as well as periods of producing or performing no music myself. I find these beneficial, but they cannot be forced - they must happen because they feel ready to happen. Life matches it. Silence is a blank canvas, with mindful serenity you can be surer of what you want to paint. Be in the moment, realise what thoughts you’re laboring under and which of those you’d like to gently discard.

I’d encourage silence for those who are starting to feel numb to the impact of music. I’d also encourage silence if you’re realising your creative work is derivative of a cultural fad which you no longer identify with.

Turn your goddamn TV off. Turn off your phone. Turn off your internet connection. These are often sludge-streams of ideas and emotions you’d rather go without.

Silence isn’t truly “no sound” though: it’s a remarkable gift where you can better cultivate awareness. Inspiration can be found in ordinary sounds: birds, machines, wind, rain, liquids, food, walking, pets, cars, voices, as well as the noises inside your body, the ringing in your ears, the inaudible music of your soul. When I pay attention to my own “soul voice” I can hear this endless screaming, both joyous and terrifying!

Return when ready to the simplicity of the note. Hum with your voice: it doesn’t have to be a beautifully sung note, but just hum a note to yourself and listen, deeply listen. Listen to the character of that note, analyse all the micro details: the volume, the pitch, the fundamental, the harmonics, the resonances with parts of your body. Feel how it is connected to your breathing, and how your breathing integral part of your body’s system, complex and multi-faceted. Play with it.

Then find an instrument, acoustic preferably, or then electric, or then digital if you have nothing else. Sound a note. Just a note. As above, study the detail of that note. Become mindfully aware of that note. There are whole symphonies in single notes!

When it comes time to come back to your creative work, you’re going to be coming at it with fresh inquisitive attention. Your choices will be less conformist, more timeless and expressive. Channel you. The more you accept yourself into the process of expression the better you’ll get at “sounding like you” and being comfortable with it. Practice makes perfect.

Of course we cannot deny the power of influences and inspirations. Some periods of my life I like to take lessons from my chosen “masters”. I’ll dip into work like Arvo Part, Type O Negative, Fovea Hex, Dire Straits, Mike Oldfield, Devin Townsend and countless others - not to understand how to COPY them, but to understand how they strategically open themselves up to be more themselves. If I’m ‘borrowing’ ideas from them I’m taking inspiration from their higher concepts, rather than dogmatically internalising their style. Content is universal and primary, style is transitory and secondary. Both are to be refined.

You’ve got to spend time listening to your old music in a detached and scientific state of mind. No self punishment allowed. Often I’ll listen back to my old stuff and think “well that’s embarrassingly derivative of NIN; this just copies Underworld by the numbers; this bit is not only so Pink Floyd, it’s BAD Pink Floyd”. :P Hehe, you learn from this. Accept the lesson with grace. And guess what, your fans still love you either way! :P

The biggest problem we all face is fear. Young composers are afraid they won’t be liked so they choose some style that they can feasibly master and prove themselves to the public. More experienced composers are not immune to fear as well. For example, I’m pretty sure I have my own well established ‘style’ or ‘voice’ to my music, but I’m still terrified of recording vocals. I’ll procrastinate literally for years. I both love my voice but I’m in complete abhorrence of it as well. It takes time to build confidence. Don’t force it. Enjoy the small steps of the journey.

Never be bad on yourself or others for sounding like someone else. That would be get caught on the tragedy of worrying about style more than quality content. Style is almost irrelevant in the long run. I’ve heard amazing chip tunes that I’ve simply adored as music, and plenty of others that I have no resonance for. Same goes for any other style.

But yes, reclaim silence. The canvass is just as important as the paint.

A couple of years ago when I bought Renoise I lost interest in other peoples music for quite a while. I still listened to some tunes occasionally but I focused on my own production. Strangely it wasn’t intentional - I just didn’t get the connection with other music than my own. It helped me a lot to learn to be independent production-wise and the only music in my head was my own music.

good question, good thread, thanks for that.

i spend long periods not listening to any music. this is almost never intentional, it is just the way it goes. my wife does not enjoy most music i like, so i rarely play it when she’s around. i listen to music on my way to work, but when i got a book to read i cannot do that at the same time so i take the book and leave the music. also, no matter how many Gb of music i have, i get tired of listening to the same stuff. so i need to actively keep up with new releases or try and discover new music in order to keep myself interested. frankly, the last couple of months most music i listened to was The Beatles, while i was playing Beatles Rockband. and the big difference for me is, besides the fact that i love their music, i feel like i’m playing the songs myself. it gives these songs a whole new dimension, which can be inspiring. only problem is that afterwards i’ll break my head over the question ‘how do they make it sound so goddamn awesome?’

i think it also works both ways. sometimes listening to music gives me inspiration, sometimes not listening to music gives me inspiration. any way the wind blows, nothing really matters… :)

i completely agree on everything MMD said.

i hope this isn’t too much off topic but your post got me thinking and i always wanted to express my thoughts about this:

generally speaking, i don’t make the music i listen to 1. because i don’t know how and 2. i very rarely feel the need to recreate/imitate certain sounds or genres. that said i do get influenced by music i.e. if i’m on a drum’n’bass streak the next song will most likely have a more breakbeat-ish rhythm and a more adventures bassline than usual.
but i change my mood and the music i listen to very frequently and often when i create a song i try to express a certain atmosphere or idea rather than a specific genre.

not listening to other peoples music is no option for me. this is the way i collect “images” in the shape of music in my mind, visions if you like and the more music i listen to the more detail is added to these visions or i discover new nuances and make new associations. to say it differently: i explore my own mind and boundaries by listening to music. B)

thus me creating music is more like … well i like to look at it this way: i create the music i would like to listen to but that i can’t find anywhere else in this particular way of sound and arrangement. of course it leans heavily on known genres but i hope that it doesn’t feel too generic. and that’s the type of music i like to draw my inspiration from. the music doesn’t have to be good but it needs to have an idea behind it, something that sets it appart and makes it kind of personal.

i wouldn’t silence everything around me but instead try to free myself from given structures (mentaly) even if it means changing the way i experience and create music. but then again … i’m no professional. ;)

stop derailing the thread. if you want to express your thoughts, make your own topic.

sorry, it was a joke, i couldn’t resist. :D

i think your post is very much on topic, and i share your sentiments. i don’t make music in any particular genre, because i don’t know how and because i hate genres and names for styles and such. music is music is music. genres are for narrow-minded people who need a genre so they know the boundaries in which to listen to music. ok that might be a generalization, but it is my opinion.

good post. wow i’m tired, can’t write for shit. ignore this half-rant if you hate it.

Personally I can’t escape music because all my senses, as far as it can go, feels it almost everywhere. Its universal to me because of spacetime principles. The specified expression just happens to be manipulating air pressure in an entertaining way.

Originality in music can be construed in so many ways. I guess one way to look at it is by asking who your audience are and how willing & capable are you in communicating to your audience. It doesn’t have to be people, it could be you and yourself alone.

There is validity in ignoring some music or sounds, everybody has their own reasons. If other people’s music are truly getting in the way of making your own original expressions, Stop. Hammer time. See how music embeds memories.

Ctrl Z.

I had a period this spring wherein for almost a month I didn’t listen to nearly any music whatsoever, just because I didn’t feel like it. I don’t think it had any affection on my creativity or musical abilities.


for about two years now I have had no internet connection AT ALL in my home, (except for 3 months living abroad). and it has been very good as I have nothing else to do besides making tunes. sometimes you got to force it a little. a downside of no internet is off course no new samples etc. now i use my girlfriends internet but then I really take that time to get a hold of samples and stuff that I have been thinking about for a long time.
so yeah, turning it off for a while is a good way to not get distracted and unexposed to other peoples work.

but I have come to terms with the fact that I actually need the internet now, and will now get my own hehe.

Hey Mark… Sorry it took me so long to reply to this, but I am thankful for your post. I agree with a lot of the things you said here… Very good advice.

All these references to awareness and being in the moment make me suspect that you have studied Eastern philosophy a bit? I myself have been following the path of Buddhism for a couple of years now.

I like to cherry-pick good ideas from here and there. ;)

most of his philosophy is extracted from ‘Notting Hill’ though.

I would not be able to add something about the topic because people telling they spend long periods not listening to other people’s music have pretty said it all, but I can add an idea/experiment: sometimes it is funny and inspirational to listen to music from another room with closed doors, or in general from a non-favourable point of hearing; this way, structures of a song which could otherwise be difficult to perceive may get your attention and be a source of new ideas.

I have never done this on purpose, but everytime it happened to me the results were fascinating: many times, when I had the chance to listen to the same song from a better point of hearing, the results were really funny: music I would have hated seemed awesome from behind a wall :rolleyes:

I’ve noticed that before too! I think part of what’s happened to me before is hearing the music “On the wrong beat” … I.e. what I think is the “1” is actually the “3” or something like that, so it adds a completely different and weird flavor to the music. Then I get closer and I’m like… “Oh… that’s… something else entirely”

I’ve also noticed my laundry machine when it’s on the “spin dry” cycle makes some interesting rhythms. There’s also the times when the laundry gets off center and the whole thing starts banging around really loud, making what sounds like a house beat. So I have to run into the room and turn it off before it breaks itself. But I’ll usually dance to it for a second before I do. :D :D :D

i love how my visualization capabilities seem to be getting better and better each year :D

I sometimes play CDs in the car that I haven’t heard in ages at very low volumes, just on the threshold of recognition. It’s brilliant for letting your mind take fragments of the music and then drift off with those fragments into your own creative space. I recently did this with Jon Hopkins’ Contact Note album, was a very pleasant experience.


would our music benefit from us to stop listening to other’s music ?

do you think that the human brain is able to create on its very own, without any help of chance?

I have the impression that, in some extent, it is only able to make combinations of reminiscences or what you have already heard sometime, and make out what sounds good or what sounds bad (based on your tastes, which are steming from what you have been musically exposed to …)

So the process of learning to create music, or getting better at it, would be the learning of some set of rules, of which you are aware (music theory) or not. I don’t think the fact that someone practice music for years would have for consequence that he has a “better” imagination, but maybe he would have a wider “knowledge base”/overview of what sounds good and how to reach it.

By stopping listening to other’s music, maybe you restrict yourself to the access of what others have already found to be working (or not). It reminds me mathematics, learning proofs permits you to be better on others issues, not to be more limited in your way of thinking.

Maybe it is only my point of view and it is because I am a novice in music creation (so my musical thinking isn’t very much developped), but I have the impression that every time I would have composed a pleasant melody, I would have to charge chance’s account, certainly not some sort of reflection (that is where the parallel with maths stop). Some people are able to compose on paper, without physically hearing the music, but isn’t it always the process of trying and judging ?

All of this is my opinion, and “not totally” on the topic of this subject,
hoping not to do barroom philosophy and not saying too much bullshit :lol:

sorry for the bad english

the only thought i’d give you on this (as i agree on most of it), is ‘what about the first person ever to make music?’

not to question your ideas but more for interesting thinking.

I will put up an experiment, knock up some woman and lock her up in a soundproof room untill she gives birth and then let the kid grow up in that room with only a computer with renoise as a toy just to see what it can do at age 20. Maybe it’ll create a new genre?

I am listening music all the time, and it have influence to my work, but I see it and feel it as a good one. I am still creating music that I hear in my head, and it is somehow connected to music I listen to. But it is some kind of mix of everything I like in different kinds of music. I am also not working exclusively at computer creating patterns from scratch, first there is idea that is mostly created when I am in a middle of other activities, like walking, going to job, into shopping, in times when ideas came by them self. And sometimes it takes a while, even a year maybe, between incubation of idea and it’s first recreation as song in computer-based format. So, what I am doing is constant update of myself through music and sounds that I hear every day, be it mine or music I hear on purpose or by accident.