Writer's block, but not exactly

Hey everyone. I made this account back in 2008 so I know this question has been asked 70 billion times, but I thought I’d create a fresh thread. I"m sure everyone’s gut reaction will be to say “Just make music!”, but I bet some of you will know exactly what I’m talking about (because let’s face it, lots of us Renoisers are insane). :)

So basically, I’ve been a registered Renoise user for years now, it’s my favorite DAW I’ve ever used, yet to show for it I just have a huge folder of… ideas. Most of them are things that just loop for 2-4 measures and that’s it. The intention is always to create them, come back to them later, and flesh them out into complete tracks, but it NEVER happens. When I go back and listen to one, my mind goes to a dark place, and I start questioning everything. Namely, I listen to it and think “How was I patient and hopeful enough to make this? I’ll never be able to make this into a whole track. I’ve got to start something new.” And before you know it, I’ve got a folder of hundreds of ideas. I think I’ve only made 3 complete tracks, and I don’t even like them anymore.

But I know I’m my only enemy here. When I play some of my snippets for friends or my roommate, they always say “These are good, you should finish them!” But I just uncontrollably respond with “Yeah, like that will happen” and then I close the folder.

So to those of you who have experienced this, how did you get past it? Was it a certain mental trick that you discovered? Was it purely tweaks to your Renoise workflow? Did you collaborate with someone?

Thanks, appreciate it!

I can relate so much its scary, i very rarely manage to finish stuff in a manner i find pleasing but i always manage to create something short and repetitive that sounds great but its just a simple loop. While i still suffer from it, there ARE a few tings i have found work well…though this is mostly in terms of the online browser based program Audiotool, but im certain it can work for Renoise as well:

  1. Treat what you have at hand as a sample

-In that sense, use all the sample tricks to get it to work, slice it, dice it, reverse it, move it around, shorten, lengthen, saturate, immolate, mutilate, pass it through 17 effects and maybe 5 compressors or just add a reverb and leave it be but use it like a piece you move. Even better if you can somehow get it out of Renosie then back in as an audio fragment, then things can get crazy(er).

  1. Copy/paste then edit away:

-Renoise can copy/paste ad infinitum, so copypasta some pieces but dont leave it as is, move notes around, shift them and octave up or down, moves notes to new places and listen to see what they sound like, delete notes, add automation to the newly moved notes, copy them to a new track and add other effects while having them play next to the originals, you get the idea.

  1. The world and your body, Renoise in the heart and soul of our life:

-HUM! Try listening to the snippets and then try humming something you think could go in it (but then you need to write it into Renoise and that’s where this falls short, but hey, it might work). The world is also jam packed with things to bang on and maybe get a feel for what you need, finger drum or play the musical chair, find stuff that can produce a noise you can record into renoise or just help in finding whats missing.

  1. Listen to music, analyze it:

-This part is not about you trying to copy the music you like, but rather listening to various songs and instead listen and analyze them…how does it start? How does it end? Did the drums appear first or did the bass come in low and deep? Maybe fast and furious? Where are the important parts of the song? In the middle? The ending? The start? Was it a continuous loop mixed with more complex pieces on top? Or was it all played by hand?
Listen and analyze, it might help…

Thats all i have, maybe someone else can help more, cheers.

Well, why not force yourself to work on only one project at a time?

Recently-ish the Russian furry artist Wolfy-Nail made a post about this exact same thing. http://www.furaffinity.net/journal/5764754/

Here’s my own philosophy:

Every artist has something called the Gatekeeper. This is a little entity in your head that starts up whenever you create something and says “That’s bad. Don’t make that. People will laugh at you. It’s dumb. Other artist are better than what you just made”. You need to learn to ignore this voice and just turn the speaking part of your brain off. Don’t judge your work as you make it, just go and do everything on impulse. Don’t consider whether it’s right or wrong. Just do it.

A big thing that helped me get into the habit of making full tracks was a combination of a couple things. One, I basically would sit down and grab a tune and try to copy it piece by piece. It wasn’t exactly necessary to get everything perfect, but learning how all the elements contribute to the energy of the tune and how to fake a lot of them helped me to get past that ‘make a couple synths and drums and then what’ phase.
The second thing was watching some other producers make their tracks. For example I watched producers like She, Dorincourt, and SeamlessR build their tracks from the ground up, and that taught me that it’s important to take it slow and not expect too much too soon.

ill.Gates, who has a seminar on Youtube that’s absolutely mandatory for any producer to watch, says that you should set aside a block of time to just write a tune. Don’t mess with sound design too much, don’t worry about mixing, don’t worry about mastering. Just sit down and get the song down. One of the things that makes Renoise nice is its roots in chiptunes makes it easy to create little tunes and get people used to the actual songwriting process. That way sound design isn’t a big deal, and you can train yourself to create song structure.

A little aside in terms of composition as well: One of the things that makes music enjoyable to listen over time is the change in the texture of the tune over time. I’ve noticed that many renoisers tend to forget this, and a lot of their tunes basically stay in the same place and never really develop. If you can find ways to change the texture of your tune over time while still keeping the same character, it can encourage you to write more material in a piece.

All very good replies so far, thanks everyone. You’ve given me so many ideas that I can’t even reply to all of them (and I mean that as a good thing). I’m definitely going to check out that ill.Gates video on YouTube. I see that only chapter 1 is available for free, but it’s still almost 45 minutes long, so that is promising.

Wow, this is exactly where I’m at too! Glad to know it’s not just me ^_^

I make one block and I like how it sounds but then the next day come back and don’t know what to do with it next (so I then give up and make a new one). I have a folder of loads of unfinished one block tracks!

I recently did actually finish one song by entering a compo, Basshunters 1st bass challenge, and even though the song was crap it forced me to go through the whole process. The compo had a deadline so it gave me the incentive to go back and work on the same track and it also meant there was a point I had to just stop fiddling with it and decide it was done.

Copying / Recreating a track sounds like a good way to start to learn how to build up the structure (build ups, breakdowns etc. for edm) so I’ll give that a try next.

Hey Elsekiss - have you by any chance viewed the entire workshop that ill.Gates made, or just the free chapter on YouTube? I thought it was so good that I’m almost tempted to purchase the whole thing.

That’s an excellent article you’ve linked to. It’s in the same direction as another success/productivity camp called ‘mindset’. The gist of mindset is that there are two types: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. With a fixed mindset your talents, abilities, etc. are innate and largely unalterable. Because you can’t change much of anything about your mind, intelligence, talents, skills, etc. it becomes paramount to showcase the things you are good at and avoid anything that you aren’t.

With a growth mindset, pretty much everything about your mind, personality, skills, abilities, etc. can be improved through practice. The focus is not about showing off your strengths and ignoring your weaknesses; it’s about strengthening your weaknesses through continued effort.

A fixed mindset is driven to ignore mistakes because the reveal a weakness or flaw. A growth mindset is driven to see mistakes as an opportunity to learn and improve. Thus it’s far more important to make mistakes because they help you to grow beyond what you know, are, and can do right now.

And the fantastic thing is that you can change your mindset :D

This is all based on research conducted by Dr. Carol Dweck, PhD. et al over the last 20 or 30 years. Her website, and information about her book Mindset, can be found here.

I’ve seen the free .ill Gates video, and love what it has to offer. I plan to get the second chapter at some point, but I also have another productivity seminar I’m seriously considering, courtesy of Mike Monday. The only real problem right now is money :(

machinestatic: I just saw the chapter on Youtube. I have purchased one of his production guides on his website to support him though after downloading a free ep. I should’ve talked to him more last time I met him. If you feel inspired enough by his words that you think that the 50 USD is worth it, I’d buy it.

Maybe another angle to view this from:

Ask yourself, honestly, why you want to ‘finish’ a tune?

Maybe a complementary searching question could be, honestly, why do you start a tune?

Food for thought.

I used to mostly make loops with no song structures, but i somehow have gotten over it, possibly because i over the years have learned some tricks i might get away with.
Keep making loops and stuff, consider it practice, suddenly you sit there with a complete song. ;)

Quite a number of good replies, should be enough to keep OP busy trying new workflows out.

The workflow should be like water.

Another food for thought, check this site out.

Its a boutique music agency that aims to help advertisers looking for music much easier.

You can find unique tracks by filtering or selecting descriptions.

Its a good example of how to think of music in the bigger picture.


This has been the most important way for me to work. Since I like to make rhythmic looping tunes, it’s far easier to get started this way by copying my favorite parts 4-8 times and then copying the copies and doing it more. Then, if I want to make more structure, I designate sections as chorus, bridge, etc, and strip away like 50% of certain sections to allow leading to the “full” sections of chorus, etc. It’s very quick. That way I don’t get bored and I don’t spend too long on something I might not like so much. When I listen to it later, I can listen to mostly-finished song and edit it again with fresh ears.

My problem has always been time. I often don’t have enough time to get involved with trying to make something. When I finally do have time, I’m so used to not doing anything with music that I don’t bother making music. It’s a cycle. Boooo.

Sad to hear you don’t have time, though it confuses me. You don’t have time to make the music yet the way you make it is fast, but you do nothing when you have time despite the speed of workflow…wut?

Just popping in to say that the chasm between understanding the great advice in this thread, and putting some of it into action, is quite wide for me. I feel like I’m trying to climb a mountain, so I climb up a few rocks at a time, but then slip down a little and have to make camp for the night. However, this thread has definitely given me some good motivation and I’m slowly trying to get into gear. Thanks again!

If anyone has anymore thoughts, please share with the class.

Basically: When I get around to making music, it is fast, but I rarely get around to making music because of my schedule. When I have time, I am not motivated, even if I could make something quickly. It sucks.

Ah, okay, i can relate well

  • Try to fix a deadline in time and plan your tasks. Constraints are good for imagination to do its magic.
  • Related to first point, try to schedule time for working on something concrete. Book specific time only for mixing, etc.
  • Also about constraints, use just a few elements for a song just to build it. Then you can flesh it out with details.
  • Are you into pop music? Pop songs follow some standards in the song form, you know, AABAB… Try to analyze a couple of songs you like and try to build yours that way.
  • Don’t work on a lot of songs at the same time. Focus on just one.
  • Don’t dismiss anything. Try to keep your ideas, even if you don’t like them, maybe you are saturated and after a week you find something valuable.
  • Avoid computer for songwriting, try to use an instrument you play (guitar, melodica, whatever) or even hum and record in the phone if you don’t have anything else at hand.
  • If you write lyrics for your songs, then forget about everything I said before. Sit down with a paper and pencil and first of all, write the lyrics of the story you want to tell. Music will come afterwards, shaping it to fit the spirit of the lyrics.

These of course are just ideas, they might work for you or not. Feel free to comment about them.

Even further than this, pick a poem or short story that already exists and write music to that. It gives you a starting point with something you’re passionate about.

I attended Ill Gates’ production seminar a while back. He’s an excellent audio engineer, even if his music isn’t to my direct liking. The class was great, and I’d recommend it to any music making nerd. One of the biggest things I learned in his class is: iteration. Don’t get too fixated on making your current project your ‘perfect’ project. I found this to be particularly helpful in convincing myself to make more music.

In a large part, making music IS about the journey. How else are you going to gain the experience to progress?

/rolls another spliff