I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that making music is not always a walk in the park.
Some days you just feel it. You can sit down for hours and just write, produce, sing… time passes by. It’s amazing.
But you and I both know that not every day is like that. In fact, most of the time? It’s a grind. Let’s be honest.
In this post, I’m going to share 30 ways that you can find inspiration for your music. Some of these methods are complex, others are simple.
#1 – Set a new goal for yourself
It’s hard to feel inspired and motivated if you’re not really working towards anything.
Even if you’re a hobbyist, it helps to set a goal for yourself. A goal that’s challenging enough, yet achievable. A goal that excites you.
While you’re at it, Consider setting a long term goal for yourself. Something super ambitious. After all, what else is going to get you out of bed on those winter mornings?
If you’re not sure where to start with this, I’ve put together an in-depth article on setting goals (and systems to actually achieve them).
Note: even though I talk specifically to music producers in that article, the concepts can be applied to any type of musical profession/hobby. Play guitar? All good. Go read it.
#2 – Base your song around visuals
There’s an inextricable link between visual and audio.
It’s why blockbuster films and broadway dramas are so immersive. Instead of just one of your senses being engaged, there’s two of ’em.
So, if you’re feeling uninspired, why not use a visual cue? Either find somewhere with a good view, or pull one up on your screen (use a site like Pexels to find good photos).
Alternatively, you could use a visual cue to write a melody.
#3 – Mix two ideas together
Maybe you like high energy choruses but you’re also a sucker for funky breakdowns.
Great! Combine them.
Work your way through your Spotify library and find two stylistic ideas that complement each other and inspire you, then get to work.
#4 – Work from a theme
Groovy? Sad? Enlightening?
Pick a theme for your track and you’ll find inspiration will start flowing.
To take this a step further, take notes from an existing song in that theme. Ask yourself:
- What kind of drum/synth/bass/vocal sounds do they use?
- Is there anything in this song that really captures my attention?
- What do I like most about this song?
For more help with this, check out the Song Palette Strategy.
#5 – Listen to the best music you know
Create a Spotify playlist with 20 of your favorite tracks.
This will be your last resort when you lack inspiration. Go into your studio, close your eyes, and put the playlist on.
Chances are, you’ll hear one of “those” songs and you’ll immediately feel fired up and ready to start making some music.
#6 – Clean your workspace
Look, I’m no clean freak, but I do know that it’s a much better feeling walking into a clean studio than a messy one.
There’s just something demotivating about being around a bunch of clutter and mess. Take the time to clean up your studio and you’ll feel better for it.
Konmari that shit.
#7 – Download a new tool or sample pack
Sometimes you just need new source material and tools to inspire you.
Maybe it’s a new guitar, or if you’re like most people and have a budget—something like a new sample pack to browse through.
Grab something new and treat yourself. Just don’t fall into the “gear trap”—where you rely on buying new gear and software to feel inspired all the time. Do this sparingly.
#8 – Read a book
Fiction, music production-related, it doesn’t matter.
Pick one up and read it.
Ideas will come.
Need suggestions? Check out The Ultimate Book List for Music Producers
#9 – Time yourself
A sense of urgency can do wonders for inspiration.
Sit down, set a timer for 45 mins, and force yourself to make music.
You might not come up with anything decent, but at least you sat there and fought the resistance.
#10 – Sleep on it
Sometimes, it’s not that you’re lacking inspiration, it’s that you’re tired.
If it isn’t coming, wait until tomorrow and let your subconscious deal with it overnight.
This is also a good time to mention that sleep is important. There’s nothing glamorous about the artist who stays up until 3am every night and walks around like a zombie the next day. Create a routine and stick to it.
#11 – Create something every day
Build the habit of creating music daily.
Write a melody every morning, or put together an 8-bar drum loop.
Record yourself humming a vocal line into your mic.
Just do something. Be creative every day and you’ll find that you feel more inspired too.
#12 – DJ? Have a quick mix session, or play an instrument
Jump on the decks and mix a few tunes together. It’ll bring you back into the musical zone.
If you don’t DJ, but do play an instrument, then pick that up and have a jam. Just relax and see what comes.
And if you do neither, get yourself a cheap MIDI controller so that you can jam around. It’s worth it.
#13 – Use reference tracks as a starting point
Not sure where to start? Copy elements from tracks you like and work from there.
Simply pull a song into your DAW and start analyzing it:
- Where is the chorus? What about the verse? How long do they play for?
- What instruments are used? When?
Note: there’s nothing wrong with copying the basic structure of an existing track. Most music in a genre follows a similar structure (verse-chorus-bridge-chorus)—you’re not “stealing” if you do this.
#14 – Take a break
Take a couple of days off from producing and you’ll be brimming with ideas and inspiration by the end of it.
Try to take a complete break from music. Feel free to listen to music, but avoid any “creative” work. You want to reset.
#15 – Break a rule
Build tension up to nothing, pan your sub-bass, go crazy! Rule-breaking often brings interesting results.
If it sounds bad, you can fix it later. The point is to help you think outside the box and see what happens.
#16 – Force it
Professionals do not rely on inspiration.
Professionals work whether they feel like it or not,.
You can too. Don’t think that you need to “wait” for inspiration to hit. Just start working. Fight the Resistance.
#17 – Sample audio from other sources
Sample songs, movies, and YouTube videos.
Or, if you’re really feeling old school, head down to your local record store (if it still exists) and find some old vinyl to sample.
The old approach is way cooler. Let’s be honest.
#18 – Work on one thing at a time
One common cause of a lack of inspiration is feeling overwhelmed.
In any musical pursuit, and especially in music production, there’s 101 things you could do (and many that you need to do).
Unless you break the process down into its individual components, you’re going to feel overwhelmed. So just focus on one thing at a time.
Write the melody. Then write the chord progression. Then add the drums. Don’t try and do it all at once.
#19 – Remix a track
Instead of working on originals all the time, try remixing.
You don’t need a ton of inspiration to start a remix—there’s already a bunch of material for you to use.
If you don’t know where to start, read this article.
#20 – Collaborate
Collaboration is a great way to learn new things and capture new ideas.
Why not invite a friend or local musician over to work on a project with you?
That, or collaborate with someone over the web using a tool like Splice.
#21 – Travel somewhere
If you have the funds (and the time), consider taking a short trip somewhere.
New sights often lead to inspiration. You’re out of your normal environment, you’re seeing different people, buildings, landmarks. It’s fun, and you’ll be buzzing to get back home and work on music.
#22 – Go to a festival
For many producers and artists, what got them into creating was seeing music performed live.
Even if this isn’t you, going to a concert or festival is well worth your time, for multiple reasons:
- It gives you inspiration (obviously)
- You get to connect with other fans who like the same music as you (potential future listeners of your music)
- You get a better sense for what works and what doesn’t on the stage
And once you’re out of recovery mode, all you’ll want to do is be in the studio.
#23 – Brainstorm
As mentioned before, diving straight into a new project can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you aren’t inspired and have no direction.
To solve this problem, grab yourself a whiteboard or pen and paper and brainstorm.
Think about what you want your song to be about, what style you want it to be in, the sounds and ideas you’ll feature in it.
Then, when you’re ready, start turning that brainstorm into something tangible.
#24 – Be consistent
If you’re only producing when you feel like it, or on an infrequent basis, it’s going to be hard to sustain the level of inspiration and creativity needed to have a decent musical output.
Enact tip #11 and create something every day. Or set a metric for yourself —e.g., to make music for one hour every day.
Commit to the process and enjoy the fruit of your labor.
#25 – Produce live
If you’re an Ableton Live user then you’ve probably tried this.
Start in session view, keep a loop going, and add stuff as you go.
#26 – Change your environment
Tip 21 sound like a good idea to you, but don’t have the time or money to travel?
Just change up your environment locally.
Go to a coffee shop.
Drive somewhere with a good view and your laptop.
Work somewhere else in your house.
#27 – Have a microphone?
If you have a handheld microphone or sample recorder (like a Zoom H4N), record a bunch of samples to use in your music.
You could record pots and pans, elastic bands twanging, cutlery, paper being scrunched up, and 101 other things around the home.
Or you could get out and walk a bush trail, recording the sound of birds chirping, the wind gushing through the trees.
Sound is everywhere. Capture it.
#28 – Listen critically to other music
Every now and again, take some time (an hour or so) to do nothing else but listen to music.
Put together a playlist, or find an album, and just listen. Closely.
Analyze it in your head.
Think about why it’s good (or bad).
I bet you’ll come away with a bunch of extra ideas for your next project.
#29 – Form a ritual
Form a daily ritual that aids your creative process. You’ll be amazed at how much more inspired you feel when you sit down to work on your projects.
My current ritual:
- Brew a cup of coffee
- Clean desk
- Get out notepad and pen
- Open up Ableton Live, identify my most important task, and get to work
#30 – Get out, get busy, and do things.
You’re never going to feel inspired if you have cabin fever.
Don’t be a hermit producer. Go out with friends and make memories. Turn them into tracks later on.