Members of the dBs community share their strategies for enhancing creativity, focus and performance.
As music producers and sound designers, we all have moments when inspiration runs dry and procrastination is hard to kick. So what can you do to replenish your productivity and regain concentration? We’ve assembled some top tips from our community to help you foster a more creative and focussed mind.
Tugkan Mutlu, Engagement & Employability Officer and Electronic Music Production alumni
“To me, creativity spawns from new processes, experiences or information. Often when my productions start to sound the same, I start to lose interest and excitement.
To stay creative, I try to maintain a child-like sense of curiosity and appetite for exploration and experimentation. I have to first unlearn my constructed process – either by taking some time away from music and exploring other sources of inspiration through different mediums of art and literature or by getting out there and finding inspiration from my outer environment.
“As producers we often lock ourselves in the same room, in front of the same screen, reaching out for the same plugins and production processes, so it’s really important to keep pushing boundaries, challenging yourself and exploring the unexplored. If you're still stuck, then whatever you’re thinking, do the opposite.
“My biggest issue hurdle for focus has always been internal and external distractions. Social media, smartphones and over thinking (especially being a creative) has taken away our superpower and ability to stay focused on one task for an extended period of time. Just like anything in life, whatever you put time into, you get good at. If you spend most of your time checking your phone or completing micro-tasks for gratification, then that's what you're programming yourself to be good at.
“Practicing concentration is the only way to achieve good focus. So when you wake up, try not checking your phone for the first hour. In that time, write down what you want for yourself out of your day. Putting your phone on airplane mode when making music is also a great way of ensuring your creative flow isn’t disturbed. Lastly, try and fit in 3 minutes of meditation or breathing exercises before you start a new task. This really helps me to leave all thoughts of my previous task behind and sets me up with a clear mind to focus and be creative with the new task ahead.”
Jodie Rose, Electronic Music Production student, dBs Bristol
"I like to boost my creativity by spending time in nature. Escaping from my indoor space and exploring new surroundings gives me time to clear my mind of distractions allowing space to develop new ideas. When returning to my studio after being in such a contrasting environment I feel refreshed and focused. I’m surprised by the sounds that spark an idea, so taking my handheld recorder means I can capture any interesting noises along the way. Keeping an open mind to new methods and ideas helps with inspiration and exploring new technology keeps things interesting."
Máté Moldovan, Sound for Games and Apps graduate, dBs Bristol
“The way I keep myself motivated and focused, is to create small targets. Before I created my current targets, I needed to work out what I wanted to do with my life. I also had to be brutally honest when I asked myself: what am I good at, what do I need to improve on? So, I created two columns and made a list under each.
"I always knew I wanted to make a living from music-related work, but the music industry is huge, and I realised I needed to be more specific. Once I decided that I wanted to do Sound Design and Audio Implementation for games, I started looking for jobs online, to see what workplaces require to fulfil these positions. Once I had a good idea of the knowledge needed, I re-visited my portfolio website and put my “employer hat” and made notes of what I was missing. These missing items became my targets that I work on daily.”
Ellie Goldsack, Student & Staff Experience Manager, dBs Bristol
“Learn when and how to take some time away.
“Not actively thinking about something doesn’t mean that it isn’t ticking away in the back of your mind. Like a magic eye puzzle, sometimes you have to let your mind ‘un-focus’ for long enough to allow the full picture to become clear.
“Many of my best ideas come when I’m not at my computer or keyboard. Learning when to step away from my work allows my brain and ears to rest and press refresh.
"Taking a short walk, or sitting down with a cup of tea doesn’t mean I’m being unproductive, and a change of scene gives the chance for outside inspiration. Ideas can come at any time and the best thing I can do is to be prepared to note them down or record them on my phone. Before too long I’m rushing back to my desk, itching to try out a new idea, and feeling inspired and energised.”
Alden Beckett, Sounds for Games and Apps Graduate
“If the project you are working on has any aspects that are tech-based – where there is busy work to be done that isn’t directly related to creativity – do those first. The best thing you can do is set yourself up to get into the creative flow by making sure all the hurdles to do with tech are done. Then you don’t have to worry about them. Whether you're making a game, a song or some crazy interactive performance suite, do the technical side first. The last thing you want to do is have a great idea, go to do it and get so frustrated with tech stuff that it kills your passion for it.”
Bruce Turner, Course Leader for MA Innovation in Sound
“A great barrier to creative fluency is distraction.
"Human beings are integrated, but there are three distinct facets to the human condition – mind (thoughts), energetic factors (such as emotion) and physical factors. These all interweave.
"The key to regulating these is understanding how they interweave. As an example, through meditation, it is possible to calm the activity in the two hemispheres of the brain, and to notice when a pattern of thought begins (such as a problem you are living with, which has a regular strong emotion associated with it e.g. difficult neighbours!) Typically the thought pattern starts, and the emotion spontaneously arises from this, in turn manifesting in physical responses, habits and - oftentimes - problems.
"Being aware of the origin of your thoughts is extremely empowering, and quieting the mind often spontaneously gives rise to solutions to problems and fertile imagination.”