If you’re a freelance musician, producer, or DJ, then you probably live a pretty unpredictable live where you’re suddenly travelling for months on end, or you just as suddenly have very little work and a lot of time at home. So, what can you do to make the very best of that in-between-time? In this blog, we offer 10 tips to help you stay productive at home.
#1. Pick Up Some Music Theory (or Expand Your Knowledge)
Find the very idea of music theory difficult? Boring? Now’s the time to convince yourself otherwise. Rather than trying to master the entirety of Jazz harmonies in the space of a day, just start with a part of music theory that does actually appeal to you and go easy on yourself. Why not just start with someting harmless like the C-major scale? It’s also going to be useful to learn a bit of music theory that actually applies to your own music. Are you always writing your tracks in minor keys, or do you just prefer the major key? Then maybe start getting to grips with a few scales – like, why not set yourself the goal of learning the blues scale in your preferred key and spend one day on that?
#2. Start Some Collaborative Projects Online
Yeah, it’s true, making music together in the same room whether it’s jamming, brainstorming, writing, mixing, or recording, is the best thing to do ever, and no webcam will ever replace the feeling, but we do live in a place called reality. Right now, this just isn’t always going to be possible, so it makes sense to just make the best of it. Take a look at what’s possible using the power of the internet, because there’s a lot you can do these days.
#3. Nail That Complex Riff or Insanely Fast Solo that You’ve Always Wanted to Learn
You know the one I mean. Now that you have time for nothing but yourself, it can finally happen. But … make a plan for yourself. Learning stuff like this on the fly just doesn’t work, and you know it. Cut the riff or solo into little bits and figure out the order you want to tackle them in and how much time you’re likely to spend on each bit. Then set a metronome to a nice, manageable tempo. If, after a while, you find that you’re getting bored, or that you’re making more and more mistakes, then just stop. Give your subconscious a little time to chew it over while you get yourself a drink, make a sandwich, take a break and then get back on it. You could even leave it for the next day and find that you play it better by having just given it a rest.
#4. Immerse Yourself in Mixing
There are so many musicians able to record themselves and build entire tracks using a DAW, but as soon as they hit play in the car and find that their mix doesn’t actually sound as awesome as it did on their home-studio monitors, or they’re finally confronted with a pathetic mess when they play a carefully crafted dance track through a PA system – when it sounded like gold over their headphones. This might be frustrating, but you can just take it as a wake-up call. It’s simply worth knowing what you’re doing. Take some time to learn the principles of mixing and your productions will only shine as a result!
#5. Copy an Existing Track
Great, now you’re armed with an improved knowledge of music theory and mixing, but there’s no greater learning experience than copying. The intention is not that you’re stealing from someone else, but that you’re doing something purely for yourself – which is fine! This doesn’t necessarily need to be a complete piece of music, although that’s a nice challenge. Say, you’ve recorded a nice funk number that you wrote but the sound of the bass line isn’t hitting the right spot. Try to think of the tightest, most snapping bass sound in existence, find the song it’s from and try to copy that sound in your production. You’re only going to learn by doing something like this.
#6. Give Your Instrument a Good Clean
‘A good clean’ can mean different things to different people. If you do absolutely nothing to take care of your violin, then treat it to a wipe down with a dusting cloth. It already looks better, right? And, if you usually just give your guitar a light dusting every now and then, why not give the fretboard a much needed polish? There’s plenty of stuff you can get to clean and treat the wood, it’s not difficult to do, and you’re guaranteed to be happy with the result. If you’re a little more advanced and know what you’re doing, you could even remove all the parts that can be removed and give them a thorough clean. You’re instrument will suddenly look as good as new, which will definitely make you want to play it more.
#7. Make a Profile on Sites like Fiverr or Upwork
If you’ve never even heard of sites like Fiverr or Upwork, then you’ll be amazed at what they offer. If you’re a producer, sound engineer, composer, lyricist, singer, guitarist, drummer, or voice over artist, this is the place where you can offer your particular talents and get some paid work that can be done from home. These kinds of platforms also offer an outstanding way of finding that vocalist you wanted for that EDM track you’ve been working on, or that engineer that’s able to fully fatten up the beat in the way that you’d always wanted. Get yourself a profile and find out what’s possible.
#8. Play Your Older Tracks and Listen with a Critical Ear
If you’re not easily satisfied, this is a good thing. A song can be immensely improved by going at it with some pruning shears, leaving it more open, and giving the music itself a little more room to breathe. Hold true to the phrase, “Kill your babies” (we definitely do not mean this literally) – so, don’t be afraid of letting go of bits of lyric or melody etc. that just aren’t working for the track as a whole. Just put them to one side just in case their time has yet to come. While trimming the fat, as it were, make sure not to work too rationally since you might risk cutting out the more creative, interesting parts. Tip 1) Always pass the end result by other people, and Tip 2), take regular breaks throughout the process so you don’t become deaf to what sounds good and what sounds bad.
#9. Learn Everything that you Can Find Online About the Instruments of Your Fellow Band Members
You hadn’t thought of that one, had you? So often, musicians are blinkered into believing they should only know everything about their own instrument and forget completely that they’re in an entire band, ensemble, or even an orchestra. If you’re part of a group of musicians, you already know that the tighter you work together, the better your performance gets. The better you focus on what the other musicians are playing and the more you seek to allow all the other musicians to shine, the better you’re going to sound as a whole. Learning about the other instruments that your fellow musicians are playing is only going to help with this. Learn about everything the instrument can do, its tonal range and so on. You’ll automatically get a better feel for what your bandmate is doing and actually communicate better with them.
#10. Clean Up Your Hard Drive
It’s doubtless that the hard drive of your computer is full of unfinished ideas, promotional material, plans, and plenty of other fluff. By tidying up your hard drive, order doesn’t only return to your computer, but to your head. In short, make space for new things! Clearing it up is not the same as throwing it out. It can simply mean that you place everything neatly and in order. Just in case, maybe make a back-up before you start.
Got some more tips? Let us know in the comments!