Top 4 Ideas For Creative Inspiration

Sometimes, you're just stuck for ideas or inspiration. But don't worry, as we are on a crusade to help you make the best tune possible! It's possibly the most frustrating part of music production – having found the time to get into the studio, you're staring at a blank screen with no vibe, or struggling with a track that just doesn't quite cut it.

But don't give up! Because there's always something you can do to spark off the creative process to start things moving, or take them up a level. Here are some of our favourite tricks:

1. Noise Gates

Noise gates are pretty useful tools in their own right, to tighten up sounds, eliminate hiss, and work with transients. But they can be great creative plugs as well. By using the side-chain input that's common to most noise gates you can create rhythmic patterns with ease. All you need to do is create a pattern for the rhythm – your hihat channel is often a good suggestion as it will be fairly detailed.

Or you can just create a dedicated pattern – again, hihats are a good sound to use because they are short and snappy – and set the channel to not go to any output. Then select this channel as your sidechain input (Logic users will have to send the hats to a buss and then select the buss as the input, but the effect is the same).

For instance, have you got a big crazy synth patch that you don't know what to do with? Then try a rhythmic gate on it. Now you've got some short stabby synth hits that can evolve and change every time, working on a rhythm that fits in neatly with your drums.

Or if you've got some pad chords that seem to be sucking all the life out of your groove, by gating them in this way you can make them more choppy and energetic, whilst keeping the original character and also freeing up space in the mixdown. Using gates in this way can help make a standard sound into something much more vibrant and exciting.

2. “Random Sampling”

OK, it's not quite completely random. But if you're really stuck for ideas then try dropping a whole tune into your DAW, and chopping it up into short sections – perhaps quavers or crotchets. Now open a sampler, and drop a hundred or so of those short sections into the sample program, so that for every different key, it plays a different sample.

Use an old tune, something that you wouldn't normally think to sample, as it will likely have lots of interesting audio character. Most of the samples will be unrecognisable; a snare drum, a random vocal chop, a bit of strings. But having them mapped on the keyboard will allow you to jam along with a drum groove, previewing all sorts of different sounds instantly.

Obviously it's difficult to create a melody like this, but it can create a starting point, and gives you plenty of ammunition for fills, FX and atmospheres once you start getting busy with the effects plugins!

3. Arpeggiators

Some synths come with arpeggiators built in, but the majority do not. Fortunately, most DAWs can arpeggiate MIDI data, which means that not only can you put all sorts of arpeggios on your VST instruments, but you can also even arpeggiate a hardware synth that doesn't have the function too. (Mac users may be sad to know that the Logic arpeggiator is notorious for being awkward to set up. It doesn't take long once you know how, but you might need a quick Youtube tutorial to help you on your way).

Arpeggios are always useful because they can be tweaked so much. Try them on bass sounds, with quite a slow rhythm to create a rolling, rhythmic vibe. Try them on lead or pad sounds to make a riff that can be your main melody, or try a superfast, high pitched sound to make crazy cosmic atmospheres. They can revitalise an old tune, but don't just turn the arpeggiator on and expect it to work wonders.

You have to fine-tune the settings until you get something more interesting; polyrhythms, chord patterns, the direction or randomness of the arpeggio – all of these can make the difference between a great catchy riff and something much less interesting. Then once you've got something you like, why not bounce it down as audio, or copy out the MIDI data so you can tweak it further.

So, if you're still stuck, give some of these a try! You never know, they might just kick that old track back into action...

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