When you start to get serious about music production often your priorities change. You want to meet your goals and constantly be gaining exposure and pushing yourself to get to the next level. This often necessitates going into the studio when perhaps your creativity isn't flowing as much as you'd like. It might mean doing some sound design every weekday, or it might mean devoting some time to playing live and all the preparation that this entails. In any case, what this means is that your motivation for making music has now changed, rather than making music simply for the fun of it or to learn something you are prehaps wanting to see some progression in the exposure you're gaining, or you want to take your production to the next level so that it matches that of your favourite commercially released artists, necessitating your chosen strategy or goals. Often this motivation is extrinsic, meaning that it's motivation that's reliant on outside factors. I believe that it's important to often and continuously refocus your motivation so that it's firmly based in the intrinsic, meaning that you are making music for reasons that are based in yourself and not outside factors. Ask yourself often the questions "...why am I making music?" and "...do I enjoy making music?" If your answers are reliant on outside factors then in the long run your musical output will decline. While extrinsic motivation can often increase your output in the short run, the only way to have a lasting career in music is to find reasons that arent reliant on outside factors, reasons that will make you want to get up early and spend all day in the studio on your day off rather than at the pub with friends, and resons that will make you want to do this day in and day out.
Here's where the importance of playfulness comes in, something that can often be forgotten when you start to take music too seriously. Forget about a goal of getting signed, forget about wanting to get exposure. Forget about comparing yourself to others. Instead focus on keeping the process of music fresh and interesting, and bring some playfullness into the process. Set goals that revolve around learning more, and expanding your repetoire of production techniques through trying different things. This way you'll enjoy the creative process more and you'll make better music as a result. You could try the following:
- Record some drums to use in your music;
- Use a variety of different synthesizers instead of your usual, workhorse synth;
- Buy an analogue synthesizer so that you have something more tactile and immeadiate to use;
- Go outside and make some sounds in a different surrounding;
- Combine various techniques together;
- Produce different genres;
- Sample some old records;
- Pick a record and force yourself to use a sample off of it in the context of your track;
- Limit your tools so that you're forced to think outside the box and use different methods;
- Layer pad, bass and other samples like you would normally do for drums;
- Delete your templates;
- Rearrange your studio so that you're more tempted to be in that space;
Now some, or many of these ideas sound like hard work. But it's a mistake to think of this as an impediment to production because they are different to your usual methods. Be playful about these methods rather than serious and just enjoy the process without thinking too much about the end result. Even if you don't manage to succesfully use such a method straight away, you've done something different and exposed yourself to a different way of working which you might use in a future project. You've expanded your perspective and learnt along the way, but more importantly you've experimented and been playful about the methods you're using. Again, you've made the process of music enjoyable and you've given yourself some much needed intrinsic motivation to continue making music in the first place.