Ideas on Ideas

Many times after listening to a demo someone sent the first thing in my mind is: Dude… You got some good ideas in there but there’s too much going on. I would make two or three tunes out this.

Creating new ideas is fun. So much so that it’s easy to forget about the whole when you’re at it – believe me I’ve been there.

Now – it’s not a bad thing to come up with tons of ideas. What I like to do when I start off writing a track is breed a whole batch of elements. Lots of ideas and variations. A kind of musical brainstorm if you will.

What happens next is the important bit: Stop. Decide what works best, focus on that and scrap everything else.

If there are elements that sound nice on their own but don’t seem to fit in for whatever reason, save them as stems for new projects. There’s always the option of doing different versions of a track later on, too.

How do you know if an idea/sound/element is strong enough then? How do you decide what should stay and what not? My principle is straightforward: if you have any doubts about something in your track – get rid of it. This is a method I’ve applied for a long time now and it works.

Leave no room for mediocrity. You should only roll with your best ideas.

Then start massaging. Refine what you have. This is what art is all about (oh and yes, art is also plain disciplined work).

Strip your ideas into bare essentials. Only leave what’s necessary and nothing more. If you want maximum impact, you must let your ideas breathe.

The beauty lies in simple, yet powerful ideas that come together and complement each other without (unintended) interference.

How to create variation while maintaining coherency in your arrangement?

Here’s something to try: Next time you come to a standstill in your arrange… Take something you already have, transform that into something new but maintain a reference to the original idea. For instance, you could repeat a melody you have with a different sound. Or use the rhythm of the percussion on the bassline. This is called a leitmotif.

Weave those babies together. Tell the story. The possibilities are endless.

“Good ideas are common – what’s uncommon are people who’ll work hard enough to bring them about” – Ashleigh Brilliant (English Author and Cartoonist, b.1933)


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  • smxmttl

    Great post. I’ve been into music/audio production for years already, but going back to basic things like this is always healthy. If it would just be a little easier to decide which of the ideas/elements is the big one and _stay dedicated to it_ until the more boring parts of production/arranging/mixing are over…

    I will definitely be following your blog later on! Keep up the good work.

  • Yeah you hit the nail on the head, staying dedicated is the most difficult thing for sure.

    I find what helps a little bit is to take a little break when you start feeling like you want to change things up. Reseting your brain (even a little bit) will help you come back with more neutral perspective on what works and what doesn’t.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • “if you have any doubts about something in your track – get rid of it ” GREAT IDEA

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      You’re welcome!