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How to Turn Music Appreciation into Inspiration

How to Turn Music Appreciation into Inspiration

When it comes to making great music, taste and appreciation are crucial.

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What you listen to doesn’t directly translate into what you’ll create as a musician, but it has a huge impact.

Whether you’re struggling to break through creative blocks in your songwriting, beatmaking or music production, there’s a huge opportunity to turn your musical appreciation into creative fuel.

Here’s how.

1. Learn to separate imitation from appreciation

You might not realize it, but everything you create is informed by other artist’s music.

Preview of youtube video

Your favorite songs were inspired and shaped by other music that artists you admire now liked to listen to.

Getting in touch with what you love or don’t like about another artist’s music is one of the best things you can do for your own creativity.

Some artists confuse appreciation with imitation, and this ends up causing major problems.

Appreciation gives you valuable inspiration you can use to shape your own unique musical statements.

Imitation takes your uniqueness out of the equation. It’s nothing more than copying another artist’s ideas and pasting them into your own work.

You might find that there’s a thin line between imitation and appreciation. But being able to tell the difference between your original ideas and someone else’s work is key.

You might find that there’s a thin line between imitation and appreciation. But being able to tell the difference between your original ideas and someone else’s work is key.

Replicating someone’s exact melodies, beats, instrumentation, and lyrics fall under the imitation category. Musical appreciation is the act of letting another artist’s work inspire creativity, innovation, and meaning within your own.

2. Define what moves you in another artist’s music

Pinpointing exactly what you love or dislike about another artist’s music is a powerful way to define taste and shape your own music at the same time. You might love an artist’s music, but what exactly in their work moves you?

To transform appreciation into actionable creative inspiration, get as specific as possible answering this question.

When you hear music, what you’re listening to is the finished product of something with many defining characteristics. It’s your job to listen close and recognize exactly what’s going on inside the music that moves you.

Everything from the way an artist sings and plays their instrument to how they produce their work and color it with effects shapes their music.

Paying attention and listening critically will help you define your taste and provide direction for your own music.

Paying attention and listening critically will help you define your taste and provide direction for your own music.

This exercise is helpful not just for delving deep and understanding what you love in music, but also what you don’t like.

Listening critically and defining characteristics about the music you’re not a fan of makes you aware of making the same choices in the music you create.

3. Convert your appreciation into actionable inspiration

Musical appreciation turns into meaningful action when you let what you hear guide your own creativity.

You can use what you hear as a jumping-off point for the music you write, or pinpoint specific strategies and techniques used in another artist’s work to try yourself.

However, this doesn’t mean ripping off another musician’s ideas and calling them your own. If you love something specific about another artist’s music, learn how and why they did it and aim to create something different but just as impactful.

To transform musical appreciation into action, try out these tips:

Test out production techniques, instrumentation, and arrangement styles

Once you’ve identified specific things you’re inspired by in another artist’s work, experiment with incorporating them into your process.

Whether it’s a specific reverb plugin or combination of instruments, you can fuel your work with a technique that moves you from someone else’s.

Experiment with an existing musical idea as a starting point for writing

A melody, chord progression, or beat that already exists out in the world can serve as inspiration for something new.

A melody, chord progression, or beat that already exists out in the world can serve as inspiration for something new.

Use this exercise to gain a better understanding of artists you admire work, or to give your creativity direction.

If you ever find yourself in a position of not knowing what or how to make music (we’ve all been there), this exercise will help move you forward.

Get a better understanding of the emotion behind the music you love and match it in your own way

Have you ever heard someone perform a cover that doesn’t quite work? The problem could be that the original artist delivers an emotional rawness that the performer can’t match.

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Fully appreciating music forces you to get into the head of another artist. It helps you understand what emotional space they were in when they were writing.

By doing this, you’ll not only get in touch with the emotional state of other artists, but also your own.

Appreciation = inspiration

Inspiration is all around you, but it’s up to you to be able to access and use it. When it feels difficult to write music in an inspired, genuine way, dig deep into the music that moves you. Use that love to fuel your process.

Learn more about your favorite artists and you’ll soon realize they were all influenced by musicians that came before.

Defining your tastes and using your appreciation to shape and inform your music will give your work direction, energy, and inspiration.

Patrick McGuire

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

@Patrick McGuire

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