How To Make Music When You Lack Ideas/Inspiration

Finding inspiration for making music can be hard. It’s one of those fleeting things that is there when you don’t need it, but never seems to be there when you need it the most.

I’ve been through this countless times. In fact, I still go through it today!

It’s a frustrating thing to go through. Sitting in front of your DAW, knowing you WANT to make a track, but have no idea where to even begin.

Starting is the hardest part.

Inspiration is a valuable thing, and is often the launching pad of the most iconic music, but what happens when you don’t have it? Can you still make a great song if you don’t have any ideas on where to start?

Is It Possible?

Inspiration is not needed to make music. It is one way to start a song, but it is not the only way. To make music without inspiration, there needs to be a method or system to get over the initial hurdle of starting.

Getting Started

Starting is the hardest part. It’s often what holds us back from getting inspiration in the first place.

After you start your song and have got the foundations laid, it is likely that inspiration will come naturally to you. Ideas will ebb and flow as you put more and more stuff down into the DAW. In this article, I will give you a few different ways of starting a song, so you can get going without needing a sudden burst of inspiration.

All you will need is your DAW and a little patience.

Perfectionism is Your Enemy

Before I tell you how to start a song, there’s something VERY important you need to understand.

Perfectionism is not your friend, it’s your enemy.

I get it. You want to make the best music you possibly can. And that’s a noble goal. It’s definitely something you should strive for. You don’t want to be publishing garbage, after all.

But the idea that your music has to be perfect before you can release it, is an idea that can really hold you back from starting in the first place.

Don’t let perfectionism be an excuse for never getting started.

– Marilu Henner

The fact is, you’re not perfect. Nor am I, nor is anyone else. We will always have flaws, or find flaws, in our work. And that’s okay. It’s okay not to be perfect.

You don’t need to sound exactly like your favourite artist. In fact, that’s where your originality is. You don’t sound like them, but you DO sound like yourself. And that’s something no one else has. The advantage you will always have over anyone else, is that nobody else can be YOU.

And while some people may find your music flawed and ‘imperfect’, others may love you for expressing yourself through your sound. Perhaps that’s the very thing that people connect with the most.

So forget about trying to sound ‘perfect’. Just get started. That’s all you need to focus on.

Method #1: Copy The Structure of Another Song

An excellent way to begin your song is to copy the structure of an existing song that you like.

Just download the song, pop it into your DAW, place markers for the start of each section, and then try to recreate each section.

Don’t worry about plagiarism or stealing, this isn’t your final song. This is just a way to get started. You will find many ways to make your track original when you work more on it, but for now, just begin.

For example, let’s say I like Calvin Harris’ track ‘Miracle‘, and want to make a similar track.

I would download the song (an online YouTube to mp3 converter works fine for this, just watch out for popups on those websites!).

Then, I would place the mp3 file into my DAW, and match it to the grid.

Now, I would start placing markers at the start of each ‘section’. So a marker for the intro, one for the first verse, then the buildup etc.

It doesn’t matter what you call these, as long as you know what they mean.

Lastly, I would try my best to recreate the sounds in each section. Starting with the drums, then moving on to the bass, then the lead synth, background elements, etc.

And there you have it, a finished arrangement for your track! Now that you’ve got something in the DAW and you’re not staring at a blank screen, it should be much easier to come up with ideas. You can always swap out sounds for your own sounds, and tweak things here and there for more originality.

If you want to go into more detail about using this method, I’ve written an article that dives into the specifics about ‘the Easiest Way to Structure a Song’.

Method #2: Start With An Acapella

You don’t have to begin your tracks by spending 5 hours in a synth trying to make your own sound. You can start by placing down a vocal track into your DAW.

Full acapellas work best for this. That way, you have the added benefit of a full arrangement for your song before you even get started!

But even if you don’t have a full acapella, any decent vocal can work wonders for kicking off your next masterpiece. They provide you with a starting point and a key for your track.

For example, here is a small vocal hook I found on the sample app Splice:

In my DAW, I made the tempo faster, and put a simple house beat over it:

I already feel more inspired just by doing this tiny little thing.

I can even put a simple bassline underneath:

Groovy!

Starting with a vocal acapella provides a framework, arrangement, and key for a song. This stimulates and frees up the creative mind, allowing it to focus on other things like sound design or drum patterns.

Method #3. Start With a Chord Progression

Chord progressions are a great way to begin your track if you have no ideas or inspiration.

The simplest way to do this is to go into your DAW and open up a piano plugin. It’s much easier to create chord progressions on a piano, and then you can focus on the specific sound you want later. My DAW of choice, FL Studio, has a built-in plugin called FL Keys, which hosts several pianos.

From here, you can go into the piano roll and create a chord progression.

If you have no idea what progression to make, you can always ‘borrow’ one from another song. The website Chordify.net shows you the chords from thousands of different tracks, so you can copy the progression into your piano roll. You can take songs from different genres and apply their chord progressions to the genre you want to make.

For example, here are the chords from Destiny’s Child – ‘Survivor’:

In the FL Keys plugin, they sound like this:

You can tweak some of the chords to make them more original. Here’s what I did:

From here, you have a few options. You can make a full arrangement out of the progression, or you can replace the piano with a different sound, and make a loop.

I decided to change the piano sound to a nice Serum preset I found (Serum is a virtual synthesizer), and make a little house beat over the top:

Can you see how I went from absolutely nothing, to a decent sounding loop, with no inspiration whatsoever? All I did was take an existing song and copy the chord progression!

YOU Can Do This!

Now I’ve shown you three different methods of starting a song with no ideas or inspiration. Go into your DAW and try them out for yourself.

I hope this article served you well and answered your doubts. You don’t need a sudden burst of inspiration to make great tunes! Now, go and write your next track, it’s waiting for you!

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