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The Musical Scientist

blog-0944200001399321460.jpgI've always considered myself a musical scientist. I would be so bold as to say you should as well. While I don't know much about the craft of audio mixing and engineering, I've always had a natural ability to compose and I believe it is this mentality that I am a scientist of music that helps me to do this. Let me explain what I mean.

The average musician from my experiences tends to be highly emotionally involved in their creations. They become attached to the work, attached to sounds they want to work in their songs, attached to the cool riff they came up with on guitar, attached to that synth sound that worked before it was mixed in with all the other instruments. Music is a form of expression and because of this musicians tend to be very subjective when it is being created. This is a piece of our soul we're trying to get out, so dedication to objectivity is a struggle.

But what does a scientist do? They perform experiments in a lab. They mix chemicals together and see what happens. Objectivity is key in science, and if a scientist has an agenda and tampers with his results to give off the appearance of this theory being confirmed, he will be found out one way or another and labeled a pseudo-scientist. Musicians would do well to look at this process of experimentation and objectivity and apply it to their musical endeavors, as hard as that can be, and as strange as it may sound.

This is where inspiration needs to meet with reality, not to be replaced by reality, but to be blended with it in a harmonious way. I know from my own personal experience that when I feel inspired, when that wave of emotion hits, what I'm writing seems magical to me. The ideas flow yes, but they are seen through rose colored shades, because I'm feeling a strong emotion. For the rest of my life when I hear what I wrote at that time, I may be brought back into that emotional place, the same way that smells and scenery do when I had a great experience with friends.

This only lasts however when I'm alone. As soon as I am in the company of someone else and I show them the idea? That feeling is gone, and as I'm playing the song I had such a fondness for, I suddenly realize there are many things wrong with it! Why did this happen? Because I held too tightly to that wave of inspiration, that feeling I had, and I became convinced it was in the song, when in reality I just associated it with the song. And that's where a scientific approach becomes helpful.

Your studio, your room you write in, the place you create, that's your lab. Your inspiration is your work material, it's what you've got in your test tubes if you will. Your goal now should be to experiment with that material and TEST YOUR RESULTS. Holding onto the hope that you are getting the result you want is not going to make it happen. Staying grounded and realistic, while not in itself going to obtain the result, will at least allow you to know what you have actually created, rather than what you wish you had.

So how do you apply this practically, metaphors aside? I know of two concrete ways. First you need to make the conscious decision to keep your emotions about your work and your examination of the work separate, it is a choice. Practice thinking like a critic. After you get what you feel is a good rough draft or even a finished song, put yourself in the shoes of a critic (maybe not the harshest critic though, you don't want to fall into the other trap of not giving yourself credit where it is due). Imagine you are someone who is in a grumpy mood, someone who doesn't expect this song to be entertaining, and see if you see any problems with the song. Secondly you need to compare your work to similar projects that you know are getting the results you want, compare your lyric, your composition, or mix to an established artist who does a similar style. Does it stand up? Could you follow that act? If not, you may need to re-examine your work.

In the realm of composition I find this the most true, and also time saving. Rather than assuming the musical pieces you expect to work will indeed work and then spending lots of time trying to make them work, be a scientist. Experiment, throw an idea in and see how it reacts to the other parts of the song. If it's not working? Come up with a different idea. In the writing process if things aren't flowing? Go for a walk, don't try to make them flow, get away, come back with a fresh perspective. Objectivity is going to take you from a personal songwriter writing for yourself, into a communicator who actually gets your emotions across to others.

So the next time you sit down to create, think like a scientist. Experiment, stay objective, and test your results. It's difficult, and I myself forget this sometimes, but it's a good thing to keep in mind. At least, this Symph thinks so ;)


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You said this "disappears" when you don't play it alone. THAT is the real problem with ANY musician. Getting "in the moment" is everything. I had heaps of trouble with this until a few sessions with a Sports Psychologist, believe it or not. Four hypo-therapy sessions put me right.

 

To relay what I was shown...

 

How many times have you driven your car somewhere, and yet, you "ended up there" when you really had no memory of the whole drive??? But you've steered, braked, turned, shifted...whatever. You were under hypnosis at that point.

 

Make yourself "get there" and you'll fin getting back "in the moment" a bit easier. You will (hopefully) forger about the :steering, braking, turning" and be all emotion...which WILL show in your playing.

 

Hope that helps...it cost me over $500!!!!!! Ha!

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If it's not working? Come up with a different idea. In the writing process if things aren't flowing? Go for a walk, don't try to make them flow, get away, come back with a fresh perspective.

 

 

I concur. I still try to force it through to conclusion sometimes, and it never works out when doing that.

 

So thats for the reminder & the consolidation.

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