The comfort zone. Whether it is an actual place which we, creatures of habit, attempt to occupy as frequently as possible, or simply a term used to describe the tendency of not playing it too risky or adventurous, we can all admit that we tend to seek for comfort rather than the unpredictable. As attractive and tempting the comfort zone might appear to you in critical times of decision-making, it will also, often times, act as a barrier to significant improvement and durable growth.
In creative fields especially, developing and flourishing as an artist heavily relies on one’s ability to think outside the box and constantly renew processes, techniques and, overall, ideas or concepts. In a previous blog post, we explored diverse ways of boosting creativity in order to overcome lack of inspiration. Getting ‘stuck’ in a routine or a creative block can be the result of too little risk taking and relying too much on your comfort zone. This week’s post aims to generate some ideas and suggestions on how to gradually learn to step outside of your comfort zone, and how that can be beneficial to your music-making process.
Share and listen
One thing that is essential and too often overlooked, is to share music and work in progress as much as possible, and, most importantly, to be open to what people have to say. Showing your art is pretty much like giving someone a peek into your persona in a quite intimate way. It exposes you to judgement and criticism, yet allows you to grow as an artist. It might, at first, feel quite uncomfortable to show your music to an audience that might not understand it. Try surrounding yourself with open minded people who will offer constructive criticism instead of unnecessary negativity.
It is one thing to show your music to someone else, but listening to what they have to say and taking the criticism in, is something else. Perception heavily varies from person to person. Therefore, accepting to take other opinions and inputs, as challenging as it can be, will most likely help you grow as an artist and challenge you to get better.
It’s all a question of habit. The more you get used to sharing, the easier it gets - but that, sort of, brings you back to the initial point, doesn’t it? The instant where showing your music to others becomes something easy and comfortable, means it is time for you to challenge yourself and take it to the next level.
Perform as much as you can
Now that showing your tunes out doesn’t terrify you anymore, and that you’ve come to peace with the fact that there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like what you make, you are ready for the next necessary step of escaping from your comfort zone: live performance.
In a previous post, I shared some tips and tricks on how to approach live performance as a starting musician. Getting on a stage, exposing yourself to the eyes and ears of strangers can be quite scary for a lot of musicians, especially for us studio rats who are accustomed to a pretty solitary life. By pushing yourself to get out there and perform, you are expanding your boundaries and, suddenly, what seemed impossible actually becomes reachable.
Go play your newest tracks in that local bar that hosts an open mic every friday. Don’t be discouraged if the crowd is no bigger than 5 people. The more accustomed you are to be on stage, the better performer you will become.
Take a break from using presets or loops
Presets are comfortable. They’re easy and they make something sound cool instantly. But presets can also prevent you from truly exploring all of the sonic possibilities out there, as well as learn new skills or expand your knowledge. Same goes with loops - they can sound pretty cool, but what is better than the satisfaction of creating everything from scratch? It might require extra work and extra effort, but the reward is well worth it.
We’ve all been there. You just got that new VST Synth and are so amazed by all of the awesome sounding presets it offers. You start jamming around with that cool vintage Rhodes and, suddenly, you made a hit. It is oh-so-easy to leave things there. But next time, try pushing yourself to make your own synth sound from scratch. Or take that preset and tweak it to make it your own.
When it comes to loops, it’s pretty much the same story. Loops are a good way of generating ideas and getting inspired. Take a drum loop, for example. Try chopping it up into small fragments, and transform it into a whole new beat. Or, if you want to go more experimental, try converting the sample into MIDI and play around with a controller. The possibilities are pretty much endless.
Pretty straightforward, yet essential if you want to achieve goals that seem unachievable. There’s this french saying: “c’est en forgeant que l’on devient forgeron”, literally meaning: it is by forging that one becomes blacksmith. The french version might seem more convincing, but the symbolic is there.
The same idea applies to music-making. Challenge yourself to create even when you are not particularly inspired. Try stepping out of your comfort zone by not listening to your lazy inner-demon: “I’ll just finish this track tomorrow, I’m not feeling too creative right now”, “Why even bother? I’ll never make it.” It is surely easier and more comfortable to agree with the inner-demon, but it won’t help you reach your goals. Instead, make it a part of your daily schedule to do something related to music. I could be tidying up or re-arranging your setup, finally getting around to mixing that track or even just listening to new music. All of this will contribute to making you more inspired and, therefore, prone to creating.
Everything that is unusual and implies change of some sort is uncomfortable. No great thing has ever resulted from being comfortable. Push yourself, challenge yourself, and you will witness unprecedented results. Feeling uncomfortable? Not to worry! Progress in the making.
How do you escape from your music-making comfort zone? Tell us in the comments!