Finding a unique sound is a noble goal not easily achieved. It takes a lot of effort, and perseverance but the end absolutely justifies the means. In this article, we’ll explore several methods and positive habits to help you find your unique sound.
The most obvious method for achieving uniqueness in your music is to experiment tirelessly, exploring any and all ideas that pass through your mind. The more foreign the idea is to what you’d normally do, the better! Next time you’re low on new material, pull yourself out of your normal workflow and start thinking about the most drastically different thing you can write. Do you write maximal, colorful bass music? Try your hand at something reserved and atmospheric! Not only may the result be a great track, but you’ll surprise yourself with what you can accomplish, and it’ll likely lead to inspiration for further experimentation. At the very least, you’ll be picking up new techniques along the way, and it will all attribute to an expanded arsenal!
Broaden Your Horizons
The worst thing you can do when trying to expand your sound is to limit your listening to one or few styles of music. Always keep an open mind and ears as you never know when you’ll hear something that’ll jostle that new idea into your consciousness. Even if you’re aiming to make something akin to conventional club beats. Influences from outside of that realm may lend itself to giving your song that bit of ‘something extra’ to help it stand out from the pack.
Identify and Understand Your Influences
The art we create can often be attributed to a lifetime of influence and experience. It’s tremendously helpful to study music you find inspiring. Be it from a theory or production standpoint (I recommend both!), demystifying your favorite tracks is a terrific exercise. Ear training is important in gaining an understanding of how to articulate the aspects of said work that you aim to incorporate into your own work. The simplest and most commonly used form of this technique is referencing tracks. Typically, when talking about reference tracks it’s with regards to a mix or master, but there’s nothing wrong with referencing other works earlier on in the production process. Be it to encompass a feeling or vibe or texture, reference tracks are a valuable resource!
Understand Your Creativity and Exploit It
We’re all different when it comes to how ideas may surface and how we articulate them. Over time, you may notice things about your approach, your motivation, your momentum, etc. It is essential to use this information to constantly mold your process to better suit your goals. For instance, I find that listening to very current music in a similar ballpark to what I typically create isn’t very inspiring, even if I love the song in question. What does inspire me, however, is listening to those songs that first inspired me to make music, even if they’re completely irrelevant to what I’d like to make. Again, everyone is different. You may find it beneficial to not listen to any music at all while you’re in a creative mindset. The point is to keep your habits in mind and encourage those that yield the desired result!
A common pitfall among budding producers is to respond to the excitement of having created a great track by immediately removing him or herself from a creative headspace in order to start thinking about the business side of things. The allure of electronic music stardom may be great, but it is of the utmost importance to maintain a primary focus on creating an actual product, even if your end goal is to be some sort of superstar festival DJ. Your artist name, your brand, your merch, your social media presence, etc., is meaningless without strong (and consistent!) releases to back it up. My advice: focus on your music and growing as an artist. When you go out on a limb and surprise yourself by creating something unique, focus your attention on following it up with another song! And another.. and another.. Keep building and using that momentum to enhance your overall body of work. When the time comes to sell yourself to the world, you’ll have a lot more substance to put forth, and it’ll require much less ‘selling.’
Expect and Embrace Failure
As any successful person will tell you, ‘success is almost never a straight line.’ What that means is that the road to success may be riddled with potholes, detours, and dead-ends (failures). Learning from those experiences is essential to clear the fog between yourself and your goals- in this case, our goal being a unique piece of music. When you’re constantly experimenting and trying new things, it’s actually beneficial to meet ‘failure’ on multiple occasions, and to train yourself to look at those projects as unavoidable bumps along the way. It can be quite demotivating to invest a day into a project only to come up empty-handed in the end, but that should be expected when traversing new territory. You’ve got to get through the bad projects to get to the good ones, so it’s all the more reason to dust yourself off and keep going! Anything in life worth doing is worth struggling for, be it working out or building a career or creating art. Producing electronic music is no exception.
To me, musical exploration is a product of love for music itself, so great that it never gets dull. In the previous paragraph, we discussed the seemingly unpleasant realities of experimentation. In my opinion, our ability to endure these realities and accept them as an inevitability is directly related to our passion for creating music. If you yearn to create continuously, and you enjoy the music-making process, it’s much more difficult to be discouraged by an unsuccessful project. “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” As corny as it sounds, the most important part of the process is actually liking what you do. With that being said, keep it fun, keep creating and keep growing!