Top Tips for beating Writer's Block

Posted by James Cullen on

Almost all producers suffer from a form of musical writer’s block from time to time. Whether you’re a hobbyist bedroom producer, or a seasoned pro making music for a living, there will always be days when you just can’t seem to create anything you’re happy with despite how hard you may try. There are countless resources out there about how to get over writer’s block, and it’s one of the most often posted questions in music production related forums, which is why I’ve decided to tackle the issue today. 

This kind of hurdle to your creativity can come in many forms. You may be fairly structured in your music making; perhaps you have a set time each week where you sit down to work on music, but when you do so, you’re just not able to produce any solid or workable ideas. 

Alternatively, you may find that you’re struck with inspiration whenever you’re away from your computer, but once you actually sit down to create, the same thing can often happen - you can’t write anything.

Does this sound familiar?

It’s a common phenomenon, but it shouldn’t make you feel disheartened or deflated. Losing motivation is a bad thing, and not being able to write music doesn’t need to serve as a demotivator! Finding practical ways to overcome obstacles is as much a part of your skillset and production process as writing music is! 

Today with Top Music Arts, we will dive into some top tips you can employ to try and beat writer’s block when it strikes, and ways you can improve your production skills in general in the process.

Think outside the box.

The first tip we will explore is a form of thinking outside the box. Many producers are extremely comfortable in producing a single style of music. There are often specific techniques and production processes that come about from producing in a certain style, so these will become second nature to this kind of producer.

But what does the producer do when none of her ideas or techniques are working? When she’s tried everything but can’t find an idea that works, how can she still make sure she has a productive creative output?

A great way to beat this block is to try and produce something totally outside of your comfort zone. If you’re a house and techno producer, try making an ambient piece. If you only produce trap music, try and do some jungle or footwork. 

When you’re making the same genre of music regularly, this mental block can often occur because you’re so used to using the same types of production tricks. These tricks can often become stale, restricting you to one method of production, so when one doesn’t produce a fruitful result, you end up stuck for ideas on where to go next. Breaking out of your style or comfort zone can introduce you to some new ideas and techniques, all of which will inform your creative process going forwards.

Consider how different the processing of the low end of a techno production is to creating lush textures in ambient music. The first deals with hard hitting percussion and bass; balancing these sounds so neither loses their power but both sit well in the mix together, while the second is all about creating depth and atmosphere without causing a washed out sound. There are obviously totally different techniques involved in each, and a producer who can do both is a better producer than someone who can only do one or the other!

There are tutorials out there for every genre, so use one of these as a starting point, and see what new techniques you might learn!

Re-create a favourite track.

So, let’s say that you’re happy with how your music is going; you’ve created a few tracks up until now that you’re really loving the sound of and you don’t want to lose your momentum. However, this writer’s block strikes again. You can either give up for the day, resigned to the fact that it just ‘isn’t going to happen’ or you could try the following exercise.

Pick one of your favourite tunes in the genre you’re creating. Of course, you’ll already be incredibly familiar with it, but listen to it a few times with a critical ear. On your monitors if you have some, if not, listen on a good pair of headphones

What you’re listening for is the subtle nuances in the production. You aren’t listening as an audience, you’re listening as a producer. Identify what’s happening on each level. Make notes if you need to. 

What type of compression has been used are the drums?

What effects are there?

What’s the synth sound used? How is it made up?

After you’ve listened a few times and got a good grasp on what you’re hearing, you’re going to do your best to recreate the beat in your DAW. This works many aspects of your production skillset.

You’re using your critical ear, you’re using sound design - trying to recreate as closely as possible any synth sounds used. You’re identifying structure and recreating it. You’re paying attention to how the music is mixed, and doing your best to balance your re-creation so it closely resembles the original. All the subtle automations and moments that set a professional production apart from an amateur one.

Personally, I really enjoy creating Trap music, and while it isn’t even my favourite genre of music to listen to, there’s just something really fun about making it. So, when I did this exercise myself, I chose Slippery by Migos. 



The beat itself is extremely simple, yet it doesn’t sound empty or weak. The percussion is layered, and there is a really great use of delay to keep the very simple synth melody’s textures behind the vocals since it’s only playing quite slowly in 8th or 16th note patterns.

This exercise allows you to still produce in your preferred genre even if you can’t think of any ideas yourself. It also serves as a genre study, allowing you to explore the techniques and conventions used by other producers in more detail. It’s an exercise that has been set for me several times during my musical studies, and it was incredibly beneficial. 

It’s providing the same insight into the music as our Ableton Templates do; a hands on experience with the track, only with this exercise you’re taking it a step further and re-creating it yourself. 

Set strict rules for yourself.


A great and often fun exercise is to impose a very strict set of rules on yourself for a production. If you aren’t in the right head space to create a fully working track, you could try this exercise to make sure you’re still creating some music and building your skills. It all contributes to your 10,000 hours after all!

For this example, we’ll talk about Ableton’s trusty workhorse of a synth, Operator. I recently wrote about Operator, and how it’s an incredibly diverse machine capable of creating all sorts of sounds, from basses to leads, pads to drums. 

So, an example of this exercise if you could say to yourself ‘I’m going to create an entire track using only Operator.’ 

Every element needs to be made using this synth. Your kick sound, your synth parts, any other drums or melodic or harmonic elements. This forces you to think outside the box and experiment with sounds you can create.

Or alternatively, you could set another strict rule; only use the black notes on the keyboard for your melodies and chords. This will create a specific sound in a pentatonic scale, and again, forces you into a constraint.

Even a time constraint works as this example; set yourself 10 minutes in the style of FACT Magazine’s Against the Clock series, and see what you can come up with in such a short time frame.

For many people, outside pressure is a great motivator. I’m one of those people myself. Packing your suitcase the night before a holiday, sound familiar anyone?

Creating these strict rules or guidelines for yourself offers a unique and productive exercise in which you have to operate within certain parameters, and it often yields interesting results!

If you can’t create music, create sounds!

How many people who identify themselves as music producers do you think will even open their DAW today? How many times have you said to yourself while you’re out and about ‘I’ll go on Ableton or Logic when I get home and make something!’ only to just sit in front of the TV or otherwise get distracted instead?

Simply opening your DAW is a good step and more than many producers will do today. If you’ve done this, it’s a small success, so don’t let the fact that you may not be feeling super creative bog you down or dishearten you.

If you’re not able to come up with any solid ideas for songs, a great way to keep your skills sharp is to try making some synth sounds instead. Open a synth and start experimenting. The beauty of this is it could be a chance to practice within a synth you’re already familiar with; honing your skills to make you even more efficient, or it could be an opportunity to learn a totally new synth that you’ve always meant to get around to.

I wonder how many synths sit dormant in your library, never having seen any meaningful use?

There are many ways to do this; outright experimentation, or watching a specific youtube tutorial. Maybe you’re having trouble creating the right pad sound, you could take this chance to learn how to make a few different pads, and then use these as a base to create your own. Or you could just experiment and then head to youtube if you need clarification on what a certain synth’s control does.

Whichever way you decide to do this, it’s undoubtedly beneficial and will pay off in the long run.

Revisit old ideas.

There are two types of producers. 

  1. Producers who have dozens of half finished projects sitting on their computer, 8 bar loops that at one time held promise but have since been forgotten.
  2. Liars.

If you aren’t feeling blessed with the gift of creativity to start something fresh, why not revisit one of these unfinished ideas? I personally have these on 3 different computers, some ideas from as far back as 10 years ago


This exercise is great for several reasons.

First, it gives you a platform or starting point if you aren’t feeling creative enough to come up with something new. Often, that can be the major hurdle we struggle to get over. Once you get the juices flowing on an idea, the rest will come. If opening up a long since forgotten project hits you with the spark of creativity, you can then finish it into a workable idea.

Second, it shows you how much you’ve improved. Often, each new track we make will be informed by new production techniques we learn. The difference in quality between a couple of weeks can be drastic, so think about how much material you have to work with and improve if you have projects dating back months or years? Maybe all it needs is a touch of some of your newest production techniques to polish it up and bring it into your current roster of tunes?

Thirdly, it can often be frustrating to funnel your creativity into an idea and then do nothing with it, no matter how small that idea is. Similar to how they say a cluttered house equals a cluttered mind, a hard drive full of half finished projects can add subconscious frustration. It can make you feel like you can’t ever finish a track. There’s nothing bad about creating an idea and then never using it in and of itself, but being able to go back to it in the future and finish and use it is always a bonus that will improve you as a producer!

So, those were 5 quick tips for getting over writer’s block when it strikes. There is always pressure to make music, whether it’s externally, from within, or just from seeing how much music is being made by other people and feeling like you need to keep up. 

The point of the above tips is; don’t think of not being able to create music straight away as a failure, because it isn’t. Use it as an opportunity to build on your other skills outside of music making, like sound design, mixing or any other number of techniques. There is always something you can be doing to improve your skills, so don’t lose faith if you can’t create a banging tune every single time you sit down to write.

Thanks for reading, as always, we appreciate you check in with us here at Top Music Arts. Make sure you always check back for more articles on production, filled with tips like these, as well as tutorials, Ableton Templates and more.

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