Concrete Vertical Development: the Sum of Creativity, Knowledge, and Imagination
|By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)|
I’m often asked a number of “how to” questions. And while I always try to answer them, even the ones that aren’t nearly as black and white as some people like to believe, my main concern is pushing one point: It’s important to move vertically and make progress. And when it comes to creating music, making progress can be quite elusive.
Thing is, no matter the style or sound of music you make, no matter the tools you use or the production environment you work within, no matter how many practice hours you put in on your setup, the simple truth is that music — both on the at-large industry and personal levels — progresses thanks to ideas and creativity. And ideas and creativity emerge when knowledge and imagination collide and connect. Having said that, I regularly urge people to do things that allow for a flow of fresh ideas. Likewise, I caution people to carefully consider doing anything that does not allow for a flow of fresh ideas.
For example, there’s one school of thought in the beatmaking community that says you should make as many beats per week as you can. I’ve interviewed several well-known beatmakers (producers) who’ve stressed that this was a mainstay of their development. However, I’ve interviewed far more who did not follow a set, beats-per-week quota of any sort. In my own development, I tried taking both paths, and what I ultimately learned was profound.
At that point when I was working under a beats per-week quota, I found that I tended to be less focused on new ideas and creativity. Instead, I was more locked into simply completing new beats. While this process did give me a lot of new beats each week to catalog and critique, it did not yield as many creative observations as I would’ve liked. So, I abandoned the beats-per-week quota approach and switched to a more practice-centric approach. (In Chapter 8 of The BeatTips Manual, I discuss this approach in greater detail.) Having made the switch, I found that my ideas flowed more easily, as I was less focused on completing a new beat for completion’s sake. Also, my creativity expanded, as I was now making more creative observations and taking time to explore them. Before, under the beats-per-week quota approach, I would overlook and ignore new ideas if it helped me finish a beat faster. Undoubtedly, I learned some things under the beats-per-week quota, but I didn’t make much concrete vertical development doing things that way.
So the greater lesson that I learned—and it’s a lesson that’s not just applicable to the creative side of music—is that it’s crucial to do those things that allow for a flow of fresh ideas. Whether you’re weighing the pros and cons of going for one style and sound over another, whether you’re thinking about adding or a removing a piece a gear from your existing setup, whether you’re sizing up if you should go to an expensive music industry networking event or conference, always consider—both in the grand and minor scheme of things—will the move in question increase your flow of ideas, add useful knowledge to your repertoire, and lead to vertical movement? Or will it cloud your flow of ideas and leave you stranded indefinitely in horizontal movement?
And note: By “fresh” ideas, I mean ideas that work for you, ideas that motivate you to the kind of action that moves you vertically and towards a realization of your goals. Remember, “fresh” ideas aren’t necessarily new ideas. Likewise, be careful subscribing to so-called new ideas that rely primarily on broken, old music industry models and other stale advice.Articles, Beatmaking, Beatmaking Education, BeatTips, Editor's Choice, Features, Hip Hop Production Techniques, Hip Hop/Rap Music Education, How to Make Beats, Making Beats, Sa'id, The BeatTips Manual