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How to approach discouraging results


Esperado
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sorry but I would strongly disagree with this, unless you are striving for commercial success of some kind, riding the coattails of whatever's fashionable...

Just be yourself, blazing your own trail is immensely more satisfying. You should always be looking for inspiration in other music and seeking knowledge about different ways to do things, but the only "right" thing to do is what feels right to you.

The "best" doesn't mean commercial success, it means to hold yourself to the absolute highest standards. I have no respect for people who settle when it comes to their creative input and output.

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sorry but I would strongly disagree with this, unless you are striving for commercial success of some kind, riding the coattails of whatever's fashionable...

Just be yourself, blazing your own trail is immensely more satisfying. You should always be looking for inspiration in other music and seeking knowledge about different ways to do things, but the only "right" thing to do is what feels right to you.

Things universally accepted as "right" don't correspond to trends, or whatever similar idea you want to call it. What's "right" is underlying what's trending, but is not the trend itself. They correspond to what's universally accepted as sensible. i.e.:

  • Avoid overcompression.
  • Avoid muddiness.
  • Avoid excessively piercing qualities in your music.
  • Strive for the most clarity that you can manage between instruments.
  • Strive for realistically sequenced sampled instruments or well-placed live-recorded instruments in sensible contexts.
  • Strive for something that keeps people's interest.

and so on. In other words, the "right" is what many people shouldn't complain about if it's done as perfectly as you can manage it, and that's part of what SnappleMan means by holding yourself to the highest standards. Don't compromise your output by assuming that you don't have any room for improvement simply because you aren't sure how you can improve. You're going to find someone that's better than you because it's inevitable, and you also don't have to be commercially successful to be considered the "best" at something (unless you want to call that something "networking").

Edited by timaeus222
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well I'm in the mindset that good music does not have to be "perfectly" produced by any kind of standards. You can still get enjoyment of some overcompressed trashy loop coming out of a casio keyboard if you just open your mind to it. Or there can lot of introspection to be gained from listening to harsh noise. Sometimes you need to look past the EQ and just try to listen to the story the music is telling.

One person's trash is another's treasure I guess. Honestly the criteria Timaeus listed as sensible seems like a formula for elevator music to me.

I guess the main part of SnappleMan's statement that irks me is "comparing yourself". I think it's a waste of time. One song isn't universally "better" than another, it's just different. Everyone has different tastes. I do agree that you shouldn't have to always settle for whatever your output is, of course you should find satisfaction in discovering new ways to clarify whatever feelings you are trying to translate into sound. But at the same time you should have some confidence in your vision and OWN that shit. Otherwise you'll always be second guessing yourself and cutting yourself short.

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I find it very humorous how all of your points pertain to production and not composition, Timaeus.

Well, there's a lot of niches to "proper" composition, and I'm not uber-pro at music theory. Sure, I could say "write thoughtful melodies and logical harmonies", but that's vague. There are loads of logical harmonies one could write, and loads of melodies one could thoughtfully write. Other than doing something that follows theory, it gets to be subjective as to who likes what melodic contours and what harmonies and why, assuming it follows theory already.

well I'm in the mindset that good music does not have to be "perfectly" produced by any kind of standards. You can still get enjoyment of some overcompressed trashy loop coming out of a casio keyboard if you just open your mind to it. Or there can lot of introspection to be gained from listening to harsh noise. Sometimes you need to look past the EQ and just try to listen to the story the music is telling.

By that claim, this remix can be liked (which it can), but it's really hard to try to like it at normal volumes, IMO. It's essentially what your example is---harsh distorted noise plus some (nice) dubstep and some sine beeps (literally). Obviously no hate to Clem, just putting out an example. I just don't like music that hurts my ears. I think that's fair. No one purposely harms themselves except for a higher overall gain, such as injuring your leg for an alibi to commit a crime, assuming the alibi is worth more than your leg (extreme but it's something I saw in a detective show, so it's been done).

One person's trash is another's treasure I guess. Honestly the criteria Timaeus listed as sensible seems like a formula for elevator music to me.
Not really. Understated much? I'm not saying make boring music with perfect production. Elevator music is simple by definition, and played as background music. All I said was that if certain music follows that criteria and does it as well as it can, then the most people that would want to listen to it will listen to it for as long as they are interested in the arrangement itself. In other words, it's a case of near-perfect production and however-you-want-to-do-it arrangement. Of course, I don't consider production a chore, so I don't have an issue with pursuing great production in my own music. I'm also not OCD, so I'm ruling that out.
I guess the main part of SnappleMan's statement that irks me is "comparing yourself". I think it's a waste of time. One song isn't universally "better" than another, it's just different. Everyone has different tastes. I do agree that you shouldn't have to always settle for whatever your output is, of course you should find satisfaction in discovering new ways to clarify whatever feelings you are trying to translate into sound. But at the same time you should have some confidence in your vision and OWN that shit. Otherwise you'll always be second guessing yourself and cutting yourself short.
I don't think it's a waste of time. Here's an example. I claim that this is universally better than
, with the criteria of a more meaningfully-written arrangement and cleaner and fuller production. Yes, meaningfulness is subjective to an extent, but there's a way to write something that appeals to many people without trying too hard to appeal to them on an individual basis. If that isn't evident, then I'm confused as to how you view musical enjoyment. It's not all subjective by the time you're a few years into practicing music production and composition. If you don't compare yourself to someone else, you might not know what it is that you don't yet know, and you won't know to pursue it. Paradox of Learning. This simple quote says it all: "If you don't know something, then you haven't learned it yet."

In other words, saying it's "different" is an oversimplification to avoid the objectivity. Let's not become subjective relativists, now. Surely, we have some objectivity. Sure, everyone has different tastes. That's true, but it's a simplified way of looking at it. Even if you're confident in what you do, it definitely doesn't mean it's good. Fundamentally, it means that you, yourself, like it. You might find someone who likes it, but who knows if they're about as experienced as you, or if they are just a regular/normal/common listener (or if they're just being too nice).

And you will generally second guess yourself if you compare yourself directly to someone else and focus on how much better they are than you. If you focus on what you can improve on and what analyzing the other, better person's music can do for you specifically, and not saying anything about how that better person is better than you, then you'll be looking at your own improvement, relative to yourself, not relative to that other guy. That's less depressing. Second guessing yourself a lot can lead to depression, and that's not what SnappleMan really wants to focus on, afaik.

Edited by timaeus222
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I guess the point - or what I'd make the point to be - is to compare to what you find is the best - what you would like to achieve.

I kind of try to achieve something unique with each piece of music I make (or most of them), kind of find my own way - but I realize there's a part of this thinking where I'm fooling myself, as if I couldn't learn from others. I don't use e.g reference mixes nearly as much as I know would be useful for me. (And that's just technical thing, composition, technique, style, attitude are equally important..)

I like the idea of finishing things quickly and moving on. I certainly don't do that myself. I don't think my old wips that I still intend to finish are that dated (or can't be salvaged), and they can be many years old (even from 2008!) Maybe I just haven't progressed much!

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Hey Timaeus, I'm seeing your points for sure, I think we just have different core philosophies on the appreciation of music and sound design. Which is absolutely ok and normal :) I know I probably had a similar mentality when I was your age.

I still think that this is a more positive approach to self improvement: Instead of putting effort and stress into comparing yourself or your music to something/someone else, just sit back and listen, absorb new music and sounds. Analyze something out of your typical wheelhouse. Experiment with new sound design techniques. Go out into the woods with a field recorder. Everything you hear and experience can be an indirect influence on what you compose, and whatever you are creating is a combination of all those ideas. The end result will be undeniably yours, whether it appeals to anyone else or not. In the end, music is not just data, or a sound wave, a vibration. It's how you experience it and how it resonates within you.

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I still think that this is a more positive approach to self improvement: Instead of putting effort and stress into comparing yourself or your music to something/someone else, just sit back and listen, absorb new music and sounds. Analyze something out of your typical wheelhouse. Experiment with new sound design techniques. Go out into the woods with a field recorder. Everything you hear and experience can be an indirect influence on what you compose, and whatever you are creating is a combination of all those ideas. The end result will be undeniably yours, whether it appeals to anyone else or not. In the end, music is not just data, or a sound wave, a vibration. It's how you experience it and how it resonates within you.

Well, let me clarify this too: Even though I compare myself with others, I'm not the type of guy that gets stressed over someone being better. I actually simply admire the other person, and give them praise for being that good. I guess I kinda ignore the bad parts of comparing oneself to someone else, so I don't really feel bad in any noticeable way when I do it. :)

As for exploring new niches, yeah, I do that a lot. Thus far, I've tried and was happy with these genres:

  • Ambient (one of my favorites)
  • Atmospheric (kinda falls in line with Ambient a lot)
  • Big Beat (I should do more of this)
  • Comedy/Open Mic Night (I have no idea how to classify this one :lol:)
  • Complextro (I do this a lot)
  • Dance
  • Downtempo
  • Drum & Bass (I try not to do this too much since I've done this a lot but I'm not against it)
  • Dubstep (fun)
  • Electro
  • Electro House
  • Glitch & various Glitch fusions (I do this a lot)
  • Horror / Horror-like (nice experiment, will do more)
  • Jazz (I do this a lot in my harmonies)
  • Metal (would do more)
  • Middle-Eastern (would do more)
  • Orchestral / Film Score / Cinematic (definitely will do more)
  • Retro

So yup, I think that's about as experimental as you can get. :-P Buuuuut, I've narrowed down some favorites, for sure. I'm an ambient/atmospheric/dubstep/glitch/complextro kind of guy, but definitely willing to do other genres. (a field recorder, I don't have though)

Edited by timaeus222
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I guess I kinda ignore the bad parts of comparing oneself to someone else, so I don't really feel bad in any noticeable way when I do it. :)

Cool I think that's the crucial part, what I was getting at anyway. I just think it's important to have a positive mindset about it, in general too, not just with music. It pains me to see people stressing out or getting depressed or anxious about something that should be simply FUN to do.

And if you like ambient, you really should try doing some field recording sometime. You can even just use your phone or something. I think you'll find creating your own soundscapes with recordings that you've personally experienced to be a very rewarding effort. You can also take those sounds into your more electronic beat based production as well and get some really organic and unique textures in your mix.

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I've got 15+ rejections and yet I still soldier on for some reason. I'm stuck somewhere between an amateur and pro - occasionally I make masterpieces, at least to me, but yeah I can go through brick-wall slumps.

edit

still find reasons to enjoy music and making it somehow ^^

Edited by HoboKa
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It's not about comparing yourself to other people or their work, it's about comparing yourself to what you believe is a level you can't reach. Everyone has music that they listen to and love which is not their own. And everyone has some music that they listen to which seems to be beyond their abilities. Compare yourself to that. The standard that you feel you can't attain for whatever reason.

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What separates an amateur from a professional is one's response to failure/discouragement. When someone hears a piece of music that's in some way beyond what they're capable of, they tend to default to one of two general frames of mind:

A) I would do something this good if I had that massive budget/expensive gear/talented session musicians/experience/talent/random excuse.

B) Time to break this down to every possible component and learn what makes it better than what I can currently do.

Fact of the matter is, whenever any of us hear a piece of music, we compare it to what we're capable of on some level.

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It's not about comparing yourself to other people or their work, it's about comparing yourself to what you believe is a level you can't reach.

Sorry, personally I still can't agree with that. This seems like you'd be oppressing your own potential. Those levels are all in your head. In the end, you'll always just have YOUR level, which is some combination of your natural talent and your determination.

But to each their own of course. If that what drives you to improve, don't let me stop you :)

Now I haven't been around this forum for long, but it seems like there's this inherent culture revolving a lot around meeting certain standards and winning competitions. These can be fun and productive exercises, but I think some of you also might find it liberating to approach music making without worrying that x is better than y. Just something to consider for anyone feeling discouraged!

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What separates an amateur from a professional is one's response to failure/discouragement. When someone hears a piece of music that's in some way beyond what they're capable of, they tend to default to one of two general frames of mind:

A) I would do something this good if I had that massive budget/expensive gear/talented session musicians/experience/talent/random excuse.

B) Time to break this down to every possible component and learn what makes it better than what I can currently do.

Fact of the matter is, whenever any of us hear a piece of music, we compare it to what we're capable of on some level.

Sorry, personally I still can't agree with that. This seems like you'd be oppressing your own potential. Those levels are all in your head. In the end, you'll always just have YOUR level, which is some combination of your natural talent and your determination.

But to each their own of course. If that what drives you to improve, don't let me stop you :smile:

Now I haven't been around this forum for long, but it seems like there's this inherent culture revolving a lot around meeting certain standards and winning competitions. These can be fun and productive exercises, but I think some of you also might find it liberating to approach music making without worrying that x is better than y. Just something to consider for anyone feeling discouraged!

B is more of a positive possibility than A, and it seems that you're thinking more about the A side than about the B side (>50% A, <50% B). B is just something that you need to do in order to understand what it is you have in you that has room for improvement. Without looking at others who you know are better, you don't have an idea of what it is you can work on. Again, I don't consider it to be as much on how much better they are than you, but rather, what you can learn from them to improve your own abilities.

I personally don't really need to win competitions, though it would be nice as a side result. Meeting my own standards though, is a fair thing. My 50% this year is probably close to my 90% last year, and is maybe 4 times better than my 100% 3 years ago (EDIT: in terms of effort, not success), so my standards rose. It's OK. And if I keep evaluating myself like this (not while I write, but after I finish writing), I'll just keep improving until I've reached my peak---and even that isn't enough. I don't just say outright though that "I improved aw yeah etc." I just get happy when I accomplish something I've never done as well before. It's really just like approaching the Good in Philosophy; you can never really reach it, but you can continue to inquire and pester people until your questions are answered like a gadfly on a horse, and you can continually improve your soul. Looking up to people is like admitting your ignorance and working to improve your soul. If you don't, it's like a double ignorance, where you claim you can't improve anymore because you think you already know enough, even if your reasoning is that you don't want to oppress your own potential; you'd be ignorant of your ignorance, philosophically, you'd still oppress your own potential, and you'll never go further, because you don't want to keep inquiring.

Levels aren't really just in your head, just not extremely accessible to that many people. It's objective. Some people know how to write a better hook than others. Some people hear more detail than others. Some people learn faster than others. etc. Once you get it (if you get it), then I would personally just keep it in mind but not say it out loud who's better than who, so as to not offend people. That's my take on it.

Edited by timaeus222
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I have no respect for people who settle when it comes to their creative input and output.

Which is pretty elitist and snobbery, since anyone who does music for something other than pure self-fulfillment will have to eventually find a point in their creativity to "settle" at. Artistic creations are, by definition, pretty much impossible to perfect - there's almost always something that could've been done better at every stage of the creation.

But those who seek money or audience know that infinite possibilities does not mean infinite parameters for availability. There are deadlines, there are medium limitations, there are limitations for the employer or label head, limitations for the commercial prospects of the music giving the time it is eventually released, etc. etc. If you're someone who really holds to the idea to never compromise your music, you might as well not release anything, since the very act of pulling a finite song out of the artists' infinite potential is itself the way very act of settling.

The trick is, instead, knowing what, when and WHERE to compromise to get the best real success out of yet-to-be-realized potential.

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Sorry, personally I still can't agree with that. This seems like you'd be oppressing your own potential. Those levels are all in your head. In the end, you'll always just have YOUR level, which is some combination of your natural talent and your determination.

But to each their own of course. If that what drives you to improve, don't let me stop you :)

Now I haven't been around this forum for long, but it seems like there's this inherent culture revolving a lot around meeting certain standards and winning competitions. These can be fun and productive exercises, but I think some of you also might find it liberating to approach music making without worrying that x is better than y. Just something to consider for anyone feeling discouraged!

Do you have any credibility to your attitude on improving? It seems like you're saying a lot of things without evidence to back up your claims. I would've stayed quiet, but since you're so insistent on disagreeing with Snappleman (arguably one of the most helpful people to my music making attitude), I seriously question if you really are sure of what you're saying, or if you're simply saying it just to sound progressive and "liberating". You're also making it sound as if personal style and comparisons are mutually exclusive things; that's pretty damn naive.

Not caring about comparing your work to others is something I've only seen accomplished people do well. People who try that from the start of their music making career in my experience have made pretty awful music. Yes, you can say "everything is subjective", but unfortunately, the "everything is subjective" attitude doesn't really actually work in real life. Everything is an extension of the human condition, and a composer's job is to know his audience well enough to manipulate their preferences and cultural conditioning. Perception of music isn't random and undefined like you say it is. There are inarguable trends of preferable vs. non-preferable, and anyone wanting to improve their abilities as composers and producers need to understand how to learn from those trends.

Yes, you can start to make bad things sound pleasing by listening to them long enough. That's not anything special, it's a basic human phenomenon. It doesn't profoundly mean that "everything is good", it simply means that our response to poorly constructed stimulus in general can be dulled and satisfied at a mundane level. It's *fine* if you like having that done to you as a consumer, but it certainly isn't as a creator, someone who wants to make better music. You need to be able to recognize intelligent musical decisions from non-intelligent musical decisions. Poor harmonic construction from smooth harmonic construction. Balanced frequency response versus imbalanced frequency response.

In other words, you need to learn how things work before you choose whether or not to ignore how things work. This is why professionals and well-accomplished musicians can go with the "I'm just doing me" attitude, because they've done the learning, they've done the countless imitations of "how do I sound/feel like that?" and have chosen to take what they learned and put their own spin on it. People who try it from the get-go, who don't listen to music and say "how do I make something feel like that?" don't learn anything, don't develop a musical vocabulary, and generally just don't understand what they're doing.

I say it all the time and I'll say it again. Isaac Newton's famous quote doesn't just apply to science, it applies to everything, including art forms:

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Which is pretty elitist and snobbery, since anyone who does music for something other than pure self-fulfillment will have to eventually find a point in their creativity to "settle" at. Artistic creations are, by definition, pretty much impossible to perfect - there's almost always something that could've been done better at every stage of the creation.

Perfection is a journey, not a destination. Understanding this is key. It's not elitist, it's idealistic. Which isn't a bad thing. Realism is a bad thing; realism doesn't motivate you, and it doesn't move you forward. Striving is the most important part, and if you're not striving, you become stale. This conversation, for clarity, isn't about monetary success, as we have all plainly seen how mundane successful money-making music can be.

But those who seek money or audience know that infinite possibilities does not mean infinite parameters for availability. There are deadlines, there are medium limitations, there are limitations for the employer or label head, limitations for the commercial prospects of the music giving the time it is eventually released, etc. etc. If you're someone who really holds to the idea to never compromise your music, you might as well not release anything, since the very act of pulling a finite song out of the artists' infinite potential is itself the way very act of settling.

I think you're applying his statement too liberally, on a short-term time scale instead of a long-term one. He's more talking about "every one of my next songs should be better and better", not "this one song I am doing should only be as infinitely good as my potential". Settling, in what he is saying, is not about ending your song by clicking export and leaving it alone. Settling is saying "I'm about as good as I can get. My music is pretty great and I have nothing more to learn."

Edited by Neblix
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All that matters is the pursuit if perfection. Whatever perfection means to you. Early on I was content to just make music that was pretty bad just because I hadn't experienced discouragement. It wasn't till I started confronting myself with the reality of "what sets my music apart from the music I love listening to?" that I started challenging myself to get better at every aspect of music.

As far as meteoxavier goes I don't take him seriously enough to read his posts or respond to him. But bitl3gs you have to understand that when you commit to becoming a serious musician you enter a very competitive yet friendly race to learn more, improve, and keep up. It doesn't matter if you feel like you should be in this race, or if you want to be in this race, you are in it. And unless you challenge yourself to keep expanding your musical mind, your peers will be too far gone in no time.

The competition is not won by "being better" than anyone. You win the race by having an open mind and understanding that you have an infinite amount to learn. And there is no finite victory, you win every time you feel the joy of going one step farther than you did before. Realizing your momentary personal best is the key to being able to release a song at your current level, be happy with it, move on and try to outdo yourself the next time.

None of this means that you have to conform to anything, or try to beat other people at something, it's all about constant self improvement without making excuses.

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Let's compile the gist of what just went on... (do still read it all though, for the sake of taking it all in)

Without looking at others who you know are better, you don't have an idea of what it is you can work on. Again, I don't consider it to be as much on how much better they are than you, but rather, what you can learn from them to improve your own abilities.

...

It's really just like approaching the Good in Philosophy; you can never really reach it, but you can continue to inquire and pester people until your questions are answered like a gadfly on a horse, and you can continually improve your soul. Looking up to people is like admitting your ignorance and working to improve your soul. If you don't, it's like a double ignorance, where you claim you can't improve anymore because you think you already know enough, even if your reasoning is that you don't want to oppress your own potential; you'd be ignorant of your ignorance, philosophically, you'd still oppress your own potential, and you'll never go further, because you don't want to keep inquiring.

Artistic creations are, by definition, pretty much impossible to perfect - there's almost always something that could've been done better at every stage of the creation.
Everything is an extension of the human condition, and a composer's job is to know his audience well enough to manipulate their preferences and cultural conditioning. Perception of music isn't random and undefined like you say it is. There are inarguable trends of preferable vs. non-preferable, and anyone wanting to improve their abilities as composers and producers need to understand how to learn from those trends.

...

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." [~Newton]

...

Perfection is a journey, not a destination. Understanding this is key. It's not elitist, it's idealistic. Which isn't a bad thing. Realism is a bad thing; realism doesn't motivate you, and it doesn't move you forward. Striving is the most important part, and if you're not striving, you become stale.

The competition is not won by "being better" than anyone. You win the race by having an open mind and understanding that you have an infinite amount to learn. And there is no finite victory, you win every time you feel the joy of going one step farther than you did before. Realizing your momentary personal best is the key to being able to release a song at your current level, be happy with it, move on and try to outdo yourself the next time.

tl;dr: The point of comparing oneself to others is continual pursuit of the best that you can do at each particular moment. Timing is key to how motivated you are, but not ever committing to comparing with other people ever is a hindrance. Even though you can never be absolutely perfect at musical endeavours, the least you can do is go on that journey and pursue it (well, really, the most), because the preferences of the members in your musical audience are not random.

Edited by timaeus222
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Do you have any credibility to your attitude on improving? It seems like you're saying a lot of things without evidence to back up your claims. I would've stayed quiet, but since you're so insistent on disagreeing with Snappleman (arguably one of the most helpful people to my music making attitude), I seriously question if you really are sure of what you're saying, or if you're simply saying it just to sound progressive and "liberating". You're also making it sound as if personal style and comparisons are mutually exclusive things; that's pretty damn naive.

You can doubt my credibility all you want, and this isn't really the space to rattle off my accomplishments, and it wouldn't really back up my claims anyway. Just because I disagree with some of what he's saying doesn't mean he's completely wrong or anything. I'm just sharing what has worked for me personally when dealing with discouragement, and how that particular mindset doesn't really fit in my view of artistic productivity.

I guess when I'm in my creative space, I'm trying not think so much about real life. I'm reacting to my instruments, sequencers, whatever, just making music. not some genre of music, not "intelligent" decisions, or cultural conditioning, or how many plays on soundcloud I'll get, any of that noise. Just MUSIC. That's creative freedom for me. Call that naive if you want, but I'm having fun in my studio without a bunch of other crap getting in the way. Pure focus. It's not easy to achieve but when it does, the music writes itself.

Now this I can get behind:

Originally Posted by SnappleMan

You win the race by having an open mind and understanding that you have an infinite amount to learn.

Totally agree there. And I would add that you might also realize that there is an infinite amount of sound in this world, and you can find beauty in the most obscure frequencies.

8 bit sunset I'm out!

ninjaga2-34.gif

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All that matters is the pursuit if perfection. Whatever perfection means to you. Early on I was content to just make music that was pretty bad just because I hadn't experienced discouragement. It wasn't till I started confronting myself with the reality of "what sets my music apart from the music I love listening to?" that I started challenging myself to get better at every aspect of music.

As far as meteoxavier goes I don't take him seriously enough to read his posts or respond to him. But bitl3gs you have to understand that when you commit to becoming a serious musician you enter a very competitive yet friendly race to learn more, improve, and keep up. It doesn't matter if you feel like you should be in this race, or if you want to be in this race, you are in it. And unless you challenge yourself to keep expanding your musical mind, your peers will be too far gone in no time.

The competition is not won by "being better" than anyone. You win the race by having an open mind and understanding that you have an infinite amount to learn. And there is no finite victory, you win every time you feel the joy of going one step farther than you did before. Realizing your momentary personal best is the key to being able to release a song at your current level, be happy with it, move on and try to outdo yourself the next time.

None of this means that you have to conform to anything, or try to beat other people at something, it's all about constant self improvement without making excuses.

I'd say that's a good way of looking at it.

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