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My short attention span is suffocating my productivity


Jack Q

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I used to have a very jumpy attention span at times. But the music I was interested in tended to be long-form, 10, 15, 20 minutes sometimes. I was a lot more comfortable with 3 minutes.

 

I sort of trained myself how to slow down and concentrate, really listen. (The music I was listening to at the time was jazz and classical, so there was typically a lot going on.)

 

I sort of approached it like meditation. (Well, actually, it was typically the closest I could get to a meditative state.)

 

Anyhow, obviously, we're all different and our body chemistry can play a big role in this stuff -- but I do think one can learn control over his body and brain to some extent.

 

And it looks like developing those concentration skills might help you in your quest to develop your music. (I'm not necessarily talkng about forcing yourself to listen to a Beethoven symphony or anything, mind you -- but you might start with some songs you really like (part of) and just brute force yourself to listen. Don't have the TV on or be browsing your GF's Myspace page. Just sit for 2 or 3 minutes and listen to a complete song or other piece of music you like (or like part of).

 

If there are parts that don't fire you up -- listen anyway. Try to figure out why the artist put them there or see how the mood flows from one section to another, maybe listen to the way the music develops or changes.

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Yeah, I have a similar problem, but I think it has more to do with the fact that, as of right now, I'm making all of my recorded music on my own. It takes so much work just to get the bass, drums, accompaniment, melody, lyrics, etc. down, that by the time I'm done I really don't have the creative energy for all of the little stuff, and honestly when I'm listening to other peoples' music, the little details are what I appreciate the most. A few harmonies, some guitar licks or synth lines, a random sample, or just a big collage of sounds. I want to do more of that, but it gets draining doing it all by myself. Ideally someday I'd like to collaborate with more musicians while still remaining sort of a musical ringleader, but if that ever happens I imagine it'll be quite a way down the road.

 

Errr, as for that tying into the original topic...I have lots of songs that are almost near done but need a few more finishing touches before they'll be "complete," if you know what I'm saying. But, when it comes time to put the details into it, it's usually more exciting to just go off and try making a new song and see what happens.

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Here's a possible solution. Try listening to the music that inspired you to start the song in the first place. Hopefully, that'll give you a little jolt to complete it.

 

I often do that, myself. My attention span is limited compared to the amount of time it takes to complete a recording of a song. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood to work on it. So I'll listen to whatever music inspired it in the first place, and that is often enough to put me in the state of mind I was in when I started the song. Just go back to the original inspiration.

 

And like you, once I get in the mood, I'll often stop the music right in the middle, and say "OK, I'm good", and just go back working on my own stuff. As long as you're staying productive, why not? Whatever works.

 

EDIT: I just read your last post after I posted this. Sounds like you're in the same boat as me. Although usually, once I start something, I like to see it through to the end. I can only concentrate on one project at a time. But some days I'm just not motivated, and it ends up taking much longer than I originally hoped it would.

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I like Samurai's idea of Jack piecing together some of his favorite bits and pieces into something bigger...

 

Even if it jumps around and seems incoherent at first listen, that might be just the kind of music Jack needs to make, given his predelictions.

 

Take a listen to John Zorn if you want a little "license" to get crazy. There aren't too many folks who chop things up into littler pieces or mix it up in crazier melanges than Zorn. And he's a critic's darling...

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I had the same problem. Hundreds of MIDI files and none of them complete. (fortunately MIDIs don't take much disk space!)

 

Looking back on it, the only songs I ever really completed were the ones where I knew EXACTLY what the song was ABOUT before I even started it. Diddling with chord changes and bits of melody are fine, but for me, I have to have a pretty good idea of where I'm headed before I start on the trip.

 

It's like if I hand you some canvass and brushes and say "paint me a picture." The first question has to be "a picture of WHAT?" Since I discovered that little trick, I've completed almost everything I've started. Now I don't set out to "write a song," I set out to "write a song ABOUT _______ (fill in the blank)".

 

Your starting point has to be some vision of where you will end up. It can be detailed, or just a rough idea of what emotions you're trying to get across in the piece. But you need some vision of the destination.

 

--gary

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