Performing Rituals to Increase Your Studio Productivity


By Paul NolanNo, I'm not talking about sticking pins in voodoo dolls that look like DJ Sneak (ED: JOKE!), or throwing a goat in a volcano before you write a tune! Nope, whilst all that sounds like fun, I'm talking about implementing certain actions into your daily routine that get you ready and focused to be as productive as possible in the studio.

It's time to 'get over yourself' The concept of rituals came to me whilst reading a book written by a ballet choreographer.

Yes, read that line again.

I read books written by ballet choreographers. Problem? ;)

You're now probably sat there thinking "what the actual fuck can ballet teach my about making tunes?" Well, rather a lot as it goes...

The book is called "The Creative Habit" written by the renowned Twyla Tharp. In it, she lays bare her creative process from front to back, challenging both herself and the reader to 'get over themselves' and confront their creative fears (hers: an empty room, yours: probably an empty arrangement screen in your DAW).

She also details with great deliberation how she overcomes these fears, and the daily routines that help to get her into the optimum creative mode.

The first time I read this a few years ago, it hit me like a train, and had me completely rethinking the way behave in the studio before I go in to create.

The Truth About Creativity: It's Not Divine Inspiration But first let's understand something about creativity: it isn't what we think it is.

For most people, creativity seems like the 'Eureka!' moment in the bath, when a bolt of lightening sent from above hits you and gets your going. Whilst that can happen occasionally, the reality 99.9% of the time is that you have to create something without that  'spark'.

'The Creative Habit' explains this perfectly. To master your creativity and fulfill your potential, you need only do two things:

1. Have rituals that you repeat every day, that get you into the creative mode 2. Work hard at it (no surprises there)

So yeah, probably not as glamorous as you'd been led to believe.

Basically, being an artist is hard, fucking, work. Don't be thinking it's a cushy life being sat in a studio all day rather than being sat in front of your desk in the job you hate. Yes, I'd much prefer to be in a studio, but in its own way, it's even more challenging than switching my brain off and performing some mind-numbing task 9-5 working with people I don't like in a job that's not going where I want to be in life.

Being an artist of any kind is to know frustration, annoyance, self - loathing, fear, insecurity and more failure than success. I'm being honest with you about it, because frankly, not many others are. However, these feelings can be minimised, through those all important rituals.

So, what are rituals precisely? To me, a ritual is an action that is repeated daily, or often enough for it to take on essential or even 'religious' meaning.

A ritual is also an action that has a specific effect on the person undertaking it.

For example, when I put my running kit on, my mind and body anticipates exercise will happen imminently. Whether I feel like it or not (because your feelings are absolute bastards getting in the way of you fulfilling your potential), the kit goes on, and I'm out running.

It never ceases to amaze me how often when I 'can't be arsed', I put my running kit on, and all of a sudden I feel like running.

Let's apply the same actions to the studio then. I'm sure we've all had the 'I'm not feeling it today' vibes, or had a session where nothing comes out, as hard as you try. Well, in my experience, having a ritual will minimise this in future, should you implement one.

My Studio Ritual For me, my ritual is playing scales on my piano for 15mins before I start writing and producing in the studio. This does several things for me

1.It gets me listening to the notes, getting familiar with their sounds and tones, ready for the session

2. It gets my fingers warmed up and gets me used to playing the keyboard

3. It triggers the creativity that is sat latent in my mind, and allows it to reveal itself in new melodies, rhythms and chords.

4. It changes my frame of thinking. It gets me out of the mindset of thinking about the items  on my 'to do' list, and shifts my reality into a more musical, creative space.

So, in short, I put my running kit on to feel like running. I play scales for 15minutes so I feel like creating.

How many of you are doing this? Not many, I bet, but I can guarantee a lot of successful artists do this without even recognising it.

Small Things Make The Big Things Happen This feeds into another great perspective on creativity and productivity. The fact that if you want to be successful, it's all about the small, seemingly meaningless actions that you perform every single day.

According to Darren Hardy, author of "The Compound Effect" (one of the books that changed my life last year), the small things you do every day, over enough time, 'compound', like interest in a bank account, into either success or failure depending on if you are doing the right small things or not.

For me, rituals are one of those small things that will over time compound and create enormous success, if you apply it correctly.

If you don't have rituals for your music production, I'd highly recommend developing some.

As ever, your feedback is invaluable. There's no point to me writing this stuff unless it helps you, so please use the comments to let me know how this has helped you. Also, if you'd like me to cover anything in a future article, then do not hesitate to contact me.