Does Creativity Have Standards?

You know that recording that you just did? It sounds pretty solid. Your timing was pretty good, you played a few decent licks and overall, it turned out fine.

Guess what?

Throw it in the trash.

Yep, that’s right. Bin it. Start over.

“Wha…wha…whaaat?”, you may ask. “But my recording turned out fine.” Well…

“Pretty good”, “decent”, and “fine”, isn’t the kind of energy that’s going to produce the creative and amazing music that you probably want.

Electric guitar on fire being immersed in water.

How hot is your music?

Did you make your guitar scream? Did you make it cry, howl, and sing? When you listened back to your recording, were you strongly affected by what you heard? Did it intrigue you, not just a little, but deeply? Was it so good that you wanted to listen to it again immediately?

If not, then delete that recording, refocus, and enter into your music even more deeper than you ever have. See what else you might be capable of.

Aim higher with your music. You might surprise yourself.

If you weren’t strongly affected by what you played, then how is your listener going to be strongly affected?

You may ask, “But I thought creativity flourished under non-judgemental conditions? If I’m holding myself to standards, aren’t I restricting my creative process?”.

The trick would be to not judge what you’re playing while you’re playing. While you’re playing, you want to be as loose and open as possible. When you listen back to your recording, that’s the time to apply some creative standards to your music.

The only caveat to this would be if you’re a beginner on your instrument. You can still aim for higher standards, but definitely be relaxed with yourself about this. Of course creativity is still possible even for beginners, but the technical skills just won’t be there yet.

Music: I’ll Cross That Bridge If I Find It


Click here to play the song if you are reading this post in email or RSS and can’t see the audio player above.

This is a clean rhythm track, with an improvised, growly lead track on electric guitar. There are some piercing notes in there, and some interesting and ugly overtones that warble so strongly as though they’ll break the guitar apart. I think I may have borrowed a few licks from Santana. I’m sure he won’t mind.

I had originally recorded a rhythm track that sounded ok, but my playing wasn’t as tight as it could be. I also had recorded a completely different melody, but when I listened back to it, I felt that it sounded decent, but not as strong or edgy as I was looking for.

I wanted the edge.

So, I re-recorded the whole thing. Buddhist sand mandala-style. Wipe the slate clean. Chop wood, carry water. Plug in your guitar. Creative standards applied.

How do you hold yourself to standards in your playing, or in your creative pursuits? Write your thoughts on this in the comments below.

Nacho del Sol

I'm Nigel. A wandering minstrel at heart. Playing for other wandering souls. Love full sun. Been known to indulge in sonic experiments. If I ever fake my own death, I will flee to Costa Rica and re-name myself Nacho del Sol. I will travel only by donkey and befriend all the locals.

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