Do you find yourself breaking down songs to their intricate parts and many nuances? Are you filled with creative ideas on how to make music that everyone will love? You may be interested in becoming an audio producer. One of the most important elements of audio production is creativity.
Without creativity, there is no productivity, especially in the realm of music. Audio production requires constant and consistent creativity to survive. But what is creativity? Music is not merely mimicry, nor is it pure originality. As composers and audio producers have been showing us for centuries, music allows us to study and manipulate the past to create something new and exciting. In other words, creativity, especially in the world of music, is based not on invention but innovation.
For example, Beethoven revolutionized the sonata form by tweaking its standard components just enough to make them new. Even modern pop stars and artists draw from the counterpoint of Bach’s time to create pleasing progressions (for example, if you’re familiar with the 2-5-1 progression, this dates back to the tonal period that standardized the predominant-dominant-tonic resolution).
So, what exactly is creativity? And why is it so important for audio producers today? More importantly, how is it involved in the day-to-day life of an audio producer? There are a few crucial components of creativity for a career in audio production, including risk-taking, flexibility, curiosity, motivation, imagination, goal setting, and innovation.
In real life, things are complicated, and a well-formulated Plan B often gets ditched for an impromptu Plan C. Risk-taking is a fundamental element of creativity. After all, creativity is not creative without a degree of uncertainty.
Risk-taking is a crucial part of audio production, from the small and mundane to the sweeping and spectacular. For example, there is an element of risk both in trademarking the record label name (will it gain recognition or get lost in the vast amount of existing content?) and making the final decision on the harmonic progression for a bridge (is this charmingly outlandish or should I stick to the basics?).
We make decisions every day that require risk-taking, and any given day-in-the-life of an audio producer is especially full of them. While the level of responsibility and authority varies based on the position, each contributor must sift through a variety of options, and oftentimes, take the plunge. There is no directional guide for creativity; there is only you and your intuition.
We can’t talk about creativity without talking about flexibility; in many cases, they are inseparable. On a Venn diagram, flexibility also shares some space with risk-taking. The creative process requires that we not only consider foreign ideas or courses of action, but that we also adopt them, often to our own discomfort.
Imagine that you are working on a soundtrack with some colleagues. You are in the process of merging the parts you each had worked on separately, and just a few minutes in, you encounter a problem: you wrote your part in C Major, somehow missing the cue that the entire track was supposed to be written in F Minor. At this point, you have two options: you could form a coalition and demand that the others transpose their parts to C Major, or you could stick with the original plan, own up to your mistake, and rewrite.
As you can see, flexibility is important not only for creating a coherent soundtrack but for keeping interpersonal peace. The rewrite process is not easy (especially if you have to alter additional components such as melody and texture), but it is worth it, and it will allow you to maximize your creativity. Creativity relies on flexibility to make the foreign familiar.
Curiosity is another core component of creativity. It helps us open our minds to new ideas or rediscover old ones, integrate new approaches or strategies, and ultimately bring our creative output to a whole new level. Curiosity keeps us from remaining stagnant in our own subconscious restrictions.
For the audio producer, curiosity is a key that unlocks new ways of understanding, processing and producing music and sound. Curiosity, as we can see, is related to both risk-taking and flexibility, and it is indelibly tied to creativity. It is a method of experimentation that studies the past to create a new future.
Motivation to Be Creative
Without motivation, creativity is nonexistent. Purposeless work is a surefire way to extinguish the flame of productivity. As humans, we need significant and substantial reasons to do what we do. This is especially true for audio producers.
Motivation is not one-size-fits-all; rather, it is a personal conviction that shapes your passions and goals. It is a form of the word “motive,” which means reason or rationale. What is your motive as an audio producer? For example, your motive could be to spread joy and positivity through your musical creations, to inspire and educate others, or to support other artists in the collective pursuit of a larger mission. Motivation, ultimately, is the catalyst of creativity.
Creativity forces us to picture and manifest the imaginary. Once again, this has a lot to do with risk-taking. For example, we don’t know whether what we imagine can be real unless we test what has never been tried. However, for imagination to work, we must combine what we know with what we don’t. Experimentation without knowledge is futile. We must inform ourselves as sufficiently as possible. Thus, when it comes time to take the plunge, we have at least a fighting chance of survival and success.
Furthermore, imagination itself stems from knowledge. Without tonal theory, for example, there is no such thing as ‘atonal’ theory. The artists who imagined, and ultimately constructed and conventionalized systems of musical analysis could rigorously study and dissect Bach’s fugues as well as Rachmaninoff’s symphonies. Imagination is a way of looking at what is to create what is not.
Now, it’s time to take a step back, and realize that all the ambition and imagination in the world won’t guarantee a smashing blockbuster success. Aspiration must be coupled with practicality for our dreams to be fully realized.
Audio producers, who possess the imaginative (and often disorganized) brain of an artist, are especially prone to emphasizing idealization at the expense of realization. The goal or ambition is so vast and surreal that it frightens the very wits out of the undertaker, leading to a brilliant, blinding vision in the sky that will never land on Planet Earth.
For a goal to be successful, it must be broken down into small, manageable steps. By reducing a dream into practical steps, stress disappears, and success is put on a schedule. Creativity without smart and manageable goal setting is nothing but a catalog of ideas. With a well-devised blueprint, creativity can be tamed into a powerful beast of productivity.
As we have discovered, creativity, especially for the audio producer, is based on innovation. Innovation is a process of taking existing frameworks or inventions and making them new. Furthermore, it requires all of the previous principles: risk-taking, flexibility, curiosity, motivation, goal setting, and imagination.
Innovation involves taking educated risks to make real progress, developing flexibility to adapt to new strategies and practices, remaining curious enough to discover new things, establishing motivation to carry out the necessary legwork, setting manageable goals to create a blueprint of success, and using imagination to actualize our vision.
Creativity is paramount for careers in audio production, regardless of genre, position, or experience. It is involved in every step of the production process, from devising the plan to the final mix. With these elements of creativity, you can make tracks that you can be proud of, while enjoying the journey along the way.
Audio Production Program
The Audio Production and Engineering Program at the Institute of Production and Recording is an occupational degree program designed to train producer engineers who are entrepreneurs, musically and technically creative, and proficient in modern recording technology and technique. Throughout the program, students are involved in hands-on exercises and real-world studio projects that enable them to apply their knowledge and refine their skills.
At the end of the Audio Production and Engineering program, each student presents a portfolio — a selection of his or her best work to date. This serves as a demo reel for potential employers and clients — an audio resume with professional content that highlights the graduate’s talent and skill.
Contact us today to learn more about the audio production programs and starting a rewarding career.