How to get out of a creative slump in Electronic Music Production

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Making music in a digital form whilst sat at a computer is more often than not a very lonely and isolating occupation. Many people find this very much the norm such as myself who has for the last 20 plus years been more accustomed to this way of working than with other musicians,
Don't get me wrong I enjoy working as part of a group or with a vocalist when the chance arrives and I have produced some very productive work in these areas, but mostly I have sat alone for years both day and night trying to find the inspiration to begin and finish tracks.

How many of you out there are like me where you have at least 100 or more unfinished tracks and ideas on your hard drive, sat there just wasting away? Yes I am sure that there are many of you who have the same problem. But how does one climb out of a creative slump? In this article I am going to give you ideas and tips on how to do just that, as it is something I have faced hundreds of times before whilst working alone and not having other musicians or creative minds around  to revitalise my workflow.

All record producers would love to be able to churn out a track every week, completely finished and ready to sell and play out. However this is just not possible. Yes you could turn out a track without a problem, but would it be true to you and your sound? and would it have any real quality about it? The answer more often than not would be a big fat NO!. It would more than likely end up sounding very much like your last one, and the whole point of creating music is to move forward with different styles, influences and to experiment with different sounds.

Making music is and should be treated like any other art form. You don't see Disney putting out a movie each week. So why should it be any different for musicians? Art takes time no matter what the medium, but when the art dries up just remember that it is only temporary and the way back to creativity is not to force it but try to embrace new ways of doing things. I have had many creative slumps over the years and some have been for months on end where I felt that I may never make another track again. But this suddenly ends when out of the blue comes a rush of enthusiasm and I am soon back to creating many tracks at the same time but out of those tracks only a couple will make it to a finished product.

I remember personally one of my most frustrating slumps ever was when I was signed to Universal Music back in 2000 and was under instructions to record a follow up guaranteed hit record. Now first and foremost hit records can not and have never been produced on demand, for every one hit that a person writes there have been many many more that ended up on the shelf. But deep down I was not in the mind of wanting to do this kind of mechanised recording. The reason now in hindsight was that before I signed a major record deal, making music was extremely good fun and was something I did as a DJ to play new tunes in the club I worked at on a Saturday night.

The idea of it becoming a full time job and one in which so much pressure was applied was completely alien to me. It took six months before I was able to come up with a follow up for the label, which in turn ended up costing a small fortune in studio time at the now closed world famous Olympic Studios in London, and it left me feeling very deflated and utterly frustrated with the commercial recording industry.  It did take a very long time for me to actually enjoy making music again after this rough slump.

But that was more of a pressure thing as opposed to the creative well drying up, but at the same time it deflated my creative flow which by when you look at the whole cycle of pressure, rejection from the label and the fact it became a full time job as opposed to a hobby certainly took its toll and went round and round for several months.

I had many ideas but they just could not seem to come to fruition. In recent years I have gone several months without a release under my belt, which is something that bothers me as I know I have it within me to do something on a regular basis. At the time of writing this "May 2017" I have an E.P in the top 20 deep house charts at Juno download on Black Riot Records which has had some great feedback. However that was recorded four months ago and was the last thing I did that was finished. I have now deliberately downed tools and decided to give it some rest before pursuing a follow up, instead of rushing straight into it and hitting a brick wall. I guess that decision has come with years of experience in knowing when to stop and retreat from the creative world.

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So your creative well has dried up, the ideas are just not working out. You have decided to watch that box set on DVD instead as you know that sitting at the computer is not going to produce anything worthwhile as it hasn't done for the last few weeks or so. What do you do? How do you get that productive streak back? You can either let it go for a while like I have done this time around and go and do something different. But if you are desperate to keep going then you can try a few of these methods below which I have done over the years when things start to dry up which have always served me well..

Presented below are my ideas for climbing over that brick wall.

Don't Be a Sheep

1. Don't listen to the current top ten at your preferred digital mp3 store of your genre, Many producers possibly go through this field thinking that they will come up with something similar in the attempt to just produce a track and feel good about their work. Big mistake! You must bare in mind that those tracks were recorded months ago and are actually not as current as you think. Then by the time you have finished replicating that current sound it soon becomes dated and cliched, and you end up sounding like everyone else again.

Listen To Your First Love

2. Following on from the first point, do the exact opposite. Think back to what got you into making your chosen music in the first place? Go and dig out the first five records or so that really inspired you to produce, the ones that you questioned about their production techniques. Those records that made you believe that yes you can do this and want to do this. For me I will always revert to the Detroit and Chicago styles from the late 80's and the early Disco House from the mid 90's. For me those records were key moments in my youth that inspired me to produce. Find out those records again and take inspiration from them. "Sometimes its better to go backwards in order to move forwards"
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Groundhog Synths

3. If you are consistently using the same plug ins and the same sounds, try and discover a new VST. You will find that many of the free VST plug ins have some amazing sounds on there which you can use and manipulate. Don't be afraid to experiment with a different sound and then mould your own trademark sound around that. Break your regular studio habits. If hardware is more your thing then perhaps trade in a piece of equipment you no longer use and get something else to find a new sound.
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Treat your Ears

4. If you produce Disco House music for example and you also listen to it in the car or at home etc whilst not producing, then its probably a good idea to take a clean break away from your genre and listen to something quite the opposite. For me its Ambient music, but for others it may be Rock or Folk? Its always a good idea to shut down your ears for a while from your style in order to consume something different. I get tired of listening to Disco from time to time, so its always better to retreat and then return instead of fighting a losing battle in the studio. Come back with fresh ears and a clear mind.
Develop Your Hidden Talent

5.Try a new sub genre of your style, for example if you produce Disco House that's in the re-edit style of simply sampling a track and adding only limited effects such as filters and the odd sweep fx. This would be a good time to then maybe stop that and record something that requires more in depth production such as the use of chords and bass lines and lead lines that you have to manually record in and work those around your sample perhaps? giving it a whole new freshness, and in turn gives you the creative fire which may have been lacking. If you don't know how to play a certain style on the keyboard then go online and find a video of how to do that, There are many tutorials on how to play different styles of music. Use them to your advantage. Don't limit yourself to one way of working, this is not only boring but unproductive in the long run if you really want to remain in the game.

Walk Away Quickly

6. If it doesn't come together within the first 30 minutes to an hour of starting, simply turn it off and go do something else. It has to click within that time otherwise it can become a chore and a bore, and music should never feel that way. Many times I have tried to beat the work out of myself and force it down and it simply does not work. If it doesn't happen quick then drop it quick.

Going Live

7. If you use Ableton to produce your tracks then try and get together the stems and loops of your recent productions and turn them into a live performance set. This can more often than not lead to new material being created. I have done this a few times and it works, as you get to the end of a track being remixed live and you naturally add to it by layering it with some new beats and playing in new riffs etc. Take it out of the studio sequencer and play about with it in the session view until you find that you want to return it to the studio and make a new track out of your new live performance.

Field Recordings Are So Much Fun

8. Get out of the studio altogether and create your own sounds. Whilst I was doing my music degree at University some years back, I had ran out of creative ideas for a project and so I took a zoom recorder and began collecting sounds around the house and in the garden, then onto the street. I hit bin lids, pots and pans, recorded the gas stove hiss to create an original hi hat sound. I even recorded the sound of hitting two snooker balls against each other to create that smacking sound as an effect. I literally recorded anything that could be generated into a new sound.

 I then put them through a sampler and tidied them up and added various effects such as reverb and chorus delays etc. This then gave me a whole new pallet of sound to work with that no one else in the world had, and I made three tracks within a week, because I was so inspired by this fresh way of working. So think about how to create original sounds from around the house and outside. You'll be very surprised what you come up with. You can hear one of my tracks that I did with my original field recordings HERE.Every sound on this track except the strings and piano was taken from somewhere using everyday objects. 

So there you go, some of my tips that may be of use to you when you are struggling to find your way out of a hole within your chosen genre. Always remember that creative slumps don't last forever, and that making music can often be peaks and troughs. Enjoy the peaks and grin and bare the troughs. Its all part of the process.

Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions please email me.

Don't forget to check out and subscribe to my You Tube channel for my Ableton Live tutorials and my music theory lessons. Click Waxadisc Music 

Grab a full two and a half hour Disco course designed strictly for Ableton Live.

Designed by RobJamWeb this course offers you an insight into the fundamentals of producing 5 sub genres of Disco based dance music.

For only ten pounds you can have unlimited time to access these short courses and do them at your own pace.

The courses are

Pumpin Disco House

Slow Re-edits

Upbeat Re-edits

Hi- NRG Euro Disco

Filtered French Disco

Click the link here to view the youtube promo video and listen to the tracks we will be learning.

Any questions you have please email me Here

I Gemin " 2 Tha People"
Clothing, Fashion, Brand,

ISM Records have a great history of putting out solid releases with a constant flow, and this pattern has continued with the new release from I Gemin. Here we have two great Funky tracks for your Summer parties that will no doubt put the people on the dance floor.
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Track one is a fresh slice of slow tempo business full of wonderfully hi passed filtered Funk that weaves in and out until it enters the main hook of the track complete with the woodwind loops from Peter Moessers classic track "Listen To The People" originally released on Ariola Records in 1976. A beautiful Jazz Funk composition. I Gemin has taken this and really given it a nice steady flow that keeps the original vibe but freshened up with some perfectly percussive beats. 

Track Two is even more tasty as he has taken a very subtle hook from one of my favourite records by Gregg Diamond" and his 1978 smash "Fancy Dancer" which was originally released on the almighty T.K Records. However what I Gemin has done here is not just a superbly crafted re-edit, but a fine remix adding his own unique touch to the piece. 

It begins with a nice Reso Bass and a hi string accompanied with a perfectly warmed up summer seasoned Rhodes lick that has appears to have been put through a slight vibrato effect. Then to add even more juice to the vibe the appearance of some awesome synth stabs makes the track just float off into the stratosphere. A great spaced out cosmic assault on the ears that is definitely in my playlist this Spring. A great two tracker that you should seriously check out.



Hot Mood Grooves Volume 1

This April sees the release of Grooves Volume one by Hot Moods. This comes in the form of a 4 track ep full of pure soulful funky delights. Track one kicks off with "Funjazoul" A mid tempo lick that has a nice build up groove full of Brass stabs that lead up to a solid spaced out synth lead line. A pure Jazz, Disco & Funk vibe all rolled into one shiny Disco mirror ball.

Clothing, Fashion, Brand,

Hundred of Times is the follow up and has a Rhodes Phaser intro lick that makes you instantly think of New York City when it hits your ears. It has that moody mystical flavour until the Brass comes through in full force accompanied by some solid Slap Bass. As the track enters the middle section it breaks down perfectly with the introduction of a wind like sample that rises up as the loops filter out, alongside the vocal sample of a musician talking about his influence. A very moody track indeed but at the same time very upbeat.
Keyboard Accessories 2

Track three has a totally different upbeat flavour with an almost House style beat that just hits you from the off. Completely aimed at the dance floor and full of twisted guitar licks and tight Rhodes riffs it doesn't come any more rough and ready than this.

The final tune "Say What" returns back to the mid tempo styles of the first two tracks. A nice funky loop with plenty of vocal samples in the background to give off the party atmosphere. This track has the Brass vibes again which gives the whole e.p plenty of consistency throughout,. Overall a very solid release and worthy of any Disco Funk connoisseur for the Spring season.

Available at JunoDownload from the 10th April 2017 HERE 

Electrical Nights Review By Pete Hully

The Electrical Nights EP sees Masterworks assemble four producers to channel the refined decadence of 1980’s society.  

On ‘Muzik’, Mike Woods lends his talents to Imagination’s ‘Music and Lights’.  With judicious use of repetition, he turns the slinky original into a thudding slo-mo groove, reminiscent of the Revenge’s work on “Instruments of Rapture”.  The track takes its own sweet time, but eventually opens up into the vocal, bringing a sleazy touch of lightness to the mechanised funk.

RobJamWeb and JavGroove take on Loose End’s ‘Stay A Little’ with ‘Stay With Me’.  They ditch the trite mystic flourishes of the original but manage to retain its compelling eeriness.  Starting with stripped down drums, the blocky, incessant bassline is introduced and stays in place throughout the track.  Elements are added and removed, with the groove serving as a perfect foil for the vocal.  The track then shifts into an atmospheric instrumental section to induce moments of dancefloor introspection.

Shit Hot Sound System provides some dreaminess with ‘Spinnin’, an edit of Pink Rhythm’s ‘Melodies of Love’.  The track builds slowly, easing in the pillow soft vocal and spectral guitar loop.  Reverb is used to break up the languor and hint at the potential for drama in a restrained and teasing way. 

‘Let You Go’ by Ruben & Ra is a booming, disruptive boogie track.  It staggers and lunges, but just about manages to stay upright.  The controlled chaos gives it an immediacy and impact, but it shouldn’t scare less committed dancers.
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Overall, the EP’s a high class package.  Each track’s polished but characterful, and they should find favour with dancefloors of all persuasions, musical and otherwise.  

Available at both Trax source and Juno Download

 (Free VST Synth That Takes The Hassle Out Of Sampling The Classics)

Ever wanted to have a VST synth that acts like a sampler and gives you all the best Techno & Rave samples all in key and in one bank? then look no further. This has been around for a few years now but I recently revisited this as I was looking to use a sample from the Todd Terry classic sound from Black Riot's anthem "A Day In The Life" I never actually finished the track but it gave me a fresh look at this great synth, and also made me lose about an hour of my time as I immersed myself in classic Rave history.

 Whilst the majority of the sounds that have been compiled on this synth are alot of the European hard Techno/Rave sounds of the early 90's it does however carry some of the most iconic sounds which came from the classic records that made House music what it is today.
On this synth you will find Marshall Jefferson's awesome string sample from "Move Your Body". The Techno staple sound of the Inner City hit "Good Life"  The massive Piano sample lick off "I Like It" by Landlord which was used countless times during the golden era of the U.K Hardcore scene around 1991/92. 

There are the awesome synth samples that were used by Bizarre Inc and Psychotropic, which originates from D.Trains classic. Then there are the more commercial Rave sounds which were used by 2 Unlimited and the T.99 monster anthem "Anasthasia". Some of the samples are perfect for creating that early 90's Drum & Bass with some of sounds such as the "Hype" stab, There's even that little metallic stab sound that Daft Punk used for their classic "Da Funk" This really is a fun synth to play about with and has given me plenty of entertainment, and is well worth it for nostalgic purposes alone.

Check out the video tutorial I have created for this classic stab synth VST and allow yourself to return to the golden era of Rave & Techno, then check this out and have fun.

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Mac Beta Version Click Here

Dance Music may have gone through many different fads over its 30 plus years now, and as it has since established itself as a powerful force within the world of popular Music, there is one element that keeps on coming back round after all the fads have faded into oblivion. The Piano. We simply can't resist a good full on hands in the air riff being smashed into a track. More often than not this was usually courtesy of the Korg M1 Rock Piano preset. But before that sound existed, the early House Music piano tracks prior to 1988 which was the year of the Korg M1 birth would have been done on either a real piano or an earlier version of a Roland or Kurzweil or even Yamaha digital Midi piano of some sort.

So whilst a million tracks have been produced and released, here are what Waxadisc considers six of the very best riffs to ever grace our dance floors around the globe. These riffs are all from the early days of House musics humble beginnings, and yet they still remain amongst the very best to ever be recorded.. In no real order here they are.

Marshall Jefferson Move Your Body 1986
"The House Music Anthem"

The very first record producer to use a piano in a House Music track. Here way back in 1986 he created this monster of a tune which still tears the floor up even to this day with its heavy pounding intro that thuds right on through to the classic vocal hook "Gotta Have House Music" perfectly sets the tone for an instant anthem. The riff is a very straight forward affair but has such power it hits you in an instant. This is called the "House Music" anthem for a reason.

Sterling Void "I Don't Wanna Go" 1991

A timeless riff is just that and Sterling Void's classic on D.J International from 1991 is one of those riffs. Having been re-sampled during that very same year for the track "Feel Real Good" by the Hardcore act "Manic" and then a short time later by "Outrage" and their all time House classic "Tall & Handsome" This riff just hits you from the very first note. Perfect House music at its best complimented by the great vocal and as the riff continues throughout the track without it ever getting boring. "Timeless"

Ce Ce Rogers "Someday" 1987

A riff that is perhaps sadly more known for the sampled version that was done by Liquid for their rave anthem "Sweet Harmony" in 1991 on XL Records. This classic House master piece still holds its very own 30 years on and has the brilliant vocal of Ce Ce Rogers on top that sets it apart from the rip offs over the years. The riff goes off on its own lead line improvisation half way through which makes it all the more brilliant whilst keeping the shorter notes repeating underneath then back in again with the original riff. A House Music staple if ever there was one.

Jimi Polo "Better Days" 1989

An instant classic, but again the Sasha remix is more widely known and as brilliant as that version was, this original version from 1989 is the one that is raw and soulful. Famously borrowed by Congress for their hit single "40 Miles" in 1991, this version however goes straight in for the kill with no messing about as it catches you without a moments thought. His vocal is pure and honest which is what makes a true House record. Very simple and backed up only by a simple beat and some pads. Perfect Soulful House.

Soft House Company "What You Need" 1990

A perfectly smooth and irresistible piece of music coming direct from the glory days of Italo House. The Soft House Company produced this awesome summer vibe track with some of the classic vocal hooks from First Choices legendary acapella "Let No Man Put Us Under" which has been used a gazillion times since. But the piano riff here has two parts, the first is the intro and the breakdown section and then the main riff throughout the body of the track.

F.P.I Project "Rich In Paradise" 1989

Yet another Italo House monster of a track. This one coming direct from the F.P,I Project. They did several mixes of this and this one was the very best, The vocal mix didn't quite cut it, but this version is as solid as it needs to be. The raw almost loose piano playing gives the riff that full on hands in the air feel and combined with the chord pads it still sounds awesome today alongside the Lyn Collins "Think About" break beat samples. A masterpiece of a riff that has a little solo roll towards the end that plays out perfectly. Italo House at its very best.

#classichouse #pianohouse #italohouse #chicagohouse #raveculture #oldskoolhouse #dancemusic
#housemusic #korg 


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