Insecurity

Anything about MUSIC but doesn't fit into the forums above.
funky lime
KVRian
1268 posts since 17 Sep, 2002

Post Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:36 am

I used to be confident. My music was never that great, but I loved making it, and I made at least a few songs a month for years. It made me feel like I had a place in the universe, like I wasn't a waste of space.

I started learning a bit more about music theory. Nothing crazy, just the basics of diatonic harmony, chord functions, scales, modes, etc. I learned just enough to know that I don't actually know much of anything. Superficial knowledge, blah blah, different topic perhaps.

This made me question the worth of all the music I had made. I started to think it was garbage, the work of some clumsy buffoon who occasionally accidentally stumbled across some cool sounds. It was never really intentful or composed, just like... smoke some weed and make cool sounds and have fun.

But I started to be more and more critical of myself. I did things like FAWM for several years in a row, and I noticed that each year, I made fewer and fewer songs. My first FAWM I did like 30 songs. The next year was 14, the year after that was 10, after that 6, after that 5, after that was 2, and then the past few years I signed up but didn't even manage to make a single song. I was too critical of myself.

I started to feel like anything I made wasn't worth sharing, whether with strangers on the internet or with my friends. I put all this pressure on myself, like "You know way more about music now, you're not allowed to suck anymore." So I would make things that were okay, but I felt too ashamed to share them online. I used to post music here all the time, do the monthly competition, etc. It was fun. But I started to feel too insecure about it.

Then it got worse. My unwillingness to share eventually morphed into an inability to even start writing a song. I'll have an idea, play around with it on the piano or whatever, come up with a chord progression or something that I like. But then rather than flesh it out, I just convince myself that it's not as good as it could be, or as good as it should be. It's something like, "Whatever I make today will not be as good as what I can make tomorrow," because I'm always trying to learn new things.

So now I don't even make music. I mean, I try to noodle around on piano or guitar at least a few minutes a day. But even that has become more difficult; I simply lack the focus necessary to persevere. Maybe it comes from comparing myself to others, like I'll see someone impressive and think "I'll never be that good" or whatever. I'm sure we've all been there. So it just becomes this vicious cycle of finding something I want to be good at, realizing I'm terrible at it, and then giving up, and looking for something else I want to be good at. Repeat.

So now, making music (or rather, not making music) has gone from being the thing that brought me more joy than anything in the world, to being one of the biggest sources of frustration and feelings of inadequacy in my life. Someone told me that maybe I should take a break. Take a break from what, exactly? I haven't completed a song in two years. And it's not that I don't want to, it's that I don't f**king know how anymore.

It's like... back in the day, I didn't realize I sucked. I was blissfully ignorant, and just made tons of mediocre music and loved every f**king minute of it. Now that I know enough to comprehend the extent of my mediocrity, it has changed the way I perceive the world. Nothing I do is good enough for me. So I just give up. I'm a quitter. I'm a failure. I'm a fraud.

It's weird, I've played in a few bands, even got to tour internationally. Weird flex but whatever. But the last few times people asked me to drum for them, I just thought "There are a million other people who play drums, there's nothing I can do that someone else can't do way better." So I just decline and continue hating myself. Now it has gotten to the point where my drum set is literally 6 feet from where I'm sitting, but I haven't even touched it in a year. It's got f**king unfolded laundry sitting on it right now.

I don't know. None of you know me or care about me, and I don't really know what the purpose of posting this is. I'll probably delete it later, like I tend to do with everything else in my life. I guess I just need to type it out.

Sorry. Also, unrelated, sorry to the people on here to whom I've been an asshole in the past. I'm just taking out my frustrations on people who don't deserve it.
"You cannot learn a thing you think you know."

JerGoertz
KVRAF
2304 posts since 20 Feb, 2004

Re: Insecurity

Post Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:59 am

Try stripping down your setup or intentionally limiting what you use on a given song. That can help reconnect with the joy of creating by reducing technical issues and the paradoxically stifling effect of too many options. And just remember to have fun. And also remember that a song doesn't need to be technically sophisticated to be powerfully moving. (I've heard a lot of technically "brilliant" music that left me cold and was ultimately forgettable.)
A well-behaved signature.

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Googly Smythe
KVRAF
2311 posts since 12 May, 2011 from Not where I was just now.

Re: Insecurity

Post Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:13 pm

Sometimes, making music (or anything of an artistic nature) is like farming. Through over-use, the soil can become depleted of those nutrients that crops need to grow. The only solution is to leave the field alone for a few years, then when you come back, it'll be like you never left.
It's easy to say "don't worry", but I'm in a similar boat - I haven't made any music for over a year, now. My guitar has been gathering dust for longer. I do other things now, and in time, the music will be in my head again, and Cubase will be there, waiting to be fired up.
Bandcamp - Soundcloud
Atari STE (4MBytes), Cubase Score 2, Tascam 244, Alessis MiniVerb, BOSS RDD-20, &tc...

pianowillbebach
KVRer
5 posts since 30 Mar, 2019

Re: Insecurity

Post Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:18 pm

I had a very similar thing happen to me. I would get back on the horse by setting a goal to play something every day and write something every week. Even if it's just a few measures, even if it's random notes or chords, as long as it feels good, do it. Don't try to dive back in to posting stuff online yet. If you eventually feel comfortable, I think that this could make a cool blog idea. Like, other people experience this too. Writing a blog and sharing your story/music you create could be cool.

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donkey tugger
Boss Lovin' DR
5485 posts since 15 Mar, 2002 from the grimness of yorkshire

Re: Insecurity

Post Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:38 pm

Happens to a lot of people. I gave up for about 7 years to pursue a career in hard drinking (I was quite good at it...) but eventually came back to music . Since I'd forgotten loads of stuff loads of chords and stuff I'd got bored with sounded new again (like Mr Smythe alluded to above - not so sure about the 'farmers' bit though... :evil: ).

Bring a bit older and possibly even a bit wiser I probably enjoy doing music now a lot more for its own sake rather than trying to think that every song has to be the best thing I'll ever do etc and fretting. Conversely, being less precious about it gives more freedom to mess about and I do come up with quite a lot of unexpected stuff I never would have thought of or tried before.

Errr...moral of the story..drink booze..no, not that..don't try too hard and it will come back eventually. In the meantime just enjoy playing for its own sake and don't overthink stuff..mebbe..

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jancivil
KVRAF
17901 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Insecurity

Post Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:49 pm

I started 'putting pressure on myself' by age 15, and I wish I had at 12. I was such a child, I wanted to ride my stupid bike. Waste of time.
You suck until you don't, or maybe kinda sorta don't because you worked your living ass off long enough.

I was watching a video interview of Mike Stern and he talked about meeting John Scofield after a gig Sco had just played. Stern was very enthusiastic (as per usual) and Sco was all, "Nah, man I'm not playing good at all, I suck." Embrace it, be self-critical; but if you're a quitter, that's what you are. No shame in it, not everybody is suited to not totally suck at this. Most people totally suck at it, ultrapermasuck with no hope. :hihi:

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jancivil
KVRAF
17901 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Insecurity

Post Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:52 pm

I remember, and I've been reflecting on this and kind of questioning it, after I'd retired for, how long, a decade or more, I had figured to come back to music and quit the methadone clinic; here's the specific memory (because I was watching 'Season 10') couldn't transcribe the X-Files theme like AT ALL. It's easy as pie, there's nothing to it but I had completely vacated my whole ear and wherewithal. I had to rebuild almost from the ground up, with the brain damage and all this atrophy to boot.

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foosnark
KVRAF
4605 posts since 9 Jan, 2003 from Saint Louis MO

Re: Insecurity

Post Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:17 pm

Music theory describes what people have already done, it doesn't have to be a prescription for what to do now.
funky lime wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:36 am
It's something like, "Whatever I make today will not be as good as what I can make tomorrow," because I'm always trying to learn new things.
...except if you don't make music today, you won't be better at making music tomorrow.

Music is not really about knowledge in your head. It's about feelings in your whole body and mind. In some cultures, it's not about listening critically to what other people do but about participating, about celebrating and mourning and just making some damn noise because you're alive.

So maybe go more primitive? Or more experimental? Something outside the range of Western music theory and criticism. f**k diatonic harmony and chord functions and modes. Howl, get weird.

And if that's not fun, don't do it and don't feel guilty about it. Do something else. Maybe come back later, maybe don't.

We can't all be the best. Many of us can be pretty good at something, if we are lucky enough to figure out what. I do know that it's hard when you haven't found that thing. There have been instruments I've wanted to learn, but I hated how I sounded and how awkward they felt, and I didn't stick with them long enough to make them feel natural and my playing not suck.

When I was a teenager I was consistently the best violin player in my school -- but still not good by the standard of "would anyone actually want to hear this." I didn't stick with it after high school, because of that. It was going to be long hard work to get from where I was to good. And today I absolutely suck at violin.

But that's okay, because I got more into electronic music, tried a whole lot of shit, wandered away from it, performed with a taiko drumming ensemble for a while, realized I missed making my own music, got burned out, got ashamed and sick of being burned out, made it a weekly habit, got into modular synths, started really listening to my own recordings and realized there was a small range of things I did that was way better than the other crap, focused on that and refined it. And now I'm pretty pleased with myself now even though my fanbase consists of about five and a quarter people and a goldfish.

I cringe at some of the stuff I recorded a few years ago that I thought was decent enough to charge money for at the time. I think that's part of the process though. Plenty of renowned masters in art, music, writing, acting etc. have hated some of their own best work, so if those of us who are basically amateurs do the same, at least we're in good company.

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aMUSEd
KVRAF
30715 posts since 14 Sep, 2002 from In teh net

Re: Insecurity

Post Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:21 pm

Everything I do I start from this

https://zenhabits.net/beginner/

Passing Bye
KVRian
599 posts since 5 Nov, 2014

Re: Insecurity

Post Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:59 pm

Hang in there brother, know the feeling. :hug:

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Aloysius
KVRAF
23172 posts since 11 Aug, 2008 from a computer

Re: Insecurity

Post Tue Apr 16, 2019 1:06 pm

Sometimes making music is like fishing. Casting a net into a swimming pool is unlikely to yield the best results.

... or as Yoda might say.

Music is like fishing sometimes making. A net into a swimming pool is unlikely to yield the best results casting.
Broccoli is murder.

mjudge55
KVRist
132 posts since 8 Sep, 2005 from Seattle

Re: Insecurity

Post Tue Apr 16, 2019 1:33 pm

No it's good you posted this, we're all dealing with this issue to one degree or another, and not just in music. David Foster Wallace called it "having a bad head" and it basically just means that you've allowed yourself to accept a dark narrative about your own abilities, and the dark narrative is a self fulfilling prophecy whose fruit is bad music, which reinforces the narrative, and on and on. Maybe you need to stop feeding the spider, meaning challenge your dark narrative for accuracy -- you'll likely find some of your basic negative assumptions about your abilities are false and hopefully from there, if you stay persistent, you can build a more accurate, more positive narrative that will allow you to do what you want -- make great music.

Of course there's a balance to be struck. Great musicians are constantly challenging and critiquing themselves, and it's not unknown for great teachers to inform their students how badly they suck. This is necessary for growth and can be a very good thing as long as you don't develop a bad head. The trick may be in knowing when and how to be hard on yourself and knowing when and how to be your own best friend.

One thing I'll say, it's much better that you can admit to these feelings than to pretend they don't exist. Most of the musicians I've ever met had horrible insecurities just like these that they cover up with layer upon layer of BS and they truly suck on a much deeper level.

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jancivil
KVRAF
17901 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Insecurity

Post Tue Apr 16, 2019 1:51 pm

foosnark wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:17 pm
Music theory describes what people have already done, it doesn't have to be a prescription for what to do now.
The second half of this sentence is surely right, but 'music theory' is abstract, you can use terms to describe what you're doing now, it's just a way, like a method to codify a practice which will make consistent sense. Schoenberg came up with 'music theory' when he formulated dodecaphonic serialism, which was not describing anything already done.

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jancivil
KVRAF
17901 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Insecurity

Post Tue Apr 16, 2019 1:57 pm

"Now it has gotten to the point where my drum set is literally 6 feet from where I'm sitting, but I haven't even touched it in a year."
So do some technical exercises, do the fugging Haskell Harr method, go to Youtube, subscribe to the fricken drum channel.

If you're clinically depressed or something you've lost affect and your personal agency is suffering, but 'music theory' making you self conscious is not a great excuse for not practicing drums. You're lucky to have a drum kit, you know.

mjudge55
KVRist
132 posts since 8 Sep, 2005 from Seattle

Re: Insecurity

Post Tue Apr 16, 2019 2:19 pm

jancivil wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 1:51 pm
foosnark wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:17 pm
Music theory describes what people have already done, it doesn't have to be a prescription for what to do now.
The second half of this sentence is surely right, but 'music theory' is abstract, you can use terms to describe what you're doing now, it's just a way, like a method to codify a practice which will make consistent sense. Schoenberg came up with 'music theory' when he formulated dodecaphonic serialism, which was not describing anything already done.
The thrust of the quote is that theory isn't there the dictate how people make music, but rather to describe how they do, or have done. The temporal thing is almost just a metaphor meant to impart that music making is the primary consideration.

Sorry to butt in, I just wanted to have this quote's back because the other day the drummer in my band said he didn't want to "learn the rules of music" and it basically ruined my evening, so I need this quote. :D

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