Narrow to Expand

When I was taking guitar lessons a few years ago, a friend and I would practice together. Sometimes it was actual songs, sometimes it was playing around in the hopes of creating our own song. He had this exercise of narrowing down the notes we could play with, like only use C-E-G and see how many combos we could come up with. It was quite challenging but really pushed us to get creative. 

This idea totally came to mind when listening to Alt-J's second album, This Is All Yours (September 2014). Without reading the song list, I had popped on the album and gave pause at a song closer to the end of the album. A snippet was a nod to a song from the first album, An Awesome Wave (May 2012). Well, turns out they were both named "Bloodflood" (the second one was "Bloodflood Pt II") so it was no accident.


Alt-J at Glastonbury 2015 by Wunmi Onibudo

(Photo: Wunmi Onibudo)


Now maybe they created two versions of the melody way back when and couldn't decide which to keep (so keep both). But maybe they did consciously try to make a second version with a similar riff and lyrics. Either way, it's inspiring to hear an idea done two different ways. 

How can you bring that into your everyday life? I see it when creating a collection. There's a main thread but what different pieces can I make on that same theme that would also be viable? Just like when my friend and I were practicing guitar years ago, and most of our ideas were pretty terrible, I definitely weed out my collection ideas. Sometimes it's at the sketch point in the process, sometimes it's after a piece has already been made and sometimes an idea just needs a tweak to make it better. Who knows, maybe Alt-J created 20 different "Bloodflood" versions? Narrowing the focus is a great trick to push your creativity and produce a boatload of ideas. They don't all have to be great but law of averages works in your favor that at least a few will be worth pursuing.

Have you tried this method? What came of it? Leave a comment below with your thoughts...



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