It takes years of hard work to build a strong musical foundation. Once you've been writing and performing long enough that you fully understand what type of music you want to share with the world, you feel liberated. But after gaining experience and building a strong catalog, it's only natural to want to experiment and create work with different influences outside of the niche that got you this far. This is vital to achieving artistic growth, but also risky because not everyone is ready to succeed in a genre-crossing endeavor.
It's always good to push yourself outside of your musical comfort zone, but if any of these four telling signs apply to you, take it as a cue that you're totally ready to experiment with other genres and styles.
1. You've been feeling musically uninspired for a long period of time
Life as a musician comes with a natural ebb and flow of the creative process. Some days will be filled with endless inspiration to create, while others will be relatively inactive. This is the way of the world. However, long periods of feeling uninspired should bring about some questions.
If you’re experiencing a lack of musical desire, it may be a sign that the innovator in you is craving to delve into new territory. Now's a great time to try switching things up in your normal songwriting and practicing routines!
2. You've recently gained a new outlook after a particular experience
At some point or another, we all go through life-altering experiences that change the way we view the world. From our most joyous achievements and travels to the most devastating losses, events occurring outside of the studio should ultimately shape the atmosphere of the music you create. Capturing the most powerful emotions you feel during impactful life moments and channeling it into your work can unlock a potential you never knew you had.
Be mindful of life outside of music. I don’t recommend completely changing your style based on one particular experience, but you’re more likely to be successful experimenting with different genres when you obtain a fresh perspective.
3. You've been reflecting on your family roots
Some artists make family the focal point of their music, while others choose to keep their personal life private. Yet the older we get, the more we tend to ponder how our backgrounds play such a prominent role in the type of people we've become. Reflecting on family roots can be a great catalyst for creating music inspired by a particular genre, even if it isn’t directly aligned with the type of music you usually create.
For example, if you're a hip-hop artist with a Caribbean background, you may be inclined to make rap music with reggae/dancehall elements. You shouldn’t take this route simply because people are expecting it based on your heritage, but a natural desire to showcase the sounds of your family's birthplace is something to embrace. Once you fully believe you’re ready for a new challenge, don’t hesitate to take a deep dive into your family history and create authentic music based on your findings.
4. You're learning new musical skills
Musical knowledge has no boundaries, and you should always be taking the time to learn different instruments in order to expand your horizons. As you acquire new skills and increase the breadth of your artistry, you’ll naturally become equipped to create new, unique sounds.
Letting go of your past work and steering clear of any assumptions about your art is a bold move, but once you’ve undergone enough introspection to wholeheartedly understand where you stand artistically, experimenting with difference genres could turn out to be the best choice you’ve ever made.
Eric Bernsen is a marketing/public relations professional and music journalist who specializes in the genre of hip-hop. You can find more of his work at HITPmusic.com (where he is an editor/writer) as well as HipHop-N-More.com, where he contributes album reviews. Follow Eric on Twitter @ebernsen.