Tempt your Creative Appetite with Musical Flash Cards

My latest work drifts far from what I would usally consider to be my musical comfort zone, but it's the happy result of adding a little spice to my creative process. Chanelling all the glee of my peppy Year 5 teacher Miss. Roebuck, last week I found myself printing out and cutting up paper flash cards. A little tacky, sure, but at least, in the history of creative aids used by musicians, you can keep it in a jar and you don't have to hide it from your mother. You can download and use them yourself here (and again below) šŸ‘‡

I recently heard a fantastic story on the radio about Tom Waits. One day, driving down the freeway in LA, a melody suddenly entered his head. With no way to capture this perfect flash of inspiration, and knowing it would last only minutes, he had no choice but to let it go, turning to sky and saying 'Excuse me. Can you not see that I'm driving?'.

Contemplating these beautiful, fleeting moments, these fertile wellsprings of creativity amongst the deserts of routine and domesticity, could become a lifelong preoccupation. When it's my turn, I get woken up at 4:00 in the morning, sometimes to the second. Some folks get kept up at night. Indeed, for others, it happens on the 8-lane freeway in LA.

But alas, for most of us, simply waiting for the divine spark isn't an option. As Edison famously put it, 'Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration'. If we want consistency, we need to roll our sleeves up and exercise our creative muscles.

Keeping on your toes, musically, is all about experimentation. In pop music, some artists retain perennial appeal through careers which last decades. How do they do it? They know, like the record companies who fund them do, that success isn't about repeating past hits formulaicly, but constantly re-inventing your style.

My latest attempt then to tease out some exploration and innovation from my, generally reserved, musical temperament are my "Musical Flash Cards". Essentially, we have one set of cards with musical genres, and another with moods and feelings. Combining them, of course, serves as the seed to a musical idea. My plan is to create a track of at least three minutes from my favourite of three combinations.

Thanks for reading! Download the musical flashcards here, and if you use them as the basis for a composition, let me know on Twitter @glcheetham