Category Archives: performance booster

mindmapping for songwriters

photo by philippe boukobza under a cc attribution license

mindmapping has become one of my favourite activities when it comes to brainstorming ideas. I use it now almost anytime I take notes. the creativity flow is increased so much that it’s almost hard to stop.

I use it to:

brainstorm ideas
search for words to write lyrics
make decisions (on almost any topic)
finding topics for blogposts
determine to-do’s
track recording processes
track my practicing process
find solutions to problems
overcome writer’s block
do 80/20 analyses of my work and life
do interviews
…and more

basically anything I write down these days ends up to be a mind map.
at the end they look like a big idea-virus, a piece of art, and it’s so easy to go from one central keyword or idea to an infinite set of ideas and phrases linked directly to the initial idea. many times I stumble upon new and never before thought of angles of the same idea or problem.

I tried to find software that is as much fun as doing it by hand. the software I found so far is either too complicated to use or the look and feel is to dry, the handling of the software kills the creative mind-flow.

I think, anyway, when it comes to brainstorming and idea development using a computer or other technical device is drawing the attention away from the subject and the mind flow is distorted.

the technique is especially helpful when you write lyrics and you need to get words, phrases, even storylines sorted out.

this is how I do it:

1. start in the middle of a piece of paper, write down my central idea or phrase or word.
2. I write down all related ideas around that central idea and connect them with a line
3. I then repeat this with all the new findings. you’ll spread your mind in all directions and you’ll end up with a pretty cool idea-virus and everything is connected to the one little idea in the middle of the paper.

I recommend to do this as often as possible to get into the habit.
you can filter the different mindstreams which flow from the central idea by giving them different colors, so you’ll immediately see what relates to each other.

happy mapping.

tell me what the most surprising a-ha experience you got from doing mindmapping your ideas in the comments.


rework – embrace constraints

I read the book rework by jason fried and loved it. it’s like your best buddy giving you great tips on how to do business. forget all the dry business books that tell you how to write a business plan so you can spend the next 10 years perfecting only that instead of actually doing something useful right now!

there’s a chapter about constraints. use what you have and don’t take constraints as a crutch or an excuse not to start something you’d love to do.

I’m in the middle of recording my new album “music of ghouls” and the way I wanted to do it, I wanted to record all the basic tracks (actually up to 80% of the album) myself here in my studio. it’s limited. 3 microphones, a bass, my voice, a laptop and a couple of weird instruments I collected at a scrapyard.

I wasn’t happy with the sound of most of it, struggling with how to properly play a cool groove on car wheels etc.

so, after having read the book I decided to throw out everything I thought I desperately needed to get the right sound. forget all the weird instruments.

now it’s just me and my bass. going to record 80% of the album with just my voice and the upright bass. the other 20% will be recorded in new york in the summer, adding attitional kickass sounds played by kickass musicians!

if you’re interested in the recording process, follow me on twitter or facebook. I’ll do regular online live streams from the recording sessions until the album is complete!

the live streams will be here.

constraints rock!

focus exercise for both musicians and “normal” folk

one of the most difficult tasks to master as a musician is to get into the zone before practicing, rehearsing or playing a gig. we’re all constantly exposed to noise of every kind, phones, computers, emails, to do lists, meetings, booking gigs, family etc. but when we enter our rehearsal spaces and studios we all have to forget about all that noise if we want to be creative and make efficient use of our quality practicing time. I say we even have to forget there’s a world out there at all. often times it doesn’t work and the creative process suffers.

I’m doing a simple exercise to get into the zone. it works for me every time, no exceptions. I do it not only to switch to creative mode but anytime I feel overwhelmed and stressed out.

here’s the exercise:

1. sit down at the piano (if you don’t have one use any other instrument). press and hold the sustain pedal. hit a low A. (for me A 2 octaves below middle C works best). different people have different favourite notes. mine is A. try out a couple to find your fafourite one. it’s important that you hit a very low note, because they ring longer and hit your stomach more directly than high pitches.

2. let the note ring

3. listen to the note and try to follow it as long as possible as it fades away.

what happens is, you focus all your attention on the note and your brain blocks out all the noise (physical and psychological) at the same time.

when I do this exercise it’s like a huge space of silence opens up and gets bigger and bigger the longer I listen to the note. it fades away and when it’s gone I sit in total silence. there’s unlimited space around me during that moment.

once you get to the point where you can’t hear the note anymore, sit there for a while and just listen to the silence. don’t do anything. you will automatically fill the silence when the time is right. fill it with your clearest creative thought.

it’ll kick your creative process up a notch or two.

let me know how it works out for you!

thanks for being great!

pause is the new cool

happy holidays to all who celebrate easter and to all who don’t.

remember that taking a break is just as important as work.

in music a pause feels heavier than any note that can be played. pauses are highly underrated and I strongly reccommend to take more pauses more often. in music and in life!

so, wether you celebrate easter or not, why not take a day or two off?! be with your family, take a trip, refill your batteries. now’s the time, put down the pen, go home and take the break you’ve earned for yourself!

pause is the new cool!

practice and the masses will follow

back in music college I had a friend (guitarist) who constantly complained about how he didn’t have a girlfriend and how it was impossible for him to meet anybody.

one day a teacher walked by, heard it and said: “well, practrice instead of complaining. become a killer performer on your instrument and the girls will kick your door in!”

guess that’s today’s lesson: focus on what’s important! be remarkable and “they” will follow!

Think Tank

lock yourself up and do only music for a set amount of time. 1-3  hours a day, a whole day, 2 days, one week etc…

during that time nothing, really nothing, may interfere with what you do! you draw a circle around yourself and don’t let any of the day to day business get into that circle. nothing and noone gets in!

exclude everybody and everything! only take care of your artistry in the think tank. you’d be surprised how much faster you get ahead if you deliberately exclude things and people from your “artist time”.

think tank does not involve organisational work, either. only artistry.

eliminate and exclude, no limits!

review 1st quarter 2010 – “timferris” your life

is it cool to keep a log of all the things you do? I tried it for a while now and have to say, yes it’s cool. it let’s you track your progress and eliminate time wasters. as many of you already know, I “tim ferris” my life to be able to use my time the way I want to.

I run a log on my laptop using MacJournal, which works fine and doesn’t have any fancy features that keep you from staying productive.

I also realized it makes sense to write down daily successes, everything from “been to gym” to “got that deal signed”. writing down successes makes your progress trackable and it gives you a sense of your own productivity. also, you can go back and check if you’re still on target or if you’re procrastinating.

I decided that in 2010 I’ll do a quarterly review of the things I’ve done to get myself on target again and to improve my productivity. it’s not an elaborate load of work, just a few notes and a few bulletpoints. the review doesn’t take longer than 30 minutes.

here’s my first quarter of 2010. things I’ve done:

1. designed a new online music licensing model catering to the film and advertising industry (will be online in april)
2. researched the idea of opening a coffeetruck in munich. (which doesn’t work at this point due to city regulations)
3. I went running 120k in january.
4. started kettlebell training (still doing and loving it. want to get certified in the summer)
5. got a basement room to free the apartment of all our “office stuff”. the apartment is now living space exclusively, no office anywhere in sight!
6. remodelled the apartment into a semi-loft (knocked out some walls)
7. cleaned out my music studio. there’s no more music business stuff in my studio, only instruments and recording equipment)
8. I got an attractive drop-shipping deal from my audio book distributor.
9. I batched all projects throughout 2010 (currently working on 5 big music related projects)
10. got tickets for cirque du soleil on my birthday (wanted to see their show for years)
11. I played lots of shows around town
12. got the design for the “dead on arrival” book (will be available soon)
13. wrote new songs (+few sketches) for the new album “music of ghouls” (basically all songs for the new album are finished and ready for recording)
14. got a revolving stage built and used it in two shows
15. put on a big show with dancers and acrobats. Virtual Reality Circus.
16. connected with new artists
17. started a regular live online stream from my studio (“in the shed with juergen” runs every monday at 7pm CEST)
18. got equipment from a friend for april recording (starting on the new album)
19. started to do solo performances (upright bass & voice) with great success and great feedback
20. learned about dynamic pricing models
21. designed a fanbased funding method for my projects

these are in no specific order. I did all this while still spending half a day with my daughter and wife, basically working half a day. (working includes playing shows and writing music, which I don’t consider work but bliss!)

and what’s to come for the 2nd quarter? more shows, more cool projects to help musicians improve their practicing effectiveness, and a 2 month trip to new york to record parts of my album, hang and have fun!)

btw: any new yorkers out there who hear about an apartment for rent in july and august (pref. in the east village) let me know.

p.s. I’d be interested in your experiences with keeping a log, batching actions and your overall tim ferris experience.