Find somewhere quiet to sit and think. Close your eyes and try to shut out external stimuli to the extent that you can successfully do so. (We're not aiming for Buddhist meditation here, just going for quiet.)

Once you feel that you're in a calm, stimulus-free environment and no one is going to bother you any time soon, imagine yourself peeling the cellophane off of a brand new CD. The wrapper comes open, and next you peel off that annoying seal that prevents you from opening the jewel case. Never mind the booklet just now; open the jewel case, pull out the CD, and load it into your imaginary stereo.

Even your imaginary stereo itself is not your usual home sound system. It is an enormous thing, full of buttons and knobs and back-lit screens. It takes up half the room and it has speakers everywhere, each one designed to reproduce recorded sound perfectly. You're not just loading in any CD that you found in 7-Eleven, you're loading in a totally new, totally innovative album of music you've never heard before. It is impeccably produced and the performances are just... perfect.

Imagine yourself reaching out and pressing the imaginary "Play" button. The CD starts to spin. You lean back in your seat with your eyes still closed and take a deep breath. Just as you let the air out of your lungs, the music starts...

What do you hear?

The purpose of this exercise is to get yourself thinking - as a musician - about what your next album should sound like. Just closing your eyes in a silent room and imagining that album is a great way to get into the right head space. It gets you out of your compositional habits and gets you thinking about music the way you probably thought about it before you were a musician. Remember how it was in your teens, before you had heard ten variations of every conceivable musical concept, and everything you heard seemed new and magical? Remember the rush you used to get when your favorite artist would take a left turn in the middle of something, and completely blow your mind?

Wouldn't it be fantastic if you could write something that had that kind of effect on someone? Shouldn't that be the goal of everything you write?

How are you going to reach out to your audience - at the writing stage - to communicate a profound musical idea to them? What are you doing today that will help you give someone the chills?

Or, is this something that only the very best musicians ever get to experience?

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