Creating Timeless Instrumentals vs. Trendy Beats: Approaches to Composition
One of the big creative choices instrumentalists, producers and composers face is whether to focus on crafting timeless musical works with longevity or capitalizing on current trends and sounds, though the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Understanding the nuanced differences between goals of creating enduring instrumental music that stands the test of time versus catchy beats that tap into what’s hot right now can help guide your creative process and career.
Characteristics of Timeless Instrumentals
Instrumental music that retains relevance, emotional resonance and audience appeal across decades and styles often shares these traits:
Memorable Melodic Hooks
A catchy, hummable melodic motif instantly sticks in listeners’ minds.
Sophisticated chords and progressions reveal new layers over repeated listens.
Every element deliberately crafted for maximum impact.
Novel Song Structures
Ability to still surprise listeners on the hundredth play.
Avoiding overly technological sounds tied to moments in time.
Emotionally potent subject matter that connects directly to the human experience.
Live instrumental spontaneity and interplay that compels attention.
The greatest works aim for resonance over trends.
Pursuing Musical Timelessness
Some mindsets and practices instrumentalists use to create music that stands the test of time include:
Studying the Classics
Veteran composers intimately learned foundations of Western music.
Focusing on Songwriting Craft
Meticulously honing arrangements and progressive structures.
Mastering Your Instrument
Developing the technical skill to execute sophisticated musical ideas.
Composing Beyond Current Genres
Avoiding rigid tropes and cliches of any one style.
Drawing From Diverse Influences
Letting wide-ranging inspirations distill into your own personal sound.
Performing Live Extensively
Capturing the spontaneity and imperfection of live instrumentation.
Opting for warm, rich production that won’t sound dated later.
Visiting Themes Universally Relatable
Love, loss, desire, struggle – the essence of human experience.
Signs of Trend-Driven Instrumental Music
On the other end of the spectrum, instrumental music created to capitalize on current fads tends to exhibit these traits:
Following Proven Formulas
Mimicking compositions that are hot at the moment.
Relying on Clichés
Overused beats, sounds and patterns tied to genres.
Focused on the latest gear, plugins and production techniques.
Emphasis on volume over refinement.
Pigeonholed in a narrow stylistic lane.
Topical Subject Matter
Lyrics about fleeting moments unlikely to endure.
Response to Data
Designed to game metrics and algorithms.
Made for Playlists
Grating hooks aimed for passive listening.
Chasing trends rarely leads to resonance.
Evaluating Composition Goals
As you undertake new instrumental projects, assess these factors:
Do you aim for widespread acclaim and legacy?
Or quick engagement and streams?
Will this hold meaning in 10+ years?
Or just capitalize on a sound of the moment?
Are you breaking new ground?
Or reproducing familiar tropes?
Does it showcase virtuosity?
Or rely on pure technology?
Does it capture the universality of human experience?
Or narrowly target a specific audience?
Will it reveal new depths over time?
Or be instantly disposable?
Consider your aspirations and how to best craft enduring works.
Benefits of Timeless Instrumentals
Pieces that stand the test of time offer unique advantages, like:
Ongoing Cultural Relevance
Ability to resonate with listeners for generations, not just temporarily capture zeitgeist.
Evergreens for Synchronization
Highly licenseable for use in films, commercials, trailers. Vintage yet fresh.
Perennial Performance Value
Bands continue covering and learning material decades later.
Expanded Listening Demographics
Appeal to both older and younger audiences.
Labels retain interest in compiling anniversary editions and vault releases.
Lifelong back-end royalty potential from lasting audience appeal.
Pride in creating meaningful works that shape culture.
Cons of Trend-Chasing
While sometimes lucrative in the moment, capitalizing on fleeting trends has downsides like:
Limited Shelf Life
Fades quickly once styles evolve. Difficult to sustain career on.
Low likelihood of building a substantive catalog.
Compromising vision to fit formulas hampers artistic growth.
Dismissed as derivative by serious instrumentalists.
Reduced Synchronization & Cover Value
Dated niche styles limit lucrative licensing and cover recording potential.
Algorithms Overtake Tastes
Speculating on metrics leads composition astray.
left Chasing the Next Big Thing
Constant pressure to reinvent your sound scrambles musical identity.
Fame and success can prove fleeting without musicianship grounded in timeless instrumental principles.
The two philosophies don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Ways producers can balance both include:
Experiment With Trends Thoughtfully
Engage modern styles and sounds on your own terms through a timeless musical lens.
Integrate Updated Production
Blend contemporary techniques like distortion, glitch and textural effects into solid instrumental foundations.
Feature Classic Instruments
Prominently spotlight instruments like piano, guitar and brass sections while subtly incorporating modern influences.
Reimagine Vintage Styles
Give retro genres like jazz, rock and funk a fresh spin instead of pure rehash.
Dedicate some compositions to chasing trends, while reserving others for timelessness.
Occasionally stepping back objectively to evaluate if current works will age well.
The key is selectively, artfully bridging past and present.
Most instrumentalists want to create music that impacts culture broadly and for the long haul. But the allure of capitalizing on popular trends is powerful as well. Finding the right balance requires honest creative introspection, evaluating your core aspirations as a composer, and deciding thoughtfully where your true passions lie. If crafted skillfully with substance beyond style alone, it’s possible to resonate both immediately and for eons. But never lose sight of which forms of instrumental music stand the greatest chance of bearing your unique creative voice to future generations.
- 1 Creating Timeless Instrumentals vs. Trendy Beats: Approaches to Composition
- 1.1 Introduction
- 1.2 Characteristics of Timeless Instrumentals
- 1.3 Pursuing Musical Timelessness
- 1.4 Signs of Trend-Driven Instrumental Music
- 1.5 Evaluating Composition Goals
- 1.6 Benefits of Timeless Instrumentals
- 1.7 Cons of Trend-Chasing
- 1.8 Combining Approaches
- 1.9 Conclusion