You are here

Musicians and depression.

For anything relating to music-making on Windows computers, with lots of FAQs. Moderated by Martin Walker.

Moderator: Moderators

Musicians and depression.

Postby Marbury » Thu Feb 17, 2005 8:22 pm

I, from time to time, suffer horrible bouts of depression.I particulary find it hard when writing tracks.If a track isn't working very well, this can trigger it off which becomes a vicious circle.I then start to beat myself up and put pressure on myself.

I was just wondering if anyone else out there suffers from depression and can offer any advice on how best to manage it.


Frequent Poster
Posts: 891
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Cheshire, UK

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby Mr P » Thu Feb 17, 2005 8:51 pm

Hi Ian,

I find if you're hard on yourself when a track isn't working (which happens to everyone), the track will generally not progress.

I've found over time that doing other music related tasks when i'm not in a creative frame of mind can be a good way of keeping busy and also feeling that you are doing something musically, evn though not composing.

Although these tasks would depend on the type of music you write.

For myself, I would include making patches on synths (software or hardware), taking a microphone out and getting some nice ambient sounds, putting together some nice drum kits in a sampler for future use, making/recording some drum sounds etc

Something else which is a good idea is coming up with ideas for tunes and writing them down. For example 13/4 latin tune with badger samples, a drum and bass tune using the sounds of badgers as the only sound source, a short string quarter composition written on notation, that captures the essence of badger (just to see if it would provide different ways of working to sequencing) etc hopefully you get the idea.

I find that if you are feeling down, rather than getting worked up over a track you aren't feeling, take a short break, and then start another track, something that actually captures the way you are feeling, the mood you are in. I find that this sort of composition will generally be a lot more emotive. I also find that the songs that capture a particular state of mind stand the test of time a lot more, rather than other compositions that i have just churned out whilst going through a particular writing phase.

I hope this is some help, and gets you partly out of those vicious circles (i know them well ;) )

take it easy

Mr P
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2002 12:00 am

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby Wurlitzer » Thu Feb 17, 2005 9:06 pm

This is a serious topic and probably belongs in the community section. But anyway, here's my 2p's worth.

I have suffered two major depressive episodes in my life, one in my early twenties and one a few years ago in my early thirties. By major I mean almost totally incapacitating me physically, and driving me to the absolute brink of suicide emotionally. I also had a general tendency to less severe episodes all the time up until the last major one, although I seem (fingers crossed) to have more or less totally defeated it in dealing with that. Obviously everyone has mood fluctuations, but I wouldn't say I've been "depressed" ever for a good two years now.

I dealt with it through a combination of:

1. Psychotherapy, which I'm still having and am just in the course of phasing out. While not being full-on Freudian analysis (which I don't really believe in, personally) this did involve a lot of reflection on my childhood, what sort of things created the negative patterns that were keeping me unhappy, and what sort of options I had regarding putting positive patterns in their place.

2. A course of anti-depressants, lasting just over a year, in combination with the heaviest period of the psychotherapy.

3. Thoroughly re-evaluating my professional musical life, what my priorities and ambitions were, why I was doing it at all etc. This in combination with (1) above.

4. Excessive amounts of posting on internet forums. We don't have a TV so it's something of a replacement.

Everyone's mood is affected by how well or badly their work goes, and this is probably more true of creative types whose deepest personality and sense of self is very closely intertwined with their work. But if you have a serious, ongoing problem that you have noticed is closely related to your musical activities, then there's a good chance that there's some problematic, unresolved issue in what drives you to do music in the first place. Addressing this doesn't necessarily mean you will stop doing music, although that is of course a common fear. For me, there was a period in which I did very much lose my musical "centre", and I had to go through that and accept the POSSIBILITY of never getting it back, as part of the healing process. But eventually a new and different centre emerged, with a much more positive outlook than my previous one.

If the things you mention are seriously affecting your emotional stability, relationships or productivity, you should consider getting professional help. Beating it ain't easy, but it can be done.

Oh, and read "Depression and How To Survive It" by Spike Milligan, one of its most well-known sufferers.
Posts: 411
Joined: Wed Dec 11, 2002 1:00 am

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby Marbury » Fri Feb 18, 2005 8:05 am

Thanks for the encouragement.

The other thing I forgot to mention is that I am so unhappy in my day job.I think this has a major effect on my outlook as it is not creative in any way and totally boring.I have a deep yearning to make music my carear but its hard.I do write tracks for a library but this isn't going to give me a full time income.

I would like some direction on what places to look where I can get contacts in the music industry and put my studio to use.I also have a photographic and Art design background.People suggest, "look for something else", but its not like that with muic.Whee do I look for getting work?

I just need direction and vision to focus on.

Frequent Poster
Posts: 891
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Cheshire, UK

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby Rick Taylor » Fri Feb 18, 2005 8:41 am

What do you want to do?
Rick Taylor
Posts: 50
Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2004 1:00 am

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby Kemical Al » Fri Feb 18, 2005 11:12 am

Get out in the sunshine & do more exercise, sitting in front of PC monitors in a dark studio is not the healthiest of places to spend long periods of time. Do some good things for people, the thanks & appreciation will help. Take Wurlitzers advice & dump the telly (Eastenders alone is enough to depress anyone!) Finally, do something about the crappy job, even if it means going to college & learning a new skill or taking a dip in salary for a while. life is too short to waste on stuff you don't like doing.

Good luck & look on the bright side, most geniuses suffer from depression at some time or other.

User avatar
Kemical Al
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2001 12:00 am

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby » Fri Feb 18, 2005 11:31 am

al's right, excercise, excercise, excercise, get those happy chemicals flowing. Join an aikido class or something too, and cut ALL diary products from your diet, dont eat that [ ****** ].

mind you, you can also exploit that depression which often feeds the best songs (just look at all the great depressive writers in history)

'happy' is overrated btw so dont worry about it :)
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby adrian_k » Fri Feb 18, 2005 1:03 pm


No help I know but this is more common than you might realise.

Like Wurli above I've had a more than a few black dog years, anti-depressants, therapy, relationship issues, anger etc. I recognise a phrase you used - "beating myself up" :-

- because I was "trapped" in a job I hated and didn't have the whatever it took to change it
- because I didn't like my music, which was actually the most important thing I had
- because I had need to express myself but lacked the confidence pursue it

It's gradually changed:
- I chucked the job in (I was lucky enough to have the support of a very good woman). Didn't work for well over a year, helped me get some perspective.
- I started writing stuff and treating it as if it wasn't mine (= be not too precious). Finish stuff. Keep going, eventually something good comes along.
- I got out and played & sang in front of people solo instead of hiding in the band. It's amazing what a couple of good gigs does for the confidence.

Everyone's different, but it's working for me. I'm back in a job I don't like (for the money) but I don't care much about it. I'm too busy doing live sound & recording bits for friends, writing stuff, playing, not making a penny from it but feeding the soul.

No-one else is as hard on you as you are.

Phew! I've never really said all that before!
User avatar
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1159
Joined: Thu Jan 30, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Gloucestershire
getting better all the time..

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby 940nm » Fri Feb 18, 2005 1:20 pm

Some god advice above...

Also this book has been reccomended a number of times on the forum....

It has some good excercises to focus your mind and bring your creativity forward, good tunes, good feelings.
Posts: 27
Joined: Fri Jun 21, 2002 12:00 am

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby gibson3 » Fri Feb 18, 2005 2:17 pm

This is a serious topic ... Musically speaking, my depression arises when I end projects for my clients or mine ones. And, for sure , depression or ,peraphs , only sadness, isn't due to doubt results :lol: ( i'm generally happy with my jobs) . Cant' explain why ,but it happens , and I think I live this moments something like a momentary "death". (In fact, don't we always say "music is life for me "? ). Fortunately this disappears , until a new project begins
New here
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby Mr Boules » Fri Feb 18, 2005 2:38 pm

Dont let them get you down.
User avatar
Mr Boules
New here
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby DavidM » Fri Feb 18, 2005 2:56 pm

>>and cut ALL diary products from your diet, dont eat that [ ****** ].

I second that motion. Cellulose-based products are hard to digest. :D
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Jan 20, 2005 1:00 am

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Feb 18, 2005 3:37 pm

Strictly speaking I should move this to the Community section, but since it's already going so well here and it proves that PC musicians don't spend all their time 'under the bonnet', I'm going to leave it ;)

dunch wrote:I started writing stuff and treating it as if it wasn't mine (= be not too precious). Finish stuff. Keep going, eventually something good comes along.

That's a very good point dunch - if like many musicians you have limited time to make music, when you finally do sit in the studio you can pressure yourself to produce something good rather than wasting your time 'messing about'. Unfortunately, unless you're feeling inspired this can result in frustration and then depression if things don't initially go well - the classic Catch 22 situation.

Far better to go in with the intention of enjoying yourself, when you'll find you have a better chance of coming up with something good because you're not trying so hard to succeed.

User avatar
Martin Walker
Posts: 17135
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby » Fri Feb 18, 2005 4:31 pm

why doncha go to the docs & get a sicky for a year on depression, then watch TRISHA every morning

It's guaranteed to make you feel better when you see those chav troglodytes in action :?
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Musicians and depression.

Postby Mr DiBergi » Fri Feb 18, 2005 4:55 pm

I've had a few periods of depression, but thankfully not too much recently. One of the things that would get me going was an irrational fear of illness - thinking that my sore throat was the first sign of my immune system failing before a painful death from HIV, or some redness on my forehead indicating that I was developing horrendous eczma(?), or that my headache was in fact a brain tumour.

I got over it in a number of ways - talking about it with people like my mum, who'd rightly say "don't be daft, you're not going to die, look at you you're a big strong healthy young man", and also playing sports and actually GETTING hurt and taking a painful whack. But talking about your feelings with people close to you, and playing a bit of competitive, physical sport is usually good advice anyway. What I still find is great to do is to say to myself "ok so what if it is a brain tumour? you're going to die eventually, so don't be a wimp about it; either go for a brain scan or shut the [ ****** ] up!" I wouldn't actually say that to someone who genuinely thought they were ill, for the record. But a kind of mental slap around the face to remind myself that my fears were totally irrational was and still does prove helpful.

On the subject of depression generally, recognising the signs of "the black dog coming" is helpful. If you can catch yourself entering that hopeless, empty state of mind it can be helpful to conciously tell yourself that you're feeling that way, that the chemicals in your brain are getting a bit unbalanced which is why you're feeling poo. "Ok, getting depressed, best not go out on the lash tonight, maybe I'll go see some family, or do something that makes me happy."

The music thing can be funny. I'm in that "boring, fairly soul-destroying day-job, think of nothing but music and recording but don't have enough time to do it" situation too. I don't think there's an easy answer. Personally I'm coming to accept the possibility that maybe I just don't WANT the music career enough to give up the money and security of my office job (though it is a music company). And there's nothing wrong with that! But I'm not resigned just yet. For the record.

Ever get that thing where you've planned an evening music-making, you get home, open a beer, turn on the computer/pick up the guitar/whatever and then just sit there, waiting for inspiraton to hit? Happened to me last night, so I just tried to do SOMETHING, even if just recording a couple of bars on the guitar as nicely as possible, then doubling it as accurately as I could and panning it left and right. It's pretty derivative and I'm not going to listen to it and think what an amazing piece of music I've written, but instead of hoping for a complete, brilliant, better-than-anything-you've-ever-done-before track to magically "appear" it's helpful sometimes to just change the focus, get the "music muscle" warm (like Mr P said), just keep cracking away, even if you don't think it's the greatest thing you've ever done. Anthony Keidis or whatever his name is from the Chilli Peppers said somthing like "sometimes a song drops out of you like a sneeze, and sometimes you have to bang away with a hammer and chisel", which always stayed with me.

Sorry for the basically POOR writing above, I'm desperately bored at work and praying for 5.30 and can't really be arsed to concentrate on anything properly, but on the main topic of getting depressed about tracks that aren't happening I'd just say DON'T GIVE UP! Look at it this way: if you give it your all, and it still comes out a bit cruddy and non-magical, don't beat yourself up about it. It's a bit like a football (or whatever) match - you might lose the game, but there's always the next one, and now you're that little bit fitter, little bit leaner and more experienced. It's NEVER a waste of time, not if you try.

And hey, put it away for a week or two, and you never know - when you come back to it you might even hear something you enjoy, and be proud of yourself for having worked hard at it even though you didn't really like it.

Good luck Ian, there ARE ways to "get happy" in life generally. Like the duff tune, maybe you've just got to persist, and belive that it's worthwhile, even if you don't quit know why.
User avatar
Mr DiBergi
New here
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Sep 29, 2004 12:00 am
Looking for musicians?