Illustration: Michael Haddad
Collaboration can be a beautiful experience on a creative and personal level.
Above all, it brings us together with other human beings. Of course, collaboration can invite the difficulties of navigating any relationship. Making art together can be a vulnerable and intimate exchange, so it’s only natural for the dynamics to be delicate. It’s worth considering what makes for a good collaboration and allows for the most fruitful flow of ideas.
1. Non-attachment to the outcome
Before you even sit down to work for the first time, surrender the idea of making your vision of the project the end result. Instead, lend your vision to the collective and strive to hone in on a shared, unified concept — something you couldn’t have imagined on your own. The most rewarding collaborations often bring out work you didn’t think you were capable of making, and wouldn’t have explored by yourself.
2. Make your collaborators comfortable
Create an ambience and nurture the vibe in the room, literally and energetically. Do your best to come in good spirits and contribute positivity to the creative exchange.
3. Nurture momentum
Be sensitive to the pace of ease of the creative flow in a collaborative session. If you sense your collaborator is getting bored or frustrated with you after you’ve been tweaking a snare drum for ten minutes, maybe it’s time to move on.
4. Transparency is key
Invite others into your workflow. Let them see and understand what you’re doing. Sometimes, quickly working away on one’s own can leave others feeling isolated from the process. This can also be a missed opportunity to exchange knowledge or get insightful feedback.
5. Make space for other’s ideas
Making space in a session can mean leaving room in a track (melody, drums, etc.) for your collaborator(s) to contribute to. Making space is also a matter of how we carry ourselves. Spend at least as much time listening as you do talking and don’t be domineering. You might ruin an important collaboration, or even worse, a friendship.
6. Take turns adding parts
Don’t dominate a session by staying in the control seat for too long. Give others the opportunity to lead. It’s more fun and often much more interesting when a collaboration truly feels like the sum of numerous visions. For instance, when building a drum beat, experiment with the process of programming a kick pattern, then letting your collaborator add the high hats, and so on.
7. Give and take
Let your preference not make the cut every now and again. In turn, your collaborator will be more willing to surrender their first choice next time you butt heads. Stubborn egos can be the death of a collaboration so take the high road, lead by example, and let others have their way sometimes.
8. Seek feedback often
Invite critique and get insight into how your collaborator feels about a direction you might be taking.
9. Encourage others to express themselves
A good collaborator is one who elevates those around them. People will love working with you if you encourage them to express themselves freely, with comfort and ease.
10. Be a friendly facilitator
Help others reach their potential however you can. If your collaborator is having a hard time with a technical process that would help them better express themselves, teach it to them. If they’re having a hard time achieving the sound they’re looking for, help them find it.
11. Capture others’ best ideas for them
Let others select and edit your output, filtering through what speaks to them. Not only will the result represent the shared perspective of the collective, it can also be a revealing opportunity to learn what aspects of your work speak most to others.
12. When possible, try being democratic
When working in groups of odd numbers, democratic decision-making can make things feel less personal, more pragmatic, and most importantly, keep things moving.
Do you have any practices that you observe when approaching a collaboration? Let us know in the comments below.
November 14, 2019