Why Musician Should Consider XMind for Creative Projects
As a musician, Mark Sandusky uses music for storytelling. Once he was given these creations, he had to figure out how to release them to the world. His latest 11-song album is called “Story By Some Aliens”, because it felt like all the songs just came to him in a download.
Mark found mind mapping to be particularly good for creative types. A mind map can scatter with his thoughts, branch out with the ideas and follow the creative flow. That’s why Mark uses XMind for planning out songs, videos and the overall layout of his indie music.
We dive to his music world with mind mapping, and find out how he makes the most out of mind mapping - plan his music career, song writing, and music video making.
Outside of music, Mark also runs a men’s health website and a blog for creative entrepreneurs.
When and how did you start your music career?
I started playing music because my best friend is a fabulous musician. We’d hang out and he’d play the guitar and rather than me just sitting there, he’d teach me some basic bass lines or riffs to play along with him.
From there, I was naturally interested in music and all of its patterns and connections so I continued to learn. I also have always loved writing poems and lyrics, so putting those words to music was a logical next step.
I then met a girl, who is now my wife, and she is an incredible singer/songwriter. We formed a duo called Mark & Miss. That duo is what took me beyond just writing songs alone in my basement and onto the stage.
Mark and Miss is still alive and well, but I’m now focusing on New Mark, because it lends itself to wild experimentation, lyrics, and fun video creation.
What are your favorite genres of music?
I like most genres. Generally I listen to music to relax and/or learn. For that reason, I tend to lean toward folk songs because of their wise lyrics and soothing melodies/instrumentation. I also love mellow rap.
Why mind mapping matters for creative projects?
Creative inspiration also needs a plan. However, the tool you use to plan something creative certainly can’t be rigid. It needs to be able to branch out with ideas and go beyond the linear checklist.
The tool needs to be fast and uncomplicated so that you can get your thoughts down quickly. It is also helpful if the tool presents creative thoughts in an aesthetically pleasing way should you want to publicly share or communicate your ideas.
XMind has those flexible, fast qualities and I’ve found it to be a great tool to plan out my New Mark music, and turn any idea into a reality.
How does mind mapping help plan a music career?
A music career is a project that is bigger than any one song. Not only do you have to think about the music, you have to think about the distribution, the monetization, the supporting content, the platforms, the merchandise and so much more. A music career is a multi-pronged business.
I am a big fan of mind maps in all areas of my life, but I also find them to be particularly useful in optimizing the launch of my music project, New Mark.
Below is an early iteration of a mind map I created in XMind to give myself a big picture overview of all the tasks and options to successfully launch an album and 7 music videos.
Not only was this mind map helpful for me to consider all aspects of the music business, but also by using an XMind template, it naturally looked pretty cool. So I actually added it as a graphic into one of my music videos.
What about using XMind to plan the actual creative product itself?
I find that I enjoy using the timeline templates in XMind to quickly plan out the overall arc of a song or video.
In particular with a music video, you want to take your audience on a journey. A journey that will keep them hooked. There is a popular narrative framework called The Hero’s Journey that underpins basically every Hollywood movie. It was developed by Joseph Campbell and I find it very useful.
To utilize this framework, I take a linear timeline template in XMind, make the universal stages of the hero’s journey the main topics, and then branch out my specific script for that project from those main components.
Here is the timeline I made in XMind to plan out Ojai, that same music video that you saw above.
The song progression matters for a song. Have you tried mind mapping a song?
You could also use a mind map in a similar way to map out a song. A song needs to “go somewhere”.
For instance in my song, “Brain Is Made of French Fries” (NSFW) there is actually a story arc.
- The first verse is me driving myself crazy with thoughts.
- The chorus is this eureka moment of, “Wow, there’s something inside of me that’s smarter than I am”
- The second verse is me utilizing that Eureka moment.
- Chorus again.
- And the bridge is basically saying, “Here is the summary of what I learned”
- Followed by the final celebration chorus.
Not all songs follow this formula, but you could create a song journey map, similar to the Hero's Journey.
Any tips for developing musicianship?
Developing musicianship is about identifying common concepts and patterns, and then committing those concepts to memory. When first learning an instrument, like guitar, it is best to focus on larger ideas that will move the needle the furthest. For me, that means learning the basics and then understanding the music theory behind it.
For instance, here is a list of 73 songs you can play with the same 4 chords. Learn those chords and practice switching between them. Not only will you now be able to play 73 songs, you’ll also have mastered transitions to common chords that are likely to be used as a sequence in other songs.
After that, dive into music theory and start to understand keys and chord relationships within those keys. You can then learn the equivalent relationship in a different key. If none of this is making sense right now, don’t worry. It will as you move forward. Just keep a big picture mindset when learning the basics and all of the patterns and connections will start to come together as you progress.
Any advice for those looking to start a career in music?
I’m still trying to figure out music as a “career” myself. As I mentioned earlier, music is a tough business. So for now, all I can say is make the type of music and creations you love, because you’ll need that love and passion to get you through the tough times.
Thank you Mark for the interview. Look forward to his music with fantasy, imagination and love.