Songwriting Hints for When You Get Stuck
If you are a musician and have ever been in a creative slump or had songwriter’s block, here are some great tips to get you back on track. Creativity is not a faucet you can always turn on and off at your choosing. Just like writers block, if you are struggling to come up with any new material it can be frustrating, paralyzing, and discouraging. Whether you play in a band, are a solo artist, or just enjoy the creation of new music, this can affect us all. Here are 6 songwriting tips for musicians that I have used to pull myself out of the creative wasteland and get those creative juices flowing.
1. Learn Some New Songs
Find a band or artist you like and learn to play some of your favorite songs. Don't feel like it is a waste of time because you are not actually creating anything new. Keep in mind that most successful artists are inspired by their favorite musicians and even try their best to imitate them when they first start out. Just read some interviews. Many times new music is formed by taking an idea you like that someone else came up with and making it your own by adding taking away and morphing it into something new.
By learning a new song you also might challenge your skill level forcing you to become better. Then there will be times you are shocked at how easy or simple a great song is. Learn from these songs, get ideas and grow in your skill and knowledge. As an added benefit you now know how to play a great song people will love.
2. Play in a group
Even if you are a solo artist, jamming out with some other musicians can be a great way to foster creativity. If you have never done this it may be uncomfortable. I have news for you, it never will be unless you start to do it. It might be terrible the first few times and you will want to give up. Stick with a core group and you will get better. Then you can start playing with anyone and get more valuable experience.
Playing with others adds creativity to your music. Others might hear something awesome that you might not. Or maybe they have an awesome start to a song that you can finish. Playing with others is a great way to expand your ideas and create great music.
If you feel stuck playing the same old song and can't seem to find something new, sometimes experimentation is in order. Learn a weird chord, a new scale, or just start playing and see what comes out. Try a different instrument or song structure. Most of it might sound terrible. But if you come up with something that sounds ok. Work with it and see if it is worth pursuing.
4. Calculated Effort
This takes some musical knowledge but if you have any musical training this is worth a shot. What I mean here is to use music theory to calculate what your next step could be. Are you in the key of G? Then try going from G to C to D because C and D are the 4th and 5th of the G scale. That was a very simple example but you get the point. Sometimes this works to get you past that point you are stuck on.
5. Take a Break
If the above steps are just not working and you are getting more and more frustrated, then take a break. It could be an hour, a day, or a week just stop playing for a period of time. Sometimes I think about the song I am writing and directions it could go, sometimes I listen to other music, and sometimes I just forget about it for a while and just come back to it later.
6. Constructive Criticism
Let someone who's musical opinion you value listen to your songs and tell you what they think. They may have ideas or some critique that could really help.
Creating music is an exciting an awesome gift. Don't give up, even if you think your ideas are terrible. Your style will evolve and grow over time. Musical creation is a talent, but it is also a skill (yes there is a difference). A talent is something that you are naturally inclined towards. A skill is something you learn. You need to learn the skill of musical creation much like you would any other skill. Practice. That is the best songwriting tip.