Updated: Feb 8
Unfortunately being creative is not a tap we can switch on and off. Sometimes we need inspiration and when it comes to songwriting if we lack that - we sometimes get songwriters block. The trigger to get past this can come in many forms, but what if you REALLY get stuck? Here are a few ideas to help get you unstuck, and get those new songs written and on your way to making a record.
Beg, borrow, occasionally steal
I’m not naming names, but a very well-known producer I worked with would literally sit at his laptop as we started to make a record and go through his iTunes library, head leaning on his hand as he looked for songs to “borrow” from. Maybe the first sketch would borrow just a little TOO much, but over time it would morph into something new and before you knew it I'd be doing a final mix master of a brand new song. Before you get too upset just think about how much music we have which is sample-based. Pretty much ALL the early hip-hop was sampled, and we continually use and re-use hooks from songs today.
Ever heard of method acting?
It’s when actors go a little too far and live and breathe the character even when they are off-screen to give the best performance. Try it when writing a song. Write it as someone else, and become that person. It's not your fault anymore! Motown’s legendary songwriting team Holland Dozier Holland were doing a pretty good job of channelling a teenage girl when they wrote the massive hit "Baby Love" for The Supremes! This character you create could be anyone, in any situation, having any experience that might lead you to create something you normally wouldn’t possibly think of. Psycho Killer, to Diana Ross, whatever works!
Fire the supervisor
I’m talking about that annoying little voice in your head who says “this idea isn’t good enough!” Sometimes it is that voice that stops us from starting to create a song, and if we ignore it, we can get going and see where an idea leads. Just start, no matter how bad you think an idea is. Maybe the initial idea DOES suck, but perhaps you come up with a brilliant chorus 30 minutes later.
Try a different tuning
Remember when you were a kid and you just couldn’t quite figure out how certain things were played, no matter how hard you tried and your fingers turned into a pretzel? If you’re a guitar player, try mastering a different tuning. You’d be surprised how playing the same old things in a tuning different than you’re used to can lead to all new things.
Start with a different instrument. Maybe you usually start writing a song with a beat, or a guitar for example. Don’t! Start with something else. How many classics from the ’70s have a killer bass line and you can’t even remember the rest of the instruments? You don’t have to be great at playing the instrument itself, but maybe you’ll come up with a new idea. Even perhaps play your instrument in the STYLE of another instrument.
Find a writing partner
Write with someone else. A lot of us in this field, whether a musician or mix engineer are pretty solitary creatures, but if you’re stuck, someone else is stuck and sharing ideas can be a great way to make something new. Your hand-finished sketch you can’t complete might just be the thing that sets someone else’s imagination running. Who knows maybe you’ll find the hit songwriting partnership of your dreams by reaching out to someone in a Facebook group. This just takes a tiny bit of confidence to reach out and introduce yourself.
This is part of a series of articles for artists. When you do get that song finished, and if you need a mixer to make it into a finished record for you, don't forget to hit me up!