This guest post comes to us via Ben Jacklin of Subreel. He shares several interesting ways of sparking your songwriting creativity.
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Now, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone!
It can be all too easy for songwriters to get stuck in a rut. Whether you are a guitarist, pianist or lyricist it is almost inevitable that at some point things will get stale. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you never challenge yourself the chances are it will show in the end result of your music and things can easily become “samey”.
In this article, we’re looking at some of the more unusual methods people have used to reignite their songwriting prowess and even expand their abilities. Some of these tips will help with lyrics, some will help with music and some will help with both.
Look Ma, No
A very interesting method of composing I have seen recently is people taking their ears out of the equation and composing without listening to what they’re doing. This takes some skill, but it can lead you to all sorts of interesting places, making you think differently about the notes and chords you play. This is easiest if you are composing music on a computer or if you are able to mute your instrument.
Experiment with Different Styles
Genres of music can be a weight around your neck when it comes to songwriting. If you stick to writing and listening to one specific genre all the time you will be missing out on a world of ideas. Even the most “out there’”music genres can inspire change. Set aside a few days to only listen to music in a different genre to your usual style.
Chop it Up
This method was used to great effect by David Byrne of Talking Heads. If you have a lot of old notebooks full of lyrics or document you have kept or found interesting, cutting them up and rearranging the words to create new and interesting structures can take your lyrics to places they never would have otherwise gone.
Photocopy pages of your favorite novels or pick up cheap books at a flea market if you don’t want to waste your notebooks, magazines, or other documents.
I’m not just talking about band practices and jamming. Recording when you’re out and about can give you some amazing, interesting sounds to spark a new song.
Whether it’s a busker, the rhythm of a passing train or just atmospheric noise, any soundscape can spark your interest. It is simple enough to take a USB microphone out with you and connect it to your phone, record while you are having a coffee or walking around town.
Set a Time Limit on Your Writing Session
This can be especially useful for the perfectionists among us. Sometimes we spend too much time on the details, and setting yourself a 20 minute time limit to come up with a new song, write some lyrics or pen a beat in your DAW can mean you don’t get too hung up on the minutiae of writing. We have a world of opportunities in terms of sounds and techniques to use, but sometimes nailing down the basics can be the most effective way to get a project moving.
The important thing is finding a technique that works for you, but humans by their nature can get a bit too stuck in their comfort zone. The main benefit of most of these ideas is they cause you to think differently about music and the way you write melody or lyrics.
There are so many other ideas for avoiding stagnation. You can compose in a new time signature, pick up a new instrument or sing in a different style. The possibilities are endless if you are willing to reach out and try something new.