Using Technology to Generate Songwriting Ideas

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mixer-computerScientific research has shown that every time you do something creative, it creates a spark of artistic excitement that we call inspiration. That may seem obvious to you, but what you need to make note of here is the order of events: it’s creation first, inspiration second.

That’s not to say that we don’t all feel “spontaneously inspired” from time to time. You might, for example, find inspiration to write songs after the birth of a child, or the death of a loved one. But that kind of spontaneous inspiration is usually fleeting. Once the intense emotions surrounding the event subside, your feelings of inspiration subside as well.

The best kind of inspiration for the songwriter is the kind that comes from the creative process itself. As you put musical ideas together, you feel a shot of excitement. That excitement (inspiration) causes you to create more ideas, which creates more excitement, and so on it goes. That’s why songwriters write music: it’s exciting… when it works.

There are times when the ideas you put together just aren’t working well. For those times, you often feel that your brain just can’t create anything musically useful, and so inspiration doesn’t happen. So what can you do?

Here’s a solution that may surprise you for how effective it can be: dial up a rhythm loop on your synthesizer or computer software (such as GarageBand, Audacity, or FL Studio, for example), and just listen to it. Start pulling together various melodic loops and rhythms, and as you work, sit back and listen.

As you take in the sounds of what you just “created”, you’ll find that your creative mind starts to feel excited. Before long, you’ll start to imagine other ideas that go along with what you’ve just asked your computer to play.

What this shows is that inspiration doesn’t just come from the musical ideas that you have created in your own mind, but can also come from an outside source. We often feel inspired when we hear other people’s good music. So use that to your advantage.

The benefit of trying to create inspiration by dialling up a computerized rhythm is that you can use what you’re hearing as the starting point for a new song. Using someone else’s song in this way will get the same results, but it can be risky, possibly causing your song to take on too many characteristics of the music you’re listening to.

Technology is something we often think to use when the songwriting process is finished and it’s time to record. But why not use technology to help you out of your latest bout of writer’s block?


Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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One Comment

  1. Interesting perspective. In talking about technology, have you had the opportunity to try out the software program AutoTheory? It remaps MIDI into a very user friendly manner for playing Chord Progressions and matching Melodies.

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