One of the biggest problems in the creative arts is the feeling that there’s “a way to do it.” At least, you’ve always done it that way. When it comes to songwriting, you may be stuck in a rut that comes from writing the same way every time.
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The creative process is not unlike taking a walk, and I often think of music as a kind of journey that we take listeners on. But if you start that walk the same way every time, it becomes more and more likely that each musical journey will have an unpleasant sameness about it. You know the feeling: your latest song sounds like all the other ones you’ve written.
That kind of “artistic bubble” isn’t usually a good thing. And it’s time well-spent to do what you can to burst through that bubble and find new ways to write.
Here’s a short list of things we all do that might limit our sense of creativity — a list of bubble-causing problems — and make it less likely that we’ll write something truly innovative or inspiring.
- Possible problem: Always writing in the same location. You wouldn’t think where you write your songs would have much to do with what your songs wind up sounding like, but you’d be surprised. So try something new: try working out new lines of lyric at a local coffee shop. Or find a piano at a local music school or university and see if the new location does anything for your creative process.
- Possible problem: Always writing on the same instrument. There’s nothing like the restrictive bubble that comes from always writing on the same instrument. The real problem is that your fingers keep moving to the same patterns. You don’t need to be able to play an instrument professionally in order to use it as a songwriting tool. Even if you’re playing at a mediocre level, a different instrument allows you to find patterns and ideas that wouldn’t necessarily occur to you on your regular instrument of choice.
- Possible problem: Always writing at the same time. Have you ever tried writing as soon as you wake up for the day? How about just before bedtime? Or between classes, or during your break at work? These may be times you’ve not considered before. Tapping into your creative brain at the times when you normally don’t might yield results you don’t normally see. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes not. But it’s certainly worth a try!
- Possible problem: You always write in the same genre. My advice? Forget genre while you’re engaged in the songwriting process. Genre is more an issue of performance anyway. So forget that you normally write country, or folk, or dream pop… and go where your creative mind leads you. If you find that your melody and chord ideas are sounding country when you’d normally not write a country tune, go with it! Exploring a new direction in this way can be liberating and inspiring, and you get the added benefit of building on your fanbase.
- Possible problem: You always use the same songwriting partners. If using the same partner is working for you, that’s great. But don’t forget that your own writing can go in exciting new directions if you explore partnerships with other musicians. It doesn’t mean you have to give up what you know is working. But trying a new song or two with someone else stimulates your own creativity, and allows you to explore music in a direction you hadn’t considered before.
Words and music need to act as partners in a song, but how do you make sure your melody is helping your lyric? That’s what Chapter 5 of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” deals with. Get it as part of the 10-eBook Bundle, or purchase it separately.