Tuning a guitar

Don’t Ignore Your Playing When You’re Concentrating On Songwriting

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If you find yourself needing to write a lot of songs in a short period of time, it can take all of your creative energies. At those times, other creative activities (reading, drawing, listening) might take a backseat, at least for a while.

And because of your complete focus on writing, you may find that your pool of ideas dries up quickly. The problem is that you haven’t been doing anything else creative to replenish those ideas.

So what are the things that typically help you feel more creative? If you’re a lyricist you might spend time writing new lyrics, or perhaps reading someone else’s lyrics, or even unrelated to your own songwriting you can write poetry, essays, even novels. Any of these activities still require your brain to be creative, and they can help your songwriting by being a necessary diversion.

But don’t forget perhaps one of the most valuable creative activities you can do as a songwriter: playing your instrument.

Why Playing?

What makes playing so valuable is the fact that you’re usually playing songs, or at least snippets of songs. Solos, backing rhythms, chord progressions that are parts of your favourite songs… these all have a strong and particular relevance to songwriting.

Getting music under your fingers, whether you’re a guitarist, keyboardist, bassist, or player of some other instrument, puts you in the position of feeling music in a way that shouldn’t be ignored if you’re a songwriter. It’s inspiring.

When you’re writing songs, you’re probably using your instrument to create them, but I’m talking about making sure, during writing sessions, that you pull your brain out of writing mode and putting it firmly into playing mode. In other words, you’re playing your instrument as a kind of diversion from writing.

When you do that, and then go back to songwriting, you’ll find that your pool of musical ideas has increased and songwriting actually usually becomes easier.

So the main piece of advice here is: don’t ignore independent playing — playing for playing’s sake — when you’re in a period where songwriting is demanding most if not all of your creative energies.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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