Have you ever felt uninspired or unmotivated about your songwriting? Have you ever struggled with a song you couldn't complete? Whether you are a beginner or a pro, chances are you replied yes to both of these questions.
In fact, it is very common for songwriters to have those challenging feelings.
As a result, we may become professional procrastinators. Songwriting ceases to be our priority and we decide to keep postponing our most creative task, losing our focus and motivation.
Luckily, when we lack the inspiration and the motivation needed to write our next song, we can employ some proven creative techniques.
In this article, I am going to give you five ideas on some creative techniques you can use to boost your inspiration and stop procrastinating your songwriting duties.
Keep reading for more!
Photo by Kati Hoehl on Unsplash
Technique #1: Journal
As I recently highlighted in an article about Kurt Cobain, journaling can be a great help in your songwriting journey.
Cobain used his journals to jot down random images and ideas and to develop his aesthetic.
All we need to follow his example is not much: just a notebook with a pen. The result, however, can be very interesting.
First of all, by jotting down our feelings and emotions in a sort of brain dump, we can face our issues and create a more serene mental environment to work on our songs. Secondly, those words and ideas can be some excellent material to work with.
You could include bits and pieces of your journals directly into your lyrics or you could use whatever you came up with as a sort of guidance for the story behind your next song.
Technique #2: Oblique strategies
It can be very inspiring to play around with randomness.
There is a whole branch of music that is referred to as aleatory. Composers who work with this genre base their work on random choices.
I once tried to apply this principle to one of my songwriting experiments, noticing how inspiring and fun this technique can be. In this video, I let some dice decide the key, the tempo, and the main instrument for my song. I also use the cut-up technique to randomly pick some words from a couple of books.
Another tool you could use to experiment with this aleatory approach is Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies. The popular musician and producer came up with this idea in the Seventies, collaborating with friend Peter Schmidt to the creation of a stack of cards reporting some worthwhile dilemmas. By picking a card and reading the enigmatic sentence or question, you should be prompted to think about a problem or an idea. This way, you could develop some interesting concepts for your songs or find the verse you were missing to complete your latest tune. An example? Decorate, decorate. What does this repeated word evoke? Can you use it as a prompt for your next song concept? Or can you just add it to one of your verses?
You can obtain a similar result by consulting the I Ching, a traditional Chinese book anciently used for divination purposes. The enigmatic lines present in the text can trigger a lot of ideas and stories: all you need for your next song.
Technique #3: Improvisation
Have you ever tried improvising a song from start to finish, without having any chords, notes, or lyrics previously laid down?
I tried it once and it was fun. The result is quite weird (in fact, that's one of the songs reserved for the members of the Listeners' Club and not published elsewhere), but very effective.
Improvisation is one of the best tools in our arsenal. That's why we should devote ourselves to developing this skill whenever we have the time.
We can use improvisation to build interesting melodies or lyrics. We can base a whole song on improvised notes and rhymes or have a sort of fixed "plotline" as the core of our tune, for example as the chorus.
This last technique was used by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the song Give Peace a Chance. While the chorus was composed beforehand, the verses were improvised on the spot during the recording session at the Bed-in.
Another example is Richie Haven's song Freedom, improvised at Woodstock on the structure of the gospel Motherless Child.
Technique #4: Consistency and routines
While randomness and improvisation can be exceptional allies in the hunt for inspiration, consistency and routines can help you more than you expect.
A consistent songwriter is a trained songwriter. Of course, you can learn the theory and watch all the tutorials available out there, but you'll never be good at the craft unless you practice.
One of the most important things that I learned about songwriting is that we should let go of the pressure of making our music heard. In other words, if you write without thinking about how that song is going to be heard by other people, you will allow yourself to experiment. After all, we don't have to publish every song we write. Some of the songs we work on will forever be hidden in our drawers. And that's ok. The more you allow yourself to write ugly songs, the more experience you have. Who knows? Maybe one of the ugly experiments you came up with can someday become a whole different tune. Maybe that ugly experiment can be the seed from which your next hit can grow.
Routines are also quite important. Unless your personality says otherwise (and that would be okay too), having a space and time reserved for your songwriting can boost your inspiration and motivation.
If you are busy with another job or other activities and commitments throughout the day, having some scheduled sessions for your songwriting will relieve you of the pressure of having to find the time or cutting moments for your songs between one task and the other. Definitely a plus for inspiration and motivation.
Technique #5: Collaborations
What's better than sharing ideas with fellow musicians and songwriters?
By collaborating with other people, you can get out of your shell, test how your songs or song ideas are perceived, and improve them with the advice of a fellow artist. Or, on the other hand, you can help a friend improve their ideas while strengthening your knowledge and motivation in doing so.
Working with other songwriters can be a great way to learn new techniques and even refresh some music theory concepts.
There is probably no better way to boost your confidence and inspiration.
Alright, people - what do you think of these five creative techniques for songwriters? Would you like to share another technique with us? Feel free to mention it in the comments down here!
Happy songwriting and rock on!