difficulty writing songs/riffs

Discussion in 'General Music Discussion' started by zarg, Nov 30, 2017.

  1. zarg

    zarg guitar and computer nerd

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    hi,

    I'd love to get more into writing songs. I have all the gear I need: a guitar, a bass, ampsimulations for both, some cool plugins for piano and strings (I prefer symphonic metal) and something to program drums. Of course also a DAW, good headphones and speakers... I can also use those items fairly well.

    I fail to get a starting point. Mostly I try to start with a riff, or I program drums and play something over it to see what comes out. But a lot of times its just the same chuggy 0-0-0-7-8-0-0-5-0-0-0 generic style riff.

    I'm really inspired and I love the new Epica record and I'm trying to steer into that direction, but fail at finding a good start. Even when I have a melody in my head and try to play it on guitar it doesn't sound that great or too boring.

    do you guys have any tips for me? resources, places to start? other approaches?

    I will get a 7 string tomorrow in the mail (NGD will follow), maybe that sparks some ideas (generally different tunings could be interesting)

    thank you!
    cheers!
     
  2. InCasinoOut

    InCasinoOut syncopAZN

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    Start by learning as much as you can of music by artists you like. It can be just riffs or even full songs, but the more you learn, the more you absorb and will naturally start to write in that style. You will get to writing your own music that way much faster than plodding along by trial and error without much fundamental songwriting knowledge. I compare it to the same reason why artists recreate paintings as studies, or woodworkers would start working from someone else's plans before creating their own. Learning what other's have done before you doesn't necessarily stifle creativity, in fact I believe it just gets things going!
     
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  3. Sumsar

    Sumsar SS.org Regular

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    Try and write some different types of riffs. I also used to do a lot of the chuggy thing with primarily playing the lowest string.
    Nowadays I usually start with a chord progression - it lends it self much better to melodic styles as you actually have a base melody from the chord progression - and then you can try and add melodies on top of that with strings / piano and the second guitar track.

    Also remember in metal there is not really any rules, so your chord progressions does not have to be diatonic - so try and experiment.
    Also also you don't need to stick to bar chords - all it takes to make a chord is two notes. So experiment - try and combine different notes on different strings and find chords you like. Nevermind what the chord is called, as long as it sounds cool!
     
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  4. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire 8 string hoarder

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    grab a scale book, start to noodle through some scales til you find one that sounds cool, then try and build chords out of the scale that give a cool progression. It's a fun little exercise I do from time to time when I'm in a rut. I agree about playing along to songs you like/learning them to get the basic idea of the song structure. I like to just turn on pandora or spotify on shuffle and just noodle along with songs and see where the songs take my ideas, I've come up with some really fun riffs by doing that.
     
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  5. smokiekouki

    smokiekouki SS.org Regular

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    Man, I'm in the same boat. I usually just noodle around until I find something that sounds cool. I will say, I've found owning multiple guitars helps with the creative process because they all feel different, which in turn, makes me reach different levels of inspiration depending on how I vibe that day. I honestly might come up with one or two riffs a month, but when it happens, it is extremely satisfying.
    The 7 string will definitely help imo
     
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  6. HeavyMetal4Ever

    HeavyMetal4Ever SS.org Regular

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    I'd also suggest learning a bunch of songs and techniques from genres you usually don't listen to or play.
     
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  7. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoils = tr00

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    For me, the key is your own expectations, and keeping them open-minded and humble. You need to be able to start small and write because it's fun, before comparing yourself to other artists. Making a song like Epica, let alone an entire record, takes multiple experienced people a toooon of time. If you approach songwriting with your eye on a goal like that, everything you start working on is going to feel tiny and bad by comparison. I don't recommend writing with the goal of sounding huge and epic and complex because that takes a lot of time and effort and that's not very motivating when you're just starting a song.

    So what I do suggest, is go into it with no expectations, just the idea that "I just want to write something for the next 15 minutes and enjoy myself doing it, whatever it may result in". When you've taken that pressure off yourself, you can view whatever simple riff or melody idea you end up with for what it actually is: a simple idea. Which is what EVERY piece of music and art starts with.

    It's much easier then to take that simple idea and start playing with it, and if you keep experimenting with it and keeping your curiosity going, no presumptions, then before you know it you've spent 5 days writing a 13-minute symphonic masterpiece. Because you didn't sit down on day one and think: "Ugh, finishing this song is gonna take days!". That, to me, is two very different mindsets that result in very different songwriting experiences.

    Lastly, I think that writing with the intention of ending up in a similar style as your favorite artists is just a bad idea. Your taste is subconscious and accurate, so if you just write and have fun, your taste will still be there in the back of your mind guiding you along. You don't need to decide what you want your song to sound like before writing it, just start writing and your taste will keep you on the right path anyway. That way, songwriting becomes an adventure rather than just math and reverse-engineering the latest Epica record.
     
  8. NickLAudio

    NickLAudio Audio/Video Engineer

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    Keep in mind, when writing songs, they need to sound good as a whole "band". A sick guitar riff with crappy drums and bass will be just that, crappy. A super simple riff with strong drums and bass reinforcing it will sound awesome and powerful. Don't discredit a riff until you hear it in a mix with every track going full bore. If it sounds like it doesn't fit, maybe change it a bit. Still doesn't fit? Well maybe it's a crappy riff haha. Just jam on different instruments and have fun, your musical instincts will move the song forward naturally.
     
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  9. duffbeer33

    duffbeer33 ..working on my mix Contributor

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    What tuning do you play in? Try changing it up.

    Learning songs has always worked best for me. Especially if there's a section that has interesting chords or something. It really opens doors.
     
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  10. Jamey36

    Jamey36 SS.org Regular

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    In my opinion,inspiration can not be forced.It sounds like you have all the tools and know how to use them,so let your playing do the rest.I never try to intentionally write something in a certain "genre",but find that many times while trying to come up with something similar to a genre,come up with something that sounds much different,but I really like.As others have said,keep an open mind(genre wise)and see what happens.Once you have a riff or piece of one that you like,build from there.If YOU like it,progressing from there will come naturally.
     
  11. fps

    fps Kit

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    Don't second guess yourself. Music isn't one guitar riff, it's a combination of elements and how they come together, especially with the kind of music you're listening to.

    The danger though is you end up writing nothing because you want everything to be massive and epic but don't put the individual building blocks in place to make that happen. Commit to one thing, finish the song, then review it and edit as necessary.
     
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  12. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoils = tr00

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    Oh and another thing worth keeping in mind, is that not all great songwriters/composers write on an instrument. A guitar has a ton of limitations, your playing habits puts even more limitations on it, but your imagination on the other hand is limitless. Lots of classical composers worked with nothing more than paper and quill, and lots of amazing songs have been written in the shower or in the car or making breakfast. I can't say I've written a song "on guitar" in a pretty long time, what I use it for is mainly to give me some basic cowboy chords while I work out melodies by singing them or making them up in my head. Making up riffs or more interesting chord textures generally comes later for me, once I have the melody, chord progression and lyrics down already. To me it's more rewarding to add cool guitar parts to an existing song than it is to just sit and noodle on my guitar hoping I'm gonna write something if I just noodle long enough.

    So for me, learning new scales or buying new gear etc. doesn't really do anything for my creativity, that just benefits my guitar playing but I see the two as different things.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  13. fps

    fps Kit

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    This is great advice.

    You may also want to consider what is DRIVING your particular songwriting process, for any particular song. Is it the riffs? Is it the rhythms? Is it the vocal? Is it a particular melody? Is it a chord progression? If so, on what kind of instrument? Whatever it is, there needs to be a succession of progressions in that particular thing.

    Focusing on that one thing and building around it might be a good way to find how your mind is attuned when it comes to writing. Are you most successful when you start with writing all the keys? Do you find melodies come to you, and you can write around them easily? Or do you find things work best when you have all the drum rhythms sorted? Are you writing each section for a particular mood? If so, write out the moods you want to create and then write the music to those moods. Lots of ways to try things out, perhaps you could start one piece of music with each approach and see which one you naturally get furthest in.

    Oh to have the time to do this kind of thing though!
     
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  14. binz

    binz SS.org Regular

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    I usually have the problem of having several indivual parts but the problem is linking them. I am not an expert in music theory but know some basics without knowing everything in and out. Thats where these two tools come in pretty handy:

    With this one you can find a scale based on the notes you play in your riff or melody for examples
    https://www.scales-chords.com/scalefinder.php

    This one gives you the notes of a particular scale on the guitar
    http://www.looknohands.com/chordhouse/guitar/index_rb.html

    Also theres plenty of easy music theory tutorials on youtube. I like some of the ideas that these guys from "hack music theory" have although I find their approach often a bit robotic. Yet it might give you inspiration in any way.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  15. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    Try writing on bass.

    When riffing, try it on acoustic. If it sounds great there, it will translate.

    This is all in addition to other great posts here.
     
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  16. Ebony

    Ebony "The Sugarcoater"

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    One of the most important parts of writing music when being inspired is reviewing it afterwards when you're NOT inspired. if it sounds like shit when you're moody, it sounds like shit.
     
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  17. Louis Cypher

    Louis Cypher SS.org Regular

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    Sounds like you have all the tools and the inspiration and you've sat down and just drawn a blank and are poss beating yourself up over the fact you cant get out of your head what you want even tho you have everything you thought you needed to do so. I had this a while back when I got a whole load of new recording software and plug ins and drum machine etc and I was so excited I sat down to write and basically spent the new week or two getting more and more frustrated that nothing was coming forth and all the great ideas I had before I got all the gear had disappeared. All the advice so far is great advice. My only addition would be to step away from all your new gear leave it till you have something concrete you like, whether that's a riff, a lyric, a melody whatever and then go back to it all and work on it. Having too many tools can blind you as to where to start and you forget that where it really starts is in your head, not with an instrument or a plug in.
    Good luck tho hope you find your way! :)
     
  18. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoils = tr00

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    My "solution" to that problem has been to try to write quickly, and refine it later on instead of spending too long trying to get every part right the first time. It ties in to my first post about keeping your expectations open, focus on getting a strong outline of the song (melody, chords, lyrics) before getting lost in all the arrangement details of each part. If you write a verse, and immediately start developing it with riffs and drum beats and synths then you might be a little spent before you've even started writing the chorus. And that's how you end up with all these parts that don't seem to fit together. I like having the full length of the song with lyrics done before I start arranging, it's a lot easier then to get an overview on how to get the parts to flow well into each other.
     
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  19. DLG

    DLG not guthrie govan

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    I agree with whoever said that you should start by figuring out songs by your favorite artists and learning how to play them.

    You then get a better idea of how the type of music you like and would like to write was written and put together by your favorite bands, which will make it easier for you to start putting together your own because you've already dissected the riffs and compositions and have a good idea of how they work.
     
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  20. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire 8 string hoarder

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    another thing I've found that helps is if you have access to a keyboard or keyboard sim on your DAW, you can noodle around with that and see what pops up. I've gotten some good ideas from playing around with a keyboard.
     
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