Songwriting Woes

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Rawkmann, Nov 9, 2016.

  1. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    So I kind of have a weird compulsion about songwriting that really gnaws at me a good bit. Ideally I try to write at least a few riffs every day or so, and maybe even a full song if I get inspired enough. The problem is that I expect to strike gold every time I get in front of the computer, and well, that doesn't always happen and it makes me feel like sh*t the next day. I know in my head that it's completely unrealistic to think everything I write will be great, but sometimes I can sit down and everything sounds musical and I get really inspired. But some days I can sit down with my guitar and everything just literally sounds like noise, and I end up wasting 4 hours trying to force something good to come out. It can get so bad that I'm afraid to try writing because I don't want to deal with the frustration of not being able to write a good song.

    If anyone has found themself in a similar situation, I'd be open to hearing ideas on how to deal with those feelings and maybe get past them.
     
  2. crankyrayhanky

    crankyrayhanky SS.org Regular

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    I am a confident songwriter, but I can go months with boring riffage before I get some magic. Those months aren't wasted, it's a necessary part of the process. . Then I may get like 5 cool tunes in a row.
    One thing I noticed- avoid learning cover tunes. That seems to sap originality in me.

    GLWSW!
     
  3. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    That sounds really tough.


    You should write a song about it.


    Seriously though, try something like sitting down and trying to write the worst/most derivative riff/song you possibly can. Generally you'll find you accidentally come up with something great after a few goes.

    Set yourself challenges like using a scale you've never used before, or only using a particular set of intervals or something.

    This only has to be something you use to get yourself started, rather than thinking "I'll do an entire song only on one string/only with major 6ths or whatever". Unless you want to build an entire career out of gimmick based songs on youtube.
     
  4. inaudio

    inaudio Hack Fraud

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    This sounds all too familiar - I'll try and keep my reply short!

    Sounds to me like you're setting yourself up with the expectation of having to come up with something every time you sit down and start writing. Inspiration tends to come in bursts for most people. I basically hadn't written anything for half a year and I just wrote six new songs over the last three weeks.

    The thing that really helped me adjust to this "ebb and flow" of creativity was to actually produce, record and release a song idea I had written. It takes a lot of time and effort when you execute your songs into something representable. It's also a very fun and ultimately rewarding experience when you get to commission artwork and potentially hire session musicians. The time that it takes to release the material basically eats up what used to be the "drought" period of your songwriting and replaces it with a different type of creative project.

    Also the break that you take from coming up with new ideas allows you to take in and absorb new influences. This might come in the form of new instruments, new music, general occurring themes in your life and so forth. This naturally gives a very inspired place to start working on new music once the time is right.

    The second piece of advice is to let your creativity dictate what and how you write. I had a period of time where I was forcing myself to write music in a DAW and nothing happened. Then I picked up an acoustic and all of a sudden I was coming up with new songs all the time. Funnily enough this changed again and the last six songs I wrote were done strictly in my DAW.

    Basically just produce, record and release the material you have with care. Life by its very nature is limited and you're not going to be churning out songs for eternity. Embrace the fact that every time you release something it'll be a part of the limited discography that you produce during your lifetime. I hope that helps! :yesway:
     
  5. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for the input guys. Realistically, I think I just need to accept that creative ideas can't always be forced and sometimes it's best to wait for inpsiration to strike. Also, I like the suggestion of finding different ways to write music, 99% of the time when I write it's in front of a DAW so maybe I'm just getting burnt on that particular method. Time to get my old acoustic out of the closet I suppose.
     
  6. bpprox22

    bpprox22 String Breaker

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    Although I encourage you to watch the entire video, around 2:30 is where he sheds some light on composing riffs and how you need to forget about time altogether.

     
  7. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    Thank You.
     
  8. Cygnus

    Cygnus Hyperspace Traveller

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    I understand that feeling. I tried to write for years in front of a DAW. It ended up just tying me up - I'd try to record and double track a riff perfectly, then fiddle with the tone, etc. Then my creative energy would just run out and I'd be frustrated.

    What really changed for me is when I decided to start writing exclusively in Guitar Pro 5. Now I often write without an instrument in front of me. It's crappy midi sounds, but that's ok, because I'm not trying to get a perfect sound. Instead I'm focusing more on composition: the notes, the harmonies, melodies chords, song structure, etc. That is alot more inspiring to me! I also get more motivated to complete songs when I have riffs etched in stone (tabbed). Seeing my creations visually helps to keep it going, even if I put it down and come back another day.

    Just my two cents, hope it helps.
     
  9. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Creative ideas must be "forced" or they will not happen. Perhaps "force" is the wrong word. Rather, they must be willed into existence. After all, your guitar does not come up with ideas by itself out of the blue, ready for you to pluck down and take the credit. As a composer, you have agency and a rather large (absolute, in fact) influence on the outcome of your composition.

    We need to ditch this idea that there is a "natural" creative state that should remain undisturbed, that artistry—the creation of artifacts—is somehow the result of happy accidents (and I am considering perception to be a creative act). It is all too easy to attribute creation to random chance when you hear stories about people who are struck by a sudden flash of inspiration, writing some awesome song in the space of four minutes. What we usually don't hear in conjunction with such arguments is that these folks are deep in it, having practiced their asses off and written (or attempted to write) songs many times before. As it turns out, the more you do something, the better you get at that thing.

    Now this is something that I would encourage, but maybe we think about it in different ways. When you record into a DAW, it instantly becomes concrete, a fixed document. The plasticity of the music vanishes, and we really should strive to retain that plasticity for as long as possible when composing. I think if you sat down and made a point to write a 16 measure chorus (a finite and attainable goal!) with your guitar rather than aimlessly noodling into a workstation, you would find that you need to flex your creativity in order to fill the space, and you would still have the option to go back and improvise through rough patches to get something closer to an ideal version of your tune. Then, when you hit the DAW later, you are recording an idea that you have thought about and worked out before. Things may still change when you punch in, but you will have the benefit of having gone through many different scenarios to feel the musical space before doing so.


    I second this. Sometimes my counterpoint is better when I put down the instrument and work the music out with pencil and paper. Not having the limitation and ingrained habits of physicality can offer an avenue toward creativity. If nothing else, not being able to hear what I'm doing (or having to rely on my mind's ear) encourages me to set aside my judgment and actually write more notes. After, I will absolutely check over my work with an instrument in hand. I've used this method recently to get over a particular hump in a piece I'm working on. Slowing down and deliberately writing every note allowed me to pull off some tricky harmonic ideas that I was struggling to keep track of while improvising. It helps to be able to sketch multiple versions of an idea too.
     
  10. inaudio

    inaudio Hack Fraud

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    I agree with this and perhaps I should have been a bit more careful with my wording earlier. I really wasn't trying to give the impression that being creative is some effortless or accidental activity because it really isn't. I do think, however, that in order to be creative you have to actively find a way to get yourself into a creative state. What I was trying to convey is that setting expectations and forcing yourself to perform isn't always helpful and in those cases a little break may help you cool down a bit. I know that middle-of-the-road arguments aren't sexy but I think that the key point is in being smart about how you guide your efforts.

    Anyway, it'd be interesting to hear from Rawkmann if the suggestions have helped!
     
  11. Karmaic

    Karmaic SS.org Regular

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    We've all been there buddy. I have to throw down about 10 crap riffs for every good one. Like you, some days I dont even want to play because Im in a "rut". But some days, when I pick up the guitar, it seems like everything I play is magic. It comes and goes. Just keep jammin man.
     
  12. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Everybody writes garbage at some point.

    I face the same issues, and more.

    If I sit down to write stuff, I'd say there's a 10% chance of it ever developing into a song for me. I tend to write stuff that is too technical for me to enjoy playing, and then get frustrated and throw a "woe-is-me" pity party for myself. Sometimes I dial it back and just write stuff that I enjoy writing, and then it seems like the entire process of writing, recording, and then later, playing out, is more enjoyable.

    Another problem I have is with lyrics. I hate having to write lyrics. But sometimes, I jot stuff down just to let it out, like, you know, it happens organically, and those end up being the lyrics I look back on and think "hey, that wasn't so bad."

    And, then there is my biggest problem, which is bundling material. I came up not just playing metal, but I played in punk bands, alternative rock bands, funk bands, blues bands, country bands, blah blah, and I cannot, for the life of me, write a bundle of songs that have any unity between them without them all sounding exactly the same. Nobody really wants a funk blues jam in the middle of their tech death album, except maybe Estradasphere. But, the issue is that I'll record a bunch of songs, and it all seems good during recording, then I listen back to the material and think, "Ugh, none of this stuff goes with any of the other stuff," so I might have to take a song that I really enjoyed writing and recording, and shelf it, and then have to go back and write and record something more stylistically fitting.

    I even worked on a concept album, that had one free-flowing multi-movement opus that spanned over 45 minutes. The project took about a month to write, to months for everyone to learn, and then we played it out a couple of times, and started recording it, and then the drummer dropped out, saying the song had too many changes in it and no one was going to want to hear a song that had death metal, acoustic soft rock, prog, and up tempo pop mixed together. :shrug:
     
  13. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear Vendor

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    So much this :yesway:

    Try and forget actual released music as the end goal of the exercise.
    You sit down to write, force yourself to write, and whether you like it or not, you have written. The exercise was a success :) The more you do this exercise, the better you will get. Sure you'll still throw things out but it will be more a matter of taste, rather than quality.
     
  14. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Your drummer's just bitter. Hire a session player and record dat shirt.

    I can take this advice myself. I have a tendency to plan out my compositions and work toward their realization. Thanks for the comment.

    Edit: 5000 posts!
     
  15. Jano

    Jano SS.org Regular

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    The fear of failure is something everyone needs to overcome at some point. I know it's hard, but just write music because you love it, that "yeah now Im gonna make the best song ever" mentality will always throw you off, because probably only 5% of the people here have that ability (after tons of fails writing).

    Just strive to make songs, and in the process of making you should learn of your strenghts and weaknesses.

    Now again, have fun with it, writing music is pure trial and error, be mindful of your skill "level" as a songwriter, as I said before, if you are every time expecting to write a hit song, and finally not achieving it you are most likely gonna stop writing music.

    Keep up the work!

    Cheers
     
  16. LiveOVErdrive

    LiveOVErdrive SS.org Regular

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    I can come up with stuff that sounds good. My problem is I just have nothing to say. And I hate instrumental albums.
     
  17. tender_insanity

    tender_insanity SS.org Regular

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    And do remember that you might write a song you hate but many others do like. And it does work the other way as well. Like a 1000:1 ratio :p
     
  18. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Blames it on "the rain"

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    Just roll 2 dice and let random chance structure a song for you. It can shape the blue print of where your going and you have to be creative to make it sound good. Example; throw the dice and whatever number you get dictates the key. 2-12=c#-c. Throw them again, odd number is minor key, even number is major key. Throw them again, add them up and that is the time signature, throw again, total below 6 means time sig is x/4, above 6 is x/8, if you hit a 6, re roll or pick whichever you like. Next roll will determine your mode, 2-7 is obvious, 8-12, just subtract 7 to get your mode.

    I rolled a 6(F); I rolled even(Fmaj); I rolled a 7(7/x); I rolled a 9(>6=7/8); I rolled a 10(10-7=3rd mode of F maj is A Phrygian). There we go, the first part of this song will be in A Phrygian in 7/8. Then you can do it again, and find a musical way to modulate to whatever the dice give you for the next key and time signature.
     
  19. duffbeer33

    duffbeer33 ..working on my mix Contributor

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    I share the same experiences. Sometimes I'll have tons of ideas and want to get them all down into demo form immediately. But more frequently I'll just have dry spells for weeks or even months at a time. I personally think that during those phases, you should learn cover songs or look at tabs of songs you like. It has always helped me. You may find a chord or scale that you really like, and that might inspire you as base to write some new stuff.

    I think you are spot on in saying that it is unrealistic to expect to write a great song so quickly. I remember reading some old interviews of James Hetfield from Metallica talking about how he had tons and tons of riffs just "laying around" on old computers. I imagine that he wrote the riffs, couldn't figure out how to get them into a good song structure, and just gave up on them. Even the pros face the same challenges we do. Inspiration doesn't come easy, but you shouldn't place so much pressure on yourself. This whole songwriting thing is supposed to be fun for you, not stressful!
     
  20. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I just wrote a program to come up with chord progressions, based off of your idea.

    The first progression is Dbsus2 - B# add 9 - E maj - Fb aug
    The second is Cb add 9 - E# sus 2 - B add 9 (I think I'll try this one)

    I'm sure these results will be far out, man.
     

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