The very act of just getting started can often be the biggest obstacle to writing your next song.
You often get the urge to write even if you don’t have an idea ready to go or any song lyrics that you want to put to music, and we know that noodling around on a guitar or a piano and waiting for inspiration to strike isn’t always the most effective way of developing ideas (if you haven’t watched my free songwriting class which goes into detail about this, click here).
So how do you get over that blank page and come up with some inspiration and ideas for your songs?
Well here are a couple of extra strategies that I use myself to come up with ideas for songs from scratch or to develop ideas so they become useable for songwriting.
Strategy #1 – ‘Steal’ a groove from another song.
Quite often songwriters have a go-to way of writing. This might be that you pick up your guitar and noodle around. For me its my piano. The problem with this is that as musicians we have a certain style of playing and we tend to stick to creating grooves or riffs we can already play. This means that by sticking to your go-to way of songwriting, you’re already limiting what you’ll come up with purely out of habit.
So this is why you’re going to ‘steal’ a groove from another song – and preferably another instrument.
Let me explain how this works.
Say I hit up YouTube and I’m browsing around and I hear a pretty folk song that has a gorgeous guitar groove that I like. What I’ll do is go to my piano and I’ll recreate that guitar groove on the keys.
The beauty of doing this is that the kind of groove you’d come up with on a guitar will often be completely different to what you’d come up with on a piano because of the nature of the instrument. (Eg: you strum up and down more or finger pluck a rhythm on guitar whereas you may usually stick to single chords on piano, just as an example.)
So by ‘stealing’ a groove and recreating it on your go-to instrument you’re already creating sounds outside your normal repertoire.
Also it means a lot of the hard work is done. You already have the vibe of the song from the groove, the tempo and you can probably head what kind of drum track you’d add to it, so all you need to do then is add in the chords, structure and melody 🙂
By the time you’re finished writing your song it will sound NOTHING like the original so don’t worry about the whole copying thing.
Strategy #2 – Start with a riff
As singer/songwriters we often get bogged down with the problem of lyrics. We want to write something deep and meaningful and if we can’t come up with a decent song idea/ title/ hook straight away we end up getting frustrated.
If this happens to you my advice is, DON’T focus on melody. Focus on starting with a riff instead. Make your song riff based.
This can be a catchy piano riff that repeats throughout the song and forms the backbone of the groove or a bass line. A huge example of this is Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. You know what song it is right from the first note of that catchy bass riff he uses. (Actually you know which song it is even from the drums at the start) but you get what I mean.
Another great example of a riff based song is Caro Emerald’s ‘A Night Like This’ which uses a piano riff to form the song. Or Ray Charles’ ‘Hit The Road Jack’ has a catchy descending riff.
If you’re really stumped just search for ‘Bass Riffs’ online and you’ll find heaps of sites where you can download bass riffs for free and just pick one you like and use it to start off your song.
So there are two of my strategies that I use to get ideas and to spark off songs even when I don’t feel like I have a song ready to go. Just give them a try and see how you go. You don’t have to write anything perfect, just practice these techniques by writing short little songs for fun.
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