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Thread: Techniques You Use to Break a Creative Block

  1. #1
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    Techniques You Use to Break a Creative Block

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    Hi all. I just wanted to pose a question on this forum: When you have writer's block in creating your music, what strategies in the past have helped you overcome them? Hopefully, your responses can help others surmount their own creative blocks.

    As far as me, nothing beats good old exercise. I don't like sitting and focusing for too long on one project, so jumping around (when I'm alone at the house) keeps me focused for more creativity.
    Alec Weesner | Video-Game Composer |

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    I usually keep everything in my head until I get a complete song, but there are times when progress comes to a halt and I write the lyrics down so I don't forget them.

    #1.. I believe absolutely that the finished product is in me. I know for a fact the song will be completed down the line at some point - who knows when.. next 2 minutes.. or whenever.. (one song took me 3 years).

    When I reach this point I'll write down all the lyrics I have on a piece of copier paper and leave that out in the open on a counter or desk - usually in a short pile of other unfinished songs.

    Every waking moment of every day I have melodies, drums, guitars and vocals running through my mind. Several times each day - every day - I look over those unfinished song lyrics and try to fit them with the tunes in my head. Sometimes they'll match up - sometimes not.

    Either way, I continue with the songs that have come together. Always moving forward.

    I recently combined 3 short noodles into one coherent piece - this after using them individually for warm-ups over the past 2 years.

    So, I don't do anything to get through a block, I just set it aside and keep working on the next tune.

    It all comes around eventually
    Failure - - the path of least persistence
    And, uh, oh - hire a decorator to come in here quick, 'cause... DAMN.

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    Words from the master here

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    Quote Originally Posted by Battlegun View Post
    Hi all. I just wanted to pose a question on this forum: When you have writer's block in creating your music, what strategies in the past have helped you overcome them? Hopefully, your responses can help others surmount their own creative blocks.

    Walk away. Live life. Watch people, how they interact with each other. Study the world around you.

    The award winning, multiple hit writer Dianne Warren said in an interveiw once;

    "If you just spend one day just observing the world around you, you'll have enough material for a lifetime's worth of songs"

    Yeah, too much time in front of the computer, playing with plug ins, tweeking mixes can make anyone blocked.
    Gotta balance it out with the rest of the world.

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    Get away from it and go find some trouble.

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    I found suggestions in Gary Ewer's "Beating Soungwriter's Block" (remaindered for $5 at the local book store) excellent suggestions. Back of the book says it is an imprint of Hal Leonard and lists for $25. Oddly shaped, heavy little book with weird binding, but in my opinion most helpful. I"m not connected to this publisher or author. This guy is in Nova Scotia, it says, and has his own website.

    Not all will apply to you; for example, saying, "tell others your plans and goals, and if you don't hit your goals, do some weird 'punishment'" isn't not something I'm gonna do or repsond to. But there are lots of practical ideas for both generating music and lyrics. Specific example I find helpful in the way I do it:
    1. forget preconceived idea/concept (this isn't about how to progress with work in progress, but JUST GET GOING!)
    2. Get input you're willing to accept as is--whatever it may be, with aspect of randomness; for me this is a critical step to not say, this has to be some great thing, I just want to make a song, have somethign to work with. Instead of thinking about all other topics and generes and every possibility (tends to be what keeps me sitting, spinning, no progress) I accept I will go with ______.
    a. your notebooks and prior stuff; go through and find something that causes you to stop and review. Sketch, picture,
    news item, something you noted for future use....whatever; OR,
    b. go to public place and observe people and note your reactions; OR,
    c. go to wiki source and hit "random article." Henry VIII wrote poetry? Who knew?
    3. React. Some reactions you have are descriptive, some more emotion/judgement.
    4. Write these down in general categoreis, not getting too hung up on which category but keeping it in mind.
    5. Pull from more descriptive stuff for verse, more emotional for chorus and sketch out lyrics.
    6. This is 'lyric first approach,' so begin to hear/intuit rhythm and prosody of language and melody for
    key phrases you like.
    7. Begin working with your instrument(s) to add music.
    8. Do this in many ways--as an exercise for "five minute song," just to get something flowing. Or maybe you find
    now it's something to really focus on. But it gets you donig somethign at a time when by hypothesis of this thread--
    "I have writer block, can't do this thing I want"--you are not in fact doing that thing.

    So with this idea, the POINT is to be mechanical, to break that barrier, whatever it is, and present your known 'creative, engaged, timeless' side with something to chew on. Not every 'meal' is good, of course, but gets you going.

    Added bonus for me was that working through some of this (I'm still working with this volume), one can come to recognize something about own limitation or strength. I might want to write some kind of love song and be trying to do this and recognize sorry, this is not home base, it's gonna be more difficult than other area that comes easily. Work from strength/comfort or broaden approach, learn new kind of thing? Basic artistic question not answered definitively, but put in play.

    And some principles are good ideas that I need to keep in mind but I just know that I'm going to insist on bending or not observing that pricniple because it is core part of my thing. Eg, while I want to, as this author suggests, 'use common words that you could hear in the grocery line,' I'm still gonna wind up having stuff like "ad infinitum" in there sometimes. Whatever that says about me, too good/bad--at least for now!

    Clips of creative people talking about their process can also be inspiring. You can easily startpage search for these, whatever you like.

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    I've never experianced "writer's block" per se - however, I beleive there is a reason. I constantly have a guitar in my hands or am sitting in front of a piano - or have some other instrument in front of me (at least if I'm not sleeping. If it's not happening on guitar I'll sit at the piano, or pick up a mandolin or lap steel or blow a harmonica - it I keeo searching, I'll find something.

    I truly beleive the muse is continuously checking to see if a writer is ready for inspiration - however, it you don't have an instrument in front of you (or a writing tablet etc.) - the muse may assume you simply are not looking and will pass by.

    I also believe that you need a specific "work area" with instruments, a computer, pens, paper etc. all at hand in an organized manner - that way when the muse does visit, you can take advantage of the gift being offered.

    I know for many people it is difficult to commit the time or space I have suggested - and I understand that inspiration can hit while driving or in the shower, etc. (sometimes the muse may be overly generous)- however, like any other pursuit in life, the only way to improve is to make the committment of time (and whatever physical resources may apply).

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    Pretend to be somebody else, writing someone else's music. Or pretend to write a song for an artist you like.
    Write a song/piece based on small theoretical/conceptual idea, like using nothing but sus chords, using only 3 different certain notes for the main melody/hook, etc.
    Write as much music as possible within one day without judging what you do while you do it. When you're stuck, pick the first random idea and go with it without further thought. (You could also make yourself a set of "cards" with random ideas, so you can draw a card when you're stuck and just do what the card says.)
    Randomly choose two completely unrelated chords and try to make them fit through the use of melody & voice-leading etc.
    I used to do cassette-recordings. I still do. But i used to too.

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    Listen to music. Old music. New music. Old music that's new to you, whatever.

    If you're going to force yourself to write, then try to do something different..something you usually wouldn't do. Take the second or third chord to another root...just try something new. It might get a melody sparked.
    "No healthy person waits in line with a slew of geriatrics on a Sunday morning for pancakes" - RFR

  10. #10
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    Move the capo up a couple of frets.
    Switch to a different instrument; bass, piano, etc.
    Force it then fix it later.
    Toss the song and start on something else.

    Exercise.... yeah, songs come to me while I'm out riding my bike, but I forget them before I get back to the house. lol

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