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The EvO:R-Pedia Musicians Tips Section
Welcome to the EvO:R Tips Section. We call this section EvO:R-Pedia because it is like a complete
reference library for Indie musicians...Just about every tip has been used so you won't find false
promises and a series of books to buy after reading each tip. This section was put here by musicians
so that people that followed can take this knowledge and use it's power.
Breaking Songwriting Ruts
By Nancy Moran
Whether you're a beginning songwriter or a seasoned
professional, at some point in your songwriting career it will
happen: your melodies all start to sound the same, your lyrics
all have a certain familiar theme, you constantly use the same
song form, and you can't seem to break out of the key of
G-you've fallen into a songwriting rut!
Reprinted with permission from
If any of this sounds familiar, it's time to shake things up a
bit. You've found a process and a pattern that work for
you and you've used it over and over again. It may be easy
to write this way, but it's certainly not inspiring. So,
what's a creative songwriter to do?
Here are 10 ways that you can break out of your songwriting rut
and re-energize your songwriting muscles:
1. Change your songwriting process - Do you always start
with the lyrics first? Then, just for fun, write a melody first
and put lyrics to it later. If you typically start with
the melody first, then do the opposite. Write the words
first! It may seem difficult, even awkward, at first. But
it will also help to stretch your songwriting muscles.
2. Change your environment - Do you always write in the
same room of the house? Maybe you have a studio or an office
that you've set up just for that purpose. Well, just for
kicks, write somewhere else. Go outside. Go to a
park. Go to the library. Try the basement or the
attic. Anywhere that's different for you. A change
of scenery may do you good.
3. Vary your time - Many people write at the same time
every day. While this may work well for scheduling
purposes, it also limits your songwriting perspective. If
you always write first thing in the morning, try writing at
night before you go to bed. Conversely, if you're a night
owl and always write late, then write something when you roll
out of bed in the morning. Or try writing in the middle of
the day, perhaps during your lunch hour. You may come up
with ideas you don't think about at other times.
4. Learn a new chord progression - An easy and fun way to
do this is to learn to play some new cover tunes. Current
radio hits, classic rock anthems, a local band's dance tune,
Broadway's finest numbers - it doesn't matter what you choose,
as long as it's different from what you normally do. Learn
to play these new songs. Then use the chord progression to
write a brand new song. Or use the new chords in a totally
new pattern. You'll be amazed how a couple of new chords
and patterns can spark your creativity to write songs in a whole
5. Change your instrument - Do you normally play acoustic
guitar when you write? Try sitting down with an electric guitar
instead. Or use a nylon string classical guitar.
Each instrument naturally has different overtones and lends
itself to different styles. For a more radical change, try
writing on piano. If, on the other hand, you typically
write on the piano, try an electric piano, organ, or
vibraphones. Switch to guitar. Or -
6. Use no instrument at all! - I find that I write some of
my best songs in the car while I'm driving. One reason is
because I'm not restricted by what I can and can't play on the
guitar or piano. I can sing any melody I want. I can
envision an entire band or orchestra in my head, if I want to.
It's liberating! If you always write with an instrument close at
hand, you might want to try this approach. Put the
instruments away for a while and see what naturally comes to
7. Start with a rhythm track - A "groove" is an excellent
way to establish an emotional feel, even before you've got a
melody or lyrics. And with today's technology, you can
play a variety of rhythm "loops" on your computer to help set
the stage for a new kind of song. If you have trouble
writing those elusive "up-tempo" songs that publishers are
always asking for, try this approach. Starting with an
up-tempo rhythm track might be just what you need.
8. Co-write - If you're used to writing by yourself,
co-writing can bring out a side of your songwriting that you
didn't even know existed! Look for a co-writer whose strengths
are your weaknesses and vice versa. If you co-write a lot
already, but are still feeling stagnant, maybe it's time to find
a new co-writer or two. Try co-writing with someone in a
different genre - i.e. if you're a country songwriter,
look for a co-writer who typically writes R&B or dance music -
the results can be surprising.
9. Break habits - If your songwriting's in a rut, maybe
it's because your life is in a rut too. What other habits
can you break? Little things-like driving a different way to
work, shopping at a new grocery store, taking a shower in the
guest bathroom-can make a big difference in your creativity.
10. Stop and Recharge! - Stale songwriting may simply be
your brain's way of saying it needs a breather. So, take a
break from writing! Live a little. Vacation with your
family. Go see a movie with friends. Take a nap with
the cat. A little down time may be all you need to
revitalize your songwriting.
Don't wait until your songwriting gets stuck in a rut. Use
these ten tips to get out of the doldrums and keep your
songwriting muscles in top shape!