How to Overcome Creative Block

Now and then every songwriter is going to find himself in a situation where the creative juices have just dried up. Perhaps you have just written a really fabulous lick and you can’t wait to write the rest of the song. But you just can’t get past that lick and finish the piece. This can be quite discouraging, especially if one has just been on a writing roll. Take heart, this is not a unique problem. Writers and producers run into this problem all the time; you aren’t alone here. Before you give up completely, there are some tips to help overcome that creative block and get back into the writing groove.

First you may want to examine why you’ve run up against a road block. Do you have a great lick and keep playing it over and over? Is it just stuck in your head and you can’t move past it? Are you having trouble figuring out what should come next in your song? If you are answering “yes” to these questions then hopefully these tips will help you to overcome and get past that creative block.

These ideas are not unique. Not every idea will work for you. Some people will be able to use just one idea to jump start their creative flow, while others may need to use a combination of these tips to come up with the rest of their song.

Evaluate your work

First thing is to step back from your song and get away from it for a bit. Have a cup of coffee and relax. Go do something else. Wash your car. Vacuum. Go grocery shopping. The point is to get away from what has you stuck in a rut for a while. Sometimes we are so fixated on what we’ve written that all we really need to do is move away from it for an hour or two. Make use of that time by listening to good songs in the style you are hoping to write. Never underestimate the value in listening to other artists. You can always learn and get inspiration from what you hear.

Change your Chords

When you are ready to revisit your piece there are many things you can do to finish up your song. Don’t just sit and look at your blank DAW screen wondering what you are supposed to do next. Examine what you already have and take a look at the chords you’ve used. They can be changed if the progression is not working out. It’s not a difficult matter to switch around your chords, add extensions like 7ths and 9ths, or voice them differently. For example: if you have used a C Am F G chord progression, try using a C Am9 F G7 to give you a little bit of a different taste. If you are always using the root of the chord as the bass note, try using the 3rd, or the 5th of the chord instead.

Switch up your Arrangement

Change up your percussion. Move things around a bit to get a bit different sound or groove. Try using Captain Beat to create some loops and grooves; try using the Artist Pattern Packs and Foundation Rhythms in the plugin to create some new rhythms.

Try adding a new instrumental sound. For example if your track doesn’t have a snare drum which gives a short, bright sound, try adding one in using Captain Beat. Become familiar with all of the different sounds that you have available to you. Captain Plug-ins can help to take your musical idea and expand upon it quickly.

The reverse of this is to take away an instrumental sound. Maybe you’ve got your track just overloaded with too many things going on. Try removing something (like that phat synthesizer) and see if that helps you to move your song forward.

Try switching your instruments around. For example, have a violin play the melody instead of the keyboard. Sometimes just hearing the melody played by a different instrument is enough to get your creative juices flowing again!

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Work with your Melody

Perhaps you need to expand on your melody. You’ve got a great lick, but it isn’t enough. Here’s a couple of good tricks that you should try.

Take your melody and turn it around so it is backwards. The simplest example would be if your melody goes C E G F…..now it can become F G E C. This doesn’t always work, but perhaps you’ll hear something that you can work with. This is what it would sound like. First it is played as written, then it is played backwards.

You can also try inverting your melody and writing it upside down. Seriously. This is actually an old trick that classical composers like Bach used all the time. What you do is look at the intervals formed by your melody. If your melody goes C E G A, then it would become C A F E . Technically the first interval C E is a Major 3rd, and the inverted melody goes from C to A which is a minor 3rd, but this way you don’t have to worry about adding in accidentals unless you really want to. This is what this example would sound like. First it is played as written, then it is inverted.

Another little trick to change up and add to your melody is to re-write your melody up or down a certain interval. Let’s take C E G F and write it up a Major third (+3). It now becomes E G B A. Then you could turn that upside down: A B G E and you’ve got a whole new idea. This is an easy way to come up with a melody that you may not have thought of on your own. This is what that whole little melody would sound like.

Collaborate with a Partner

You can always find a buddy who will be willing to collaborate with you on a song. Or perhaps you can find a friend who is willing to have you remix one of their songs. Step outside of your own comfort zone and ask a different genre of song writer what they think. Chances are that they have also gone through a period of creative block, and they may also have good tips to help you push through it.

The best song writers have also gone through a writing block so always keep in mind that you are not alone in this scenario. Now and then everyone struggles and finds themselves in a rut. Above all it is very important that you keep a positive attitude about your work and believe that you will finish that song.