Creative Songwriting Tips: Habits
Let’s talk about five tips to help you develop a highly creative songwriting mindset. Now, a lot of these tips are not going to be used directly at the time that you’re sitting down writing songs, but they’re going to become things that you do as a habit and are going to help you be a little bit more creative automatically.
Tip #1: See songwriting as exploring rather than actively writing
When you’re writing a song, you might be trying to force things into place and that can really stop your creativity in the beginning stages. What you want to do instead is to let ideas come to you. So, if you have a chord you want to use, don’t break your head trying to think of what the next chord going to be. Just slow down, play the chord or play the melody, feel it out and then just start adding little details on top of it. Songwriting and music is just a series of layers. Start adding layers and exploring the sound and it’s going to allow the song and the ideas to come by themselves. As you play with your idea, you might think of a beat or if you’re doing an arpeggio on a guitar you might think “okay so if I had a metronome to this, what would that sound like? What is the pace of the song?” If it’s a slow song maybe adding long notes and chords would sound great as another layer. Maybe you can also try adding a chord extension and an extra melody.
In this way, the song starts writing itself and you don’t have to force it. You don’t want to give yourself the pressure of making an amazing song, because that way you’d be trying to force it and it’s not going to sound natural. You’re not going to get the feel of the song.
You want to see songwriting as exploring. Don’t see it as trying to make something and trying to put all of these ideas together. Instead, just explore the song, explore the sound, and add layers little by little. That’s going to really help things flow.
Tip #2: Meditation
I know meditation is the cure-all pill of the internet, “it’s great for everything!” right? And yeah, honestly it kind of is. In songwriting it also helps a lot. But how? You’re supposed to sit still and do nothing… right?
That’s what many people think meditation is but meditation’s not really about doing nothing. It’s about focusing on one thing and there are lots of different types of meditation. The one I’m talking about is any kind of meditation for focus, like focusing on your breath. The reason this kind of meditation can help you write songs is that it’s going to allow you to create mental space and not be over-analyzing your songwriting and trying to force songs to happen. Instead, it’s going to help you to focus on just one thing, the sounds you hear. Let distractions and self-conscious thoughts fall into the background, and let whatever comes, come. When you stop thinking so much, things tend to come by themselves.
I have friends that do meditation and when they’re trying to meditate, they start getting all of these song ideas because their mind is trying to distract them. Why’s that? Well what’s the most distracting thing to a musician? Riffs, chords, lyrics, ideas for songs. Your mind will throw them at you, so take advantage of it. Try meditation and then let your mind try to distract you with song ideas.
Tip #3: Use repetitive tasks
Have you ever noticed that when somebody is thinking hard, they start to pace? They start to walk around in circles or play with a pen or they might have some kind of nervous tick. This can actually be really helpful because when you do these repetitive tasks, what you’re trying to do is distract your surface mind so that you can focus more intensely. This helps to distract the surface talk by focusing on the pen or the pacing or playing around with a ball or whatever it may be; and it helps you to focus and see the song from a fresh perspective.
Tip #4: Do something that scares you
You may be thinking “songwriting…and… doing something that scares me? What does that have to do with songwriting?”
The thing is that when you do something that scares you, it can be really empowering. It gets you out of your comfort zone and when you’re trying to write songs, the best place to write songs from is that feeling that you can do anything. You have a lot more confidence in the ideas that you have and you’ll also come up with new ideas and try new things that maybe you wouldn’t have thought of before.
If you’re not feeling very motivated then that’s going to kill your creativity. However, doing something that scares you really helps you get into that motivated state. It’s the same state that athletes get into or maybe the same state that you get into during a performance. You’re up on stage and you’re to playing something and you get lost in it. Well, when you do something that scares you, it helps you get into that empowered, motivated state where everything is just working out for you.
Tip #5: Go see bands in other genre’s
Every genre has its own world in it, so to speak. They all have a different culture, a different way of being and a different way of perceiving things. Most likely, the vibe will be different from the genre that you’re used to, so going to see bands in other genres is really going to help you open your mind and get perspective for your songwriting. Everything is perspective and especially in music. Let me give you an example.
Have you ever been in the car and put your music on shuffle, when a song pops out of nowhere and you think “oh my god WHAT…SONG…IS…THAT???”
You looked at the track info and you’re like “oh okay it’s these guys, heard them a million times before…NEXT”. Why did it sound so great when you didn’t know who it was?
You heard it with a fresh perspective. That is all.
You saw the same thing from a different point of view and that made you have a different opinion about it. Well, having different perspectives from going to see bands in other genre’s can help you in your songwriting. You’ll be able to compare and contrast your ideas with what people in other genre’s would think and how they would react. That’s how perspective is going to help you to make something that’s really really creative.
I hope these tips have helped you to become a little bit more creative in your everyday life without having to force yourself to be creative. If you practice these tips they will help you develop a highly creative mindset. They are more habits, than actual tactical techniques to do in the moment of songwriting, but over time you’ll notice creativity comes out of the blue. It comes and goes and you can’t really control it. What you can control is doing things that help you get into a creative mood or that help the ideas come to you naturally, without having to force them.
What do you do that helps you become more creative during songwriting?