7 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block for Songwriters
Whether you are a seasoned freelance songwriter or you’re just taking your first steps into the field of songwriting, it is almost inevitable that you’ll encounter writer’s block at some point. It can be a challenge to overcome writer’s block, particularly if it’s your first time with it!
These seven tips should help you get started, whatever the case may be.
- Identify the “feelings” in your song.
Even if you’re just writing a short piece for a commercial, you must identify the feelings you’re trying to convey in your music. Are you trying to evoke feelings of happiness? Satisfaction? Excitement? Empathy? All of these feelings should come through in your music, from its pacing to the key you choose.
Try choosing any combination of the following tips to identify the feelings you’re trying to convey in your music:
- Make a list of words that describe a mood or atmosphere. Use them as lyrics or try to come up with notes and passages that match the words.
- Try transposing a melody into different keys to see how it sounds. Even happy pieces can sound heart-wrenching when played in a minor key.
- Listen to songs that have the same “feel” you want to recreate in your music. What are the similarities between the songs? What elements do you think would fit your vision?
Professoar on YouTube has some helpful tips for selecting music keys and scales.
- Mix up the order of your writing.
Are you someone who starts your song from the beginning? Maybe you’re the type who writes a hook before delving in further. Or perhaps you just have a little chord progression in your head that you build from as you work. There’s no wrong way to write music.
Sometimes it can be helpful to start from a different place in your song and work backward. You can “reverse engineer” a song by starting from the last note of a section and coming up with different ways you can reach that chord. By forcing your brain to think of things from a new angle, you might find you have a wealth of creativity.
The MangoldProject shows how you can reverse engineer songs by moving through chord progressions.
- Dig out your old work.
If you’ve been creating music for a while, there’s no doubt that you have a pile of unfinished songs sitting around somewhere. Some of them you may have abandoned for more exciting endeavors, while others may remain in limbo because you thought they weren’t good enough to finish.
If your brain just doesn’t seem to want to come up with any new content, then you may want to try this tip. Take out your old projects and work through them. You may find a passage here or there that actually isn’t as bad as you remember. You may recall why you started a project in the first place.
Patrick Breen has a great video on learning to be honest with yourself when overcoming writer’s block. Not all pieces are destined to become the greatest hits ever—we need to learn to be okay with that. When we’re aiming to move past writer’s block, the goal is just to get moving, not to create a top 10 hit (although that would be nice if it did happen!).
- Try stream-of-consciousness writing.
If you’re not familiar with the stream-of-consciousness style of writing, it’s when you just transcribe your thoughts on paper or a screen. You don’t take time to think too critically about anything. The beauty of this tip is really in its simplicity: if you’re not being your own worst critic, you are free to say whatever you wish without the pressure of performance or judgment.
The same tip applies to songwriting. You can do stream-of-consciousness writing and hope that you pick out some themes to write about. You may have an interesting string of thoughts that could be turned into a story for a song. Or you might just try playing organically and seeing if any good chord progressions or passages come out of your efforts.
Although this video is not specific to songwriting, Lavendaire does a good job talking about the purpose of stream-of-consciousness writing and how to get into the habit of doing it.
- Play around with your favorite songs.
Let’s be honest—you have to be careful with this one. You don’t want to write a copy of a massive hit inadvertently. But you can play around with your favorite songs to see which elements appeal to you. You can then tweak these elements and make them your own.
Check out this video of songs that use samples from other songs for an idea of how you can make the same sound work in different styles.
- Write in a DAW.
If you haven’t played around with a digital audio workstation, or DAW, then you are missing out on an opportunity to gain a wealth of experience—and inspiration.
In a DAW, you can compose, play around with effects, edit, and easily rearrange and remix your work as you go. And although this sounds expensive, you don’t have to have a lot of money—there are tons of free or cheap DAWs to get started with.
- Try co-writing.
Co-writing a song can be a brilliant way to hold yourself accountable and play off the creativity of others. You can get together with one or more people and have a session where you write a song. The goal is to leave the session with the song written. Of course, some people want to do the work all on their own, and that’s okay—keep in mind that this could be a great way to get back in the mode of creating things again, and you might leave with some good ideas for a piece of your own music.
Bust Through Your Writer’s Block!
It can feel like a never ending cycle, but once you’ve broken through the writer’s block, your creativity is usually untapped to a deeper level—something to be very proud of! Finally past your block? Let us know in the comments below. Ready to find more clients to produce music for? Sign up for an account on Voices today!