Writing songs can be so much fun, especially when you hit that flow where everything is coming together and sounding awesome.
It doesn’t matter what you play, the melody just seems to write itself.
However, how many times don’t we get stuck when writing songs?
For example, you might have a kick-ass groove and bass line but it stops there. The melody you try to write on top doesn’t seem to fit and the notes don’t excite you.
Even going into the next section of the song is a struggle.
It’s awful and even taking a break from it doesn’t seem to work.
What’s the solution?
Being a musician and writer myself I encounter this problem too.
I also have many ideas that I want to record and make songs out of, but sometimes it stops there and I don’t seem to be able to take it any further.
As much as I hate these situations I have found that the best solution is to move on to other ideas as quickly as possible.
Because it keeps me away from being stuck in an idea that is not leading anywhere for too long.
Also, by moving on to other ideas quickly increases my chances of starting something that will excite me and allow me to hit that flow state where everything is coming together.
Dan Graham, from the label/publisher, Gothic Storm (Hobbs & Shaw, Glass, Aquaman) relied heavily on this technique when writing 52 tracks per year.
“In one hour I would have outlined three different ideas and if all were good, great, but if one idea was a lot better than the others, I would focus on that idea.
The reason being, by working on the idea that excites you will enable you to make it better and be able to finish it.
If you would just stick with your first idea, which might not have been your best, you are wasting time. Instead, if you quickly lay out three or more ideas and pick the best one to focus on, it will save you a lot of time.”
Don’t Throw It Out
Don’t throw your idea out of the window, keep it on your hard drive and come back to it a few days, or even a few weeks later. You never know, you might have something for it then.
Get A Second Pair Of Ears
Many times a song can feel like it’s 90% finished where you have all the parts and the melody is good but you are not sure if it’s good enough, or if it needs improvement.
This is a great time to play your song to someone whose opinion you respect.
I do this myself every time and it will either confirm that the song is done or if I need to work on the melody, transitions or whatever that needs some improvement.
Study The Great
A great way of getting stuck less is to study great songs and songs that you absolutely love.
Figure out the chord progressions and how the chords change between sections. Write down how it makes you feel.
For example, the chord progression I - V - VI - III to VI - I - V - VI felt nice and mellow.
Or, I - V - II to VII - IV - I felt very uplifting.
How did the drums change?
Did it go from a hihat groove to a ride groove in the chorus?
Which chord notes does the melody land on and how does that make you feel?
Every time you feel stuck you can take your notes out and use any of these ideas. Or you can even start a new song based on these newly acquired ideas of yours.
Trust Your Instincts
If you are working on something that you know can probably be better, like a melody or a beat, move on as quickly as possible and try new ideas.
There’s no point wasting time on something that you can do better just because it might be cool or be some show-off thing (guitar players, I’m talking to you).
Sometimes the simpler it’s is, the better it is and the quicker you can find that, the easier it will be to finish your song.
Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Do you have any techniques that helps you get unstuck in your writing? Let me know in the comments below!