Writing Songs Away From Your Instrument

Jerry A. Greene
Jerry A. Greene

Question: I have been writing songs for about 4 years. I am finding that most of my songs, recently, are starting to sound the same. I know that they sound like “my style”, but I’m growing tired of the sound and would like to know if you have any suggestions for getting out of my rut. Thanks.
Answer: Believe it, or not, you aren’t alone! Every professional songwriter goes through the same feeling that all their songs are starting to sound the same. Learning to write away from your instrument assures that you don’t get stuck into the familiar patterns you are used to.

Suffering From Songwriters Block

It is completely normal for songwriters to get into this rut from time to time. Just keep your mind open to new ideas. Here are some ideas that will hopefully help you get through some of the the mental blocks you are feeling:

Put Down That Guitar And Step Away From The Piano

The first thing you will need to do is to put the guitar down, or get away from the piano for a while. These are, for obvious reasons, the two most common instruments for songwriters to utilize when writing songs, but there is another way!

A Pad Of Paper And A Recorder

Sit down with a recorder (it can be any type, but you may want to use a cheap multi-track recorder so that you can add layers) and a pad of paper for writing some lyric ideas down. Just start trying to come up with some new melodies and lyrics, without the aid of your instrument. It can be hard at first, especially if you have never done it before, but it is well worth it.

Hit Songwriters Do It, Why Not You?

You may find that you prefer to write without any instruments, once you see how powerful this method can truly be. Many famous musicians choose to write their songs away from any instrument, because it helps them feel like they are always coming up with something new. They aren’t stuck with the “same ol’ chords” they know, or the “same ol’ rhythms”.

Writing To A Drum Machine

If you have the money, you may want to invest in a drum machine. A drum machine, used in conjunction with a small multi-track recorder can be a great portable setup. Simply pick a beat that inspires you for that day and start singing to it. It doesn’t matter what the lyrics are, you’re just going for a stream of ideas. Make sure that you record yourself and see if you can start to piece together a song.

Listen To Songs In Completely Different Genres

One thing you might want to try, is to listen to songs from a completely different genre, even if it’s a genre of music that you really don’t like. The point is to pick up on some new musical ideas from these songs. Try to immerse yourself in a couple of albums and really do some active listening. Listen to the chord changes. Listen to the way the melodies work and the way the lyrics are written. Try to see if you can write songs in that style, or try to mix them in to your current style.

Learn Another Instrument

If the idea of writing with away from an instrument is not working for you, you may want to try learning another instrument.

It seems that a lot of songwriters that know guitar, also know piano and vice-versa, but if you don’t know the other instrument, learn! The least it will do for you is give you a completely different set of patterns to try and you will definitely break out of your rut.

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