How Can You Generate More High Quality Musical Ideas?
Do you enjoy writing music but don’t do it very often because you struggle to come up with new ideas that are good enough?
Do you have to be “in mood” in order to start writing music… And that doesn’t happen as often as you would like?
Or maybe you would like to start writing music but haven’t come up with any good ideas yet?
I know the feeling – you would like to write a great song but you’re not able to get anything out of your head / instrument unless the inspiration strucks you… And when will that happen? You never know.
The worst thing is that very often you actually feel motivated and inspired to write something… But you don’t have your instrument with you, you’re away from home travelling or at work, in school, shopping etc. And then, when you come back home, all the inspiration is gone!
I can really understand how that feels and I’ve met a lot of people who can relate to that as well. However, there are plenty solutions to spice up your creativity out there… And what is even better – many of them are really really simple!
Why don’t we check out few of them and see how they can help?
1. DON’T EXPECT TO BE PERFECT
Writing a song is a process from which coming up with raw ideas is only the first step. While there are some great songs up there which were written in 5 minutes as a struck of massive inspiration, much more often it takes 5 weeks, months or even years to come up with something good. During that period, a composer comes up with many raw ideas, refines them, tries do construct them in a different way, puts them in different contexts, tries different approaches… And very often ideas that were considered bad at the beginning, end up as a significant part of the song.
The point is, you don’t have to come up with something good right away. The raw idea is just a starting point. You can create a 4 note melody that contains only chord tones and then, by adding more notes, layers, changing rhythm etc. You can make a symphony out of it. Don’t believe me? Listen to The 5th Symphony by L.V. Beethoven. How many notes does the main theme contain?
2. PRACTICE YOUR INSTRUMENT EVERYDAY
… Or at least as often as you can. Not as long as you can (i.e. 5 hours in a row) – as often as you can (i.e. 1 hour everyday 5 days per week). Practice your technique, aural skills, music theory knowledge, improvisation etc.
Knowledge and skills are your creative tools. The more you are developed as a musician, the more possibilities you have in coming up with new ideas for music.
Take L.V. Beethoven as an example. Why do you think he was able to make a symphony out of a melody that contain only 4 notes? 🙂
Now, just to make it clear – you don’t have to spend 30 years learning about music in order to start writing. Start writing now and use the knowledge and skills you have. Then – as you practice, you will get better and so does your music. Creativity is a skill itself – doesn’t matter if you start now or later, it will feel hard at the beginning anyway 😉 The sooner you’ll do it, the sooner you will see the results you want.
3. PRACTICE YOUR CREATIVITY
Yes! I wrote it once and I’ll write it again – creativity is a skill… But this skill is developed not only by learning about music and practicing your instrument. Of course, these are important parts of your creativity training, but there’s much more you can and should do about it.
Practicing creativity is also about training your mind to look at things in a different way, to find solutions to problems. You can develop that skills by writing, solving mathematical problems, actively listening to music and analysing it, asking yourself challenging questions etc. Here are few specific examples what you can do:
- Describe in writing what you can see around you. Make it as interesting as you can… Maybe come up with a story that comes to your mind while looking around.
- Listen to music paying attention to just one instrument and ask yourself how is that instrument making the whole song better (or worse). Write it down.
- If you feel angry, sad or whatever – ask yourself what exactly made you feel that way. Maybe it was something that some other person said to you, or some other event. How did you connect this event to the feeling you’re experiencing now? Write it down. It will not only make you feel better but will train your mind to find creative solutions.
- Listen to your favourite music and write down how exactly it makes you feel. What are the specific emotions you feel? What are the specific images you can see, smell, taste etc.? Why it makes you feel that way?
- Listen to the music you don’t like and write down 5 reasons why specifically this music sucks 🙂
- Come up with 20 more ways to practice your creativity away from your instrument 🙂
… And you know what is best about this? You can do it wherever you are – in the bus, at school, at work… So if you are travelling or waiting in line, you can use that time to get better at writing songs! Isn’t that awesome? 🙂
4. SET A SPECIFIC SONGWRITING GOAL TO GET STARTED
You don’t have to be inspired to start writing music. If you set a very specific and achievable goal you can get yourself inspired WHILE writing music. Example:
“I will write chord progression in a key of E minor and then play it using 3 string triads.”
This goal is perfect for evoking your inspiration. It sets very clear instructions for you. All you need to do is just follow them.
Notice that I did not write “I will create the best chord progression in the world”. Just “a chord progression”. That’s the key. Perfection is not a goal here. You just need to write SOMETHING in order to get yourself started. After you have the chord progression written you may start refining it… You may even end up in a completely different key than you originally decided…
…but what if this doesn’t work and the inspiration doesn’t come? Well… You still have a new chord progression. That’s still something 🙂 Even if it’s really, really bad – you already know what not to do when writing a chord progression in that key. You’re wiser. You improved your skills – congratulations! 🙂
The fact that one of the ways to practice your creativity is to find new ways how to practice creativity means that there is infinite number of things you can do to get better at writing songs. That is the reason I will end this article now, otherwise it will be just too long 🙂
The most important thing you can get out of this is to remember that writing music and practicing your songwriting is not about being perfect all the time. Actually, it is mostly about writing to the trash can. If you approach composing with such expectation you are freeing yourself of any irrational fear that may prevent you from getting started.
Piotr is a guitar player, songwriter and music teacher in Ostroleka(Poland). If you know more interesting ways to spice up your creativity, he will be very happy to discuss them with you. If you want to share them, just e-mail him at:Piotr@LekcjeGitaryOstroleka.pl