News » 03 August 2009
Song: Best Frenemies
This is a song about overcoming composer's block (writer's block for music makers). I keep getting stuck with my song writing over and over, and I have been dealing with that by starting a new song instead of finishing what I was working on. Or I have an idea that's going somewhere but I don't stick it through because it's not "good enough". Lame!
I don't know the secret to overcoming composers block but I was thinking about this issue when writing my newest song (which took less than a day!) and I think there are a few things that helped in this case:
- Keep it simple! This is my mantra for writing software, and it definitely applies to writing music too. I'm all for making more experimental music that pushes boundaries, but unless the seed idea for a song is some cool experimental concept, it's best not to try to artificially inject crazy experiemental stuff into an existing song simply because you don't know what else to do. There's nothing wrong with building an entire song around some really basic rhythmic or harmonic ideas, and if you stick to just a few ideas the song will be more coherent.
- Resist the temptation to add just one more track/part. Early on when writing a piece, I know I will need to add more parts but it's important to recognize when a piece really needs another part and only add it when absolutely necessary, not because you don't know what else to do!
- Figure out the high level sections and make a roadmap. The most common roadmap is verse-chorus-verse (ABABA...) and this works really well for songs of any genre. Of course, the trick is to figure out the B part once you have a good A part. You need something with constrast that still fits with the rest of the song. I often get stuck at this step. If you know you need a B part, stop listening to the A part over and over and just start improvising. To ensure it fits with the rest of the song, take one aspect of the A part, like the chord progression or a rhytmic pattern or whatever, and try to grow some new section out of that one little piece (and don't be afraid to apply some musical transformation like pitch inversion).
- Keep a to-do list of things the song still needs in order for it to be complete. Every time you sit down to work on the song, make progress on that list. If the piece is still in the early stages, then if nothing else, listen to the track and make sure you add something to the to-do list. If you can't remove anything from the list, step away and come back later.