Making a song from scratch may sound like a daunting task if you consider all the things that go into making music. But if you follow some of the tips I will be suggesting in this post, you will find this process a lot easier and less prone to creative bumps along the road. Some of these suggestions are meant to inspire and keep your creativity flowing but please, don’t forget that creativity is also something that you practice!
As a songwriter or composer, you don’t have to wait for inspiration. In fact, most of the times you don’t have that luxury. So, it is best that you embrace some routines and practices that help you to sit down and compose whenever necessary. What you want is to find what sparks your creativity.
Probably, the best thing you can do at this point is just to sit down and commit to writing at least one minute of music. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, or even good, as this is only practice. This is the scenario where you can focus on a specific music technique that you learned while reading this blog, for instance. In sum, practice is important because it is the only way you can hone your skills so, get your hands dirty!
And with no further ado, here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:
1. Going for a walk – this is probably old news but removing yourself from your home environment can be very helpful. While on a walk, you can be exposed to all sorts of stimuli that you can use in your compositions. If not, it will be a great way to start the day in a freshly manner.
2. Interact with grooves and/or basslines – pick a drum sample, put it on repeat and try to sing a melodic line or a rhythmic part that fits into that groove.
3. Use small musical fragments – choose a melody that you like, zoom in on a small fragment of it and make it your melodic motif. Then you explore from that. This also works with a couple of chords from the same key or not, that you can put on repeat and then sing over them until you have something that pleases you. You can also pick a chord progression and then adjust as needed. The same goes for rhythm or any other musical element.
4. Remember to keep your melodies singable – this is specially true if you are composing with your instrument. Singable melodies feel more natural.
5. Complex Vs Simple – you should aim to a proper balance in your songs of where you want to feature the most “weird” and intricate parts. These are great to introduce novelty, or for passages, but make sure that people can connect with the song as a whole. Of course, this also depends on the style of music you are making but considering the audience is not a bad thing.
6. Get inspired by music – this is also old news but either listening to music that you like or even music that you don’t usually listen to, can be a source of inspiration. Try to figure out what it is that moves you on that particular song and then try to infuse those characteristics in your own music. This can be the groove, the harmonic progression, the type of melodic approach, a specific sound or instrument, motif, etc. Just pay close attention to what is going on and replicate that idea in your song but please, don’t steal!
7. Experiment with different music composition techniques – this is where you can get ideas from your practice materials.Remember that first tip about writing one minute of music everyday? While exploring and honing your music composition skills, you are in fact creating material that you can later use in your songs.
8. Create the song structure – if you have a general idea of what you want to say in your music, most likely you will be able to come up with a song structure or, in other words, how many different parts your song will need. This will give you a broad idea of how you can explore and present your musical ideas.
9. Take two unrelated ideas and mix them – finding the solutions to connect two distinct ideas in a way that makes them work together. Bridging the gap can be very effective as a way of pulling out different ideas. You can also do a mashup of these two ideas and produce a completely new one.
10. Step away and assess – sometimes it is good to step away from the frenzy of the music composition process. Try to confirm if the music is accomplishing what you set out to do in the first place. Also, a timeout is great for recharging the batteries. Remember “Going for a walk”?
11. Be realistic – in the beginning, it is normal wanting to throw in everything you know and use all your musical influences into just one song. But for coherence sake, each song will more likely have a couple of ideas and it will be set on a specific music genre. Whatever you choose to write, your influences will naturally show so don’t worry too much about it. If you have much to say, maybe say it in a different song. But steer away from experimentation, though.
Part of the journey as a music composer or songwriter is to discover what triggers you, what sparks your creativity, what interests you. Use that and create your own process of making music. Hopefully these tips will help you in that journey.
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