A Change Of Scenery

A few tips to help get your creativity up out of those ruts...

Ultimate Guitar


Hello My fellow UG'ers, what's up? This is the first column I've ever written so please forgive any bad mistakes. I am an intermediate guitarist, playing for about 4 years now. I don't know if I have any musical knowledge to share so I am not going to try! Instead, I'd like to talk about a few different tricks I use to help songwriting. These are not particularly musical, more practical stuff. I hope y'all get something out of this, so let's get to it!

1 Do You Have That Riff In Mint?

The first idea is semi-musical, trying different Modes or Flavors, as I like to call them. Say you've just written a little riff in our favorite key of A Minor. (Note: these are just being written on the fly, they're not good or anything, but hopefully you'll get the idea).

Now, maybe you like this idea of yours a little, maybe not. I often like the little lick I come up with but I rarely think they're noteworthy, they just sound too ordinary. Maybe they're fine for jamming but to kick off a song? Eh! Enter The Ice Cream Shop! You're weird rhythm or funky interval jump is cool, it's just in a really bland vanilla. Try something more exciting; If you're a typical rocker like me, you're spending way too much time with minor pentatonic. Try the same riff with a major sound:
Easy as that! Now, in my opinion, neither of these examples sound particularly good, but you get my drift. I've saved many a rockin' riff from the scrap heap by converting it into something a little more interesting to my ear.

2 Learn A New Chord

Easiest way to write a song? Try a new sound! Maybe it's just a weird voicing for a familiar chord, maybe it's some kind of Suspended, Added, Flattened, or Demented! Any time a find a new sus chord, I'm guaranteed at least 5 new licks or progressions I like. Think about it, you're gonna come up with at least one set of chords that sound new to you, probably more. Then, when you've exhausted all rhythm type ideas, move on to the lead. You'll find at least one little lick using the notes of the arpeggio that you can insert into your playing. Then you'll have at least one way to play the arpeggio shred-style. There you guy, at least three ways to play your new chord, something's gotta be worth keeping there!

3 Location, Location, Location

I always find the best way to pull myself out of a real rut is moving. My two regular places to play are my bedroom(blah) and a small room at school. If I go two days and start feeling a real rut, I just up my amp and go somewhere new! It could be the nice backyard, the steaming garage, or the auditorium. It doesn't matter, whatever it is the change of scenery/atmosphere immediately affects me. One obvious reason is that every room has its own sound. Just like a new piece of gear will help your creativity, the new acoustics of the room you're in can light that spark as well. Another reason I think this works is just the change from regular. As long as you don't spend too much time there, your mind never really gets used to playing in that room. This means, every time you go back: BOOM! Lightning strikes! This has been the single most important idea for me personally, any time I'm drawing blanks, off to somewhere random!

So there it is, 3 little tricks to help the springs of your songwriting run anew! I've found these techniques very useful and I hope they help you too. Please tell me what you think of this article and feel free to question anything. I'd really like to work on my writing so constructive criticism will be greatly appreciated, Thanks!


4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    there might be something in the location part. thanks, i will try it out.
    Your first column eh? Its already helped out plenty, thanks! (Especially that third rule, you should base a post off of that.)