I Lost My Inspiration, Could I Borrow Yours?

Composing music is definitely a desired challenge and goal by all musicians. The key to composing new, fresh material is inspiration.

Ultimate Guitar

Composing music is definitely a desired challenge and goal by all musicians. No matter your experience level, composing new material can be a difficult challenge. The key to composing new, fresh material is inspiration. Ask yourself the following questions. Be truthful!

  • Are you having trouble writing new songs?
  • Are you having trouble writing your first song?
  • Are you having trouble being happy with what you just composed?

    If you answered yes to at least one of the three questions, you're struggling with Compositional Inspiration. These questions are just a few of the challenges that most of us face when we break away from imitating our heroes and begin the next phase of musical maturity by writing and playing all original music.

    The more you go your own way, the more you will recognize your own individual style of playing. That is the next step. After all that's precisely what our heroes have done. That is what separates the good players from the great players.

    Writing your own material can be intimidating and downright frightening for some. When you seriously write your first tune, no doubt you have poured your whole soul into it and you're wondering "is this any good? Or you may write your first tune and have absolute confidence that this is the next number one hit.

    In any case, there are times when you just can't seem to come up with something you like. I want to share with you some of the ways I have come up with riffs and melodies that I'm very proud of. When you write a song, whether it's vocal or instrumental, make sure it has a hook. A hook is a catchy melody or riff that stands out in the listeners mind even after the song is over.

    I know my ideas come to me in various ways. Here are some that work for me:

    01. Just goofing around and discovering a cool riff by accident.

    Always, always, always record your guitar playing! You'll be surprised at what gets recorded! When you review the recordings after playing for an hour, listen carefully in two ways. Listen for obviously cool riffs and melodic patterns, and also listen for some bits and pieces that will sound great with some adjustment.

    02. Driving down the road (radio off!) and experimenting with musical sequences in my head.

    This is where you may need to quit listening to other people's music for while to clear your thoughts. This is actually a very powerful and effective way to compose. Your mind is totally free to explore any musical direction you want without being limited to "what you know on guitar". The only difficulty for me has been remembering what I like. Once you get it right in your head, repeat it over and over so when you get back to your guitar, you can release it. Oh and if you can't drive yet try any old peaceful, quiet environment.

    03. Learning a new technique and applying it to a song.

    This has played a big role in my compositions. Learning a new technique will inspire you immediately. Once you get down the mechanics, you can build a song around it or just fit it into a song that needs that extra something.

    04. Learning a new scale or scale pattern.

    This always gives you new ideas especially when you need to enhance your soloing. Understanding what scales go with what chords is vital.

    05. Learning a new arpeggio.

    After mastering sweep picking, you can employ endless twists to your standard arpeggios. Playing 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th arpeggios will "open your sound up" and give it a whole new flavor that is pleasantly surprising. Also alternating and mixing up the notes of the arpeggios will give you great melodic ideas.

    06. Learning music theory and applying it when you really get stuck.

    Once you understand music theory in general, you have the ability to solve any musical problem that you may have. If you need a new part to a song, but nothing comes to you by inspiration, (I seem to have this problem frequently!) you can solve it like a math problem using techniques such as modulation (changing from one key to another in a pleasant sounding way).

    07. Recording my ideas, sleeping on it and reviewing it fresh the next day.

    Get a recorder and track your parts. When you get it the way you want for the day, forget it and listen to it fresh the next day. You will have a different perspective and you may find that some parts need more work. If it sounds good to you, go with it!

    These are just a few of the compositional methods that I use and I think will give you something to chew on for a while. True inspiration comes from deep inside you, and it's alright to let it come out a little piece at a time. When you put the pieces together, your final composition will be larger that life!

    That's all for now so until later, keep working hard!



  • 79 comments sorted by best / new / date

      awesome article man... hope to see u share more ideas if they're all this good, actually i already recorded my stuff, i find it's always better hearing it come back to u, that way ur not busy concentrating then u can really take in wat u just played, but yea this article owned....thanx man
      awesome article, 5, 6 and 7 are really good ideas, things I'm just now discovering after playing my own music for a year.
      emmanuel paul: mga kolokoy
      hahahaha.....taena! nwei, good article foo!.....that crazy ass article of urs helped a lot biatch! maybe ur'e a good guitarist.....heheh!
      very good article. I really like idea number 2, but I usually can't remember what I had in my head when I get back to my guitar, even if I keep repeating it in my head. 5 stars
      Tyler the Great: Great article. I have something to add. If you are or were in a high school band, or whatever, mabye took violen or piano, whatever, and you are better at another instrument then guitar (for me its saxophone), then you are more likely to get good ideas by goofing around on it instead of a guitar. On my saxophone, sometimes, I just sit down and improvise over nothing for a long time. I get the coolest ideas, and plenty can be converted over to guitar, especially when I goof around on a rock reed. If you are like me, where you are newer on the guitar then another instrument, it owrks awesome. Very true! When I have trouble with a solo, I take out the old trombone and try stuff out. I know this sounds retarded, but it really works. Just try to make sure you are playing the samegenre of music on the instrument you pick up. Eg. A Jazz solo is cool, but doesn't sound great ni a metal song. I often transcribe songs I do onto the trombone and piano because it helps me find out if they sound ok and lets me expirement. Oh, great article by the way.
      really nice article. i use fooling around a lot and that helps! i made some cool riffs, but im trying to stay away from the evil-slayer sounding riffs... trying to mix sounds w/ rage and slayer, and add my own shit too it.
      i give you a big thumbs up, i enjoy. I'll have to use some of these ideas...
      u dont exactly have to know music theory. its very useful to have in any problem you encounter writing songs. not everybody uses it much.
      people would tell you to learn music theory. which is true. what parts of songs are you having trouble strcturing? or is it all of them?
      i am having trouble structuring my songs, is there any chance someone can come up with an article with that in it?
      It was a good article...I like that they are progressively getting better and better...but wasn't there just an article about this just yesterday...let's find new topics.
      not bad article i guess. I used all those techniques before I read this anyway.
      good enough article - wouldnt recommend driving down the road and concentrating on something else...Sitting down is a time for that, not when you could be killed
      Only problem is, you can't purposely get a good riff by "goofing around". Hence, it doesn't really help. This is the only way I figured out song before I read this.
      First Column that ever made me log in to post on. Great info and is exactly how i write. #1 and #2 are especially true, Being a singer aswell as guitar player, my best lyrics are written while singing in the car by myself without even thinking, the words just flow with almost no help from me. Having a small recorder is VERY important though, I've sung such great lines and songs that have been lost because i get home and can't remember how they went or specificly what was said lol. Many great musicians when asked about writing state "I wrote it in about 5 minutes.. It just came to me and flowed out.."
      wow this is the first article I read that somebody hasn't bashed the author within the first10 commnts. so GOOD JOB MAN! You survived UG's Wrath!
      thanks.. lookin forward to the next article.. i gotta start recording some of my tunes
      I also like the idea of clearing your mind of all other music. Personally I find myself trying to steal parts from other songs, then I catch myself.
      This is really weird, cause I felt this way last night, and all the sudden bam here's the article. I might just try some of these. You act like you know what your talking about! Thanks
      good, to-the-point article... no dancing around anything or branching off into nothingness. keep up the good work.
      Sadistic sponge: Incredible article, High Voltage is most definately on a streak of extreme ass whopping This guy said it. High Voltage, you rock my socks.
      yeah good article.....its so hard not to become a parody of urself and others
      becouse i only know my way of writing(not too different from yours obviously) i think most people write in someway in their own kind of way. anyways, its always good to get new ideas, thank you very much. or something.
      Its so hard making new riffs and solos. I'm pretty sure every possible combination of notes has already been played by somebody though maybe not recorded
      Spudric jr.III
      Also a source of inspiration lately for me has been Listing to artists on Dmusic, some of todays best music is unsigned artists who purely do it for the love of music which is refreshing.
      Very nice, always good to read such work. And recording is such a major help, it really makes you realize where you come from and where you are going, as far as playing is concerned. Good read.
      definately will try all of these things. good points. writing music is so hard sometimes, and this will definately help.
      I'm doing this for years. When I learn some scales, I'll apply it to my song. When I discover a technique, I'll apply it to my song. When I'm on a road, I will write the lyrics telling what I'm doing down the road. When I have problems in school, I write the lyrics and it must have a hooky rhythms. When I watch the news on TV esp. when politics is involved and you disagree, i write the most freakin' rebellious lyrics. Did anyone know Steve Earle? His work on THE REVOLUTION STARTS.....NOW was amazing.
      good.. no ... GREAT article. my main problem is not bein able to record so i dont remember much.
      Spudric jr.III
      Very good stuff there and Im kinda pleased with myself cause I do most of the things mentioned, the only one I have trouble with is N0.7, I really cant go back to anything even after a day, Its either now or never atitude which Im desperatly trying to shake, I dont know how many potentially good songs Ive started only to run out of ideas and ditch it forever.