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!
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!