#1
So, I went and I learned all this music theory. Everything. Key signatures, scales, modes, intervals, chord theory, chord progressions, just everything.

Now I'm sitting here, guitar in hand, staring at a blank GuitarPro document. I have absolutely no idea where to start with songwriting. Kind of like writer's block, but it feels different. I'm wondering, is there some theory I'm missing? Something that tells you how to construct riffs that you like? I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist. I read some articles, one about the method of composition. I try it. Nothing.

Blank document still in front of me.

Has anyone else has this preliminary writer's block? I don't know what to write. I have ideas, and feelings I want to express and let out but something is holding them back. I even have an idea of what I want my imaginary GuitarPro band to sound like: pyrotechnic rhythm guitar riffs a la Wintersun or Symphony X, backed by synthstrings and synthchoir, classical leads, all in odd meters with a fast, technical drummer. I want to have expressive, acoustic passages like Opeth, where I can really take my fingerpicking skill and let it run wild. I want a big sound...not big like black metal, where it's just mush. But big. Big and epic, think of a band that perfectly captures books like A Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, etc. I want activist influences from Tool and Zeitgeist so that my music is filled with political satire. And I want to get rid of these emotions I've had building up in me.

And here's that blank document. And I can't think of anything! Still! Every riff I try to come up with sounds old and used, as if I've written them down before, but I haven't. Sometimes I accidentally rewrite other songs. But nothing I like, nothing original.

Help?
#2
No hard feelings ok, but that separates songwriters form songplayers. Although it's just possible that you dont have the creativity at the moment. Sometimes i cant produce a single riff for weeks and sometimes i write a complete song in 1 day. That happens.
#3
Quote by ItsJustSound
So, I went and I learned all this music theory. Everything. Key signatures, scales, modes, intervals, chord theory, chord progressions, just everything.

Care to explain the foundations of counterpoint then? What about chromatic harmony?

Anyways, to answer your question, theory isn't a tool to write music, it's an explanation of why good music sounds good. I think saw someone say that somewhere here. If you don't already listen to a wide variety of music, now is the time. Then learn to play those songs and analyze the theory behind it.

And instead of a blank GP document, use an actual guitar. Ideas tend to flow into a guitar better than into a mouse and keyboard.
#4
I don't know what counterpoint is. :O

Same thing with my guitar, I just felt like putting that blank document there for, yaknow, worthless imagery. Plus that's what I was doing when I was writing it.

But with a pen and paper and my guitar, a computer and my guitar, just my guitar, w/e, the riffs I think up are bleh. Maybe I need more practice thinking up riffs, I can't expect magic out of the first song?

Or is it just writer's block?

Sorry for the ridiculous post by the way. I was actually reading A Game of Thrones right before I sat down to try and think up a riff with the newfound inspiration, but instead I thought up a post. ^_^
#5
First listen to a song you want to write your introduction in the style of.

You don't have to start with the guitars, or rhythm for that matter. Start with the melody that's in your head. Pick a scale and try to project your emotions with it. Once you have that melody written down write around it. The rest of the song shouldn't be that difficult knowing theory, plan it out like a math equation, or you can think of multiple segments and stitch them together with rhythmic or key changes you already know about.

If you feel your first phrase sounds too generic but you like the basic idea, add more instruments. Harmonize, make it sound totally different without changing the notes. Maybe your intro can be the guitar banging on one note. Symphony X don't have very prominent rhythm melodies, they are very basic construction, but the rhythmic feel is what makes them stick out. The melody is usually in the keyboards, you should try experiment with this style of writing too.

Personally I play around with a few licks and usually come across something I like. I tab it down in guitar pro and go from there... add instruments, harmonize, add a bass, keys etc... It comes out sounding great, sometimes completely different from the initial riff.

Maybe you could also borrow some ideas from classical composers, as bands like SX and Wintersun often do. Switch them around a bit and make them sound unique, it's a good way to practice your creativity.
#6
Quote by ItsJustSound
I don't know what counterpoint is. :O


well then you didn't learn all theory. in fact i don't think a person can learn "all" the theory.

sounds like you need to start with songwriting. i don't know why people seem to assume that if they learn some theory then that means you get instant songwriting abilities.
#7
Quote by ldragon-slayerl
First listen to a song you want to write your introduction in the style of.

You don't have to start with the guitars, or rhythm for that matter. Start with the melody that's in your head. Pick a scale and try to project your emotions with it. Once you have that melody written down write around it. The rest of the song shouldn't be that difficult knowing theory, plan it out like a math equation, or you can think of multiple segments and stitch them together with rhythmic or key changes you already know about.

If you feel your first phrase sounds too generic but you like the basic idea, add more instruments. Harmonize, make it sound totally different without changing the notes. Maybe your intro can be the guitar banging on one note. Symphony X don't have very prominent rhythm melodies, they are very basic construction, but the rhythmic feel is what makes them stick out. The melody is usually in the keyboards, you should try experiment with this style of writing too.

Personally I play around with a few licks and usually come across something I like. I tab it down in guitar pro and go from there... add instruments, harmonize, add a bass, keys etc... It comes out sounding great, sometimes completely different from the initial riff.

Maybe you could also borrow some ideas from classical composers, as bands like SX and Wintersun often do. Switch them around a bit and make them sound unique, it's a good way to practice your creativity.


Thanks. That was helpful, as are all the posts I get as feedback.
#8
Sounds like you've learned about 1/2 of a very basic harmony intro class. Get a theory book (that covers more than just basics) and keep studying.

But as for some easy ways to start songwriting, look up Ostinato. Probably the easiest way in my opinion.
#9
Could you suggest and extensive music theory book so I can continue my studies? It was pretty stupid to post that I knew all music theory, I guess I just know my basics. Theory interests me, but the only free sources I've found online aren't very extensive. Could anyone suggest some?
#10
Step 1: Play a chord/make up a riff. Doodle. Go *weedley-weedley*. Something you think sounds nice.
Step 2: Play what you feel should come next.
Step 3 (OPTIONAL): If you find something in someone elses' songs you like and want to add it to your own song (ish), use your vast theory knowledge to analyze it and apply it.
Step 4: ???
Step 5 Profit!

Theory doesn't write songs, songwriters do. And songwriting is a different skillset from knowing theory. The only way to get better is to practice. The above method works wonders.
#11
Just write lots of music. Experience in songwriting will make you better at songwriting. You can be assured that not everything your favourite musicians write is pure gold. If fact you can bet that most of the stuff they write is pretty poor in comparison to what they eventually choose to make availiable to their audience.

So keep writing and document it, whether that be on guitar pro, on paper, recorded etc. Even if you think it's ****, document it anyway. Come back to it at a later date when you have more experience in songwriting and maybe you'll see a way to improve what you've written.