#1
Thread title says it all in essence, but I'll add a bit of personal detail.

I'm doing a popular music degree, in my 2nd year, and we have to write and record an EP for the final assessment. But recently, after a relatively long period of growing confidence and a high rate of productivity, I've hit a wall, in both songwriting and my actual playing ability. Everything I write seems either too basic or like a complete rip off of something else. I can have confidence in a bit of song, or a riff, and I'll run with it, but then I convince myself it sounds exactly like something I've heard before, and kind of drop it.

I'm not helped by the fact that my new songwriting lecturer is into really weird avant-garde stuff, and not much else, and it's got me convinced that if I don't write something as complex as Shostakovich or as strange as Radiohead's Idioteque I'll fail the module. I know I shouldn't be writing purely to gain marks, but I can't help it. I hear my friends writing really awesome guitar parts, like Andy McKee-style, which I can't really do. All my songs are either generic rock or repetitive ballads with weak lyrics, and I'm starting to feel the pressure, big time. I know what I want to sound like, but I just can't work out how to do it without ripping someone else off, so I'm really struggling to stick with an idea if it's not going the way I want.

So... any advice? I don't think it's writer's block, but it might be? I do think it's a confidence issue, but I don't know how to get it back.
Quote by Andron17
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#2
I usually just take a break when that happens. I'm not really big into writing my own stuff, but at least when I'm trying out some improv, I usually take a break and hum to myself something that sounds cool, and then think about how I'd go about trying to play it.

Idk... that's all from me lol. That's just how I deal with situations such as these.
#3
Quote by technical death
I usually just take a break when that happens. I'm not really big into writing my own stuff, but at least when I'm trying out some improv, I usually take a break and hum to myself something that sounds cool, and then think about how I'd go about trying to play it.

Idk... that's all from me lol. That's just how I deal with situations such as these.


Thanks, I'll take that into account Any input at all is helpful, the more I hear of other people's ways of dealing with it the better!

The problem for me is that we're expected to write music to commercial standard, but they also discourage blatant commercialism. It's all a bit confusing really.
Quote by Andron17
Go away, I have an erection.


Bassist for Half My Kingdom.
#4
Honestly, when I really need to write something, I drink. Not alcoholically, but if I loosen up just a little bit, I'm not as hypercritical of what I'm writing, I can get some volume out. Its different and creative, because I'm willing to go out on some limbs. I usually have a better vision of what I want, and then I can go back and do the details sober.

I don't want it to sound like I'm advising alcoholism as a way of coping, nor do I want it to sound like I think drugs are the way to be creative. Its just my way of loosening up, and not being to hard on myself. You need to be relaxed before you can write or play your best.

Maybe try writing something specifically not for class, see where it takes you.
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#6
Stop writing for a while. Go away, listen to music, learn to play the music (preferably by ear if possible) and then try writing again.
#7
Thanks guys, I'll definitely try your suggestions! I've got just over a month to get this EP written, I need 4 songs, I've got one done (just need to record it) and got the music for another, so I can afford to take a few days off, then I'll come back to it and see what I can do. If anyone's interested in giving feedback on my current stuff it's in the Soundcloud link in my sig, but I'm hoping that your help combined with my learning curve will lead to much better stuff soon .
Quote by Andron17
Go away, I have an erection.


Bassist for Half My Kingdom.
#8
You probably won't like this one but I go the gym, listen to a strange variety of music on my ipod, and run on the treadmill till I get dizzy, then commence the rest of my work out with the same music inspiring me. When I get home after that things just fall into place.
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#9
Quote by Country Cat
You probably won't like this one but I go the gym, listen to a strange variety of music on my ipod, and run on the treadmill till I get dizzy, then commence the rest of my work out with the same music inspiring me. When I get home after that things just fall into place.



I have never been a very creative person, but If i were looking insight i would probably read whatever i could get my hands on, be it wikipedia articles about nonsense, or magazine gossip, just anything - this type of thing always sort of frees my mind as it were, because im only really 1/2 paying attention to whatever im reading, not studying it or anything, so your mind is pretty free to wander
#10
I think taking breaks is super important when trying to do anything creative for an extended period of time, or for a big project.

Whenever I hit a wall, I definitely get discouraged - but what picks me up is walking away, going to the gym, listening to other music and eventually coming back with fresh ears. I also try to make getting into the creative zone as easy on myself as possible; having my guitar already tuned up, recording equipment/notepad ready to go, environment all set up -- that way I just walk into it and start capturing ideas with as little friction as possible.

I also say, don't fear conventions - music borrows from itself. Songs can be entirely original but benefit from some predictability. Hope this helps!
#11
Try to draw influence from all different kinds of music and remember, the best, most memorable riffs are simple to play (crazy train, iron man, smoke on the water) theres a reason people learn those riffs first, they sound really cool and their simple to play. Riffs don't have to be extremely fast metal riffs to be cool, even most metallica riffs are easy to play and sound really cool. So don't think that because your riff is simple and basic that its not cool, let your ear decide not your fingers.
#12
Quote by Freepower
Honestly?

Practice. Listen to lots of music. Write. Repeat.

Has always worked for me.

this pretty much entirely. the thing is at a certain point you get to where "just writing a tune" isn't that much of a big deal... pick out a key, some chord progressions, stick a leading melody over it, iron out the kinks and move on. i used to have friends just randomly pick note names and write stuff based on what they picked just to see if i could. to get to that point you need a decent understanding of how music works.
#14
Well playing ability is just a matter of practice and dedication....

As for the songwriting...i dont know how much theory you know but apply it and think it out and see what happens.....

for example if you have a cool riff harmonize it in a 3rd or a 5th see what it sounds like..

or dissect the riff and the notes and play and arpeggio over it....there are so many ideas its just insane actually the amount of stuff you can do with a riff just by dissecting those few notes and using those notes in a variety of ways.....you can create mini solos in between vereses for a transition....there modulation theres color tones....christwagons ill be here all day listing stuff if i dont stop now.
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Last edited by GoodOl'trashbag at Apr 9, 2012,
#16
Quote by TJ1991
The problem for me is that we're expected to write music to commercial standard, but they also discourage blatant commercialism. It's all a bit confusing really.


What a load of crap. Just play the music you like dude. If it happens to be "commercial" (or currently popular), so be it. I have a confession to make, I like pop. I like playing pop music. I like writing pop music. Luckily the majority of the world likes pop music, so they'll attempt to listen to it. Just because I'm a musician doesn't mean that I have instantly stop liking it. And just because it sounds non-generic doesn't mean that it's good.

Otherwise, keep writing. All skills will plateau at some point, and you won't even realise that you're improving until one day you listen to yourself and say "hey, I couldn't play that a year ago!".

Edit: Although to play devils advocate here, if you want the grades you should accommodate for your teachers' "likes". So you can regard it as a sort-of test/expansion of your skill set if you have to compose a song to his liking for the grades. I recall a couple of times in university where certain teachers had strong views on a subject, and then we had to write an essay on that subject for them. Basically they really liked going "omg I'm soo right" whilst reading through the essays. Others were like "yeah nice attempt but you're wrong".
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