#1
I have a problem that I can't stay focused on a song long enough to finish it...ever. Because of this I have so many ideas and riffs and licks but no complete songs. Each time I try to complete one i end up unable to come up with a progression or riff that suits the song and end up coming up with a new riff that would be better as a new song. It's really starting to irritate me as I don't want to settle for half assed generic riffs just because I want to finish
#2
you need to think about how you want the riff to suit the song. Say you needed a verse riff, because these are usually the hardest to write. Think about some common themes in verse riffs, such as simplicity and less energy. When I try to write something focused, which isn't often, I think about how I want it to suit the song I'm going to put it into. I'm imagining you keep writing riffs that sound like great intros or great choruses, or if you're really good, great outros. The outro has to be the best riff in the song. Many bands just use their chorus as they're outro, but if you can write a really good one, it will make the song. Try to think about where the riff will fit in the structure

To be a dick: your songs are just throwaway riffs in a random order because you like Metallica
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#3
I have the same problem a lot of times. I've found that 'The Beatles Method' as I like to call it works pretty well.

Basically what I do is when I have a bunch of ideas and riffs, I try and mix-and-match until I get something. I'm assuming you have knowledge of your scales and such to the point where you could change keys on a chord that's common to both keys (that's one idea). It might even be necessary to transpose stuff you've already done to work in another song. Anyway, it seems to work well for me.

If you've ever heard 'Band on the Run' by Paul McCartney, you know it's like 3 songs that transition into each other. Another example is 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' by Pink Floyd (I believe there are 8 parts strung together?). It seems to me to be a pretty proven and cool method to write music and adds a lot of dynamic to songs.

Also try not to get too caught up in the 'verse-chorus-bridge' trap. Not every song NEEDS a bridge and/or a chorus. Some songs can be just a longer verse repeated (example being 'Little Wing' by Jimi Hendrix). Song construction doesn't ever have to be a set thing. It's part of the creative process and should never be confined to what you think is required of it.

Another thing that helps me is to keep jamming a riff or progression I came up with for maybe 30-60 minutes and instead of trying to actively come up with something, I just jam it. I think about what other chords I could substitute/go into, go in for solos that might suck and try to come out somewhere different, and I'll mix effects (i.e. play it clean, distort it, try both of those with excessive delay, and then try all those combos with a vibe pedal). Sometimes that helps.

It's also important to either remember everything you've ever come up with (however small) or write it down/record it. An example being I had a song that I was just going to have be a succession of long verse (literally started writing it 4 days ago), and while I was jamming it and trying to come up with a solo, I realized that I could change to an unused song piece that I came up with 3-4 years ago. Now I have a full song, with solo, and then a cool ass outro in a different key that transitions quite nicely out of the verses. Oh, and no chorus. It doesn't need it, and I'm not going to force something out just because 'it needs it' by today's music standards.

Dunno if any of that helped, but good luck either way.
Last edited by mjones1992 at Aug 12, 2013,
#4
I'm sure I'll get dogged by the anti-theorists out there, but learning at least some basic theory helped me out with this kind of thing. I'm a pretty technical player anyway since I have a horrible ear to balance out my love of music, but whenever I'd have something really good and then try to add to it and everything I came up with didn't flow, I'd step back and analyze the components of what I did that was cool (key, chord progression, scale) just for some inspiration on where to go next. Just what works for me, good luck!
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#5
Yes, theory helps because you can analyze what you have just written. Try finding something in common with the original idea. You can change your riffs, for example you can make them use different rhythms or transpose them to another key.

Rhythm is very important. Try writing a song using just one rhythmic idea.

For example here's an instrumental I wrote. I wrote the first part like four years ago and decided to continue my old idea. I just started thinking about the rhythm the song has. It's in 5/4 time signature and uses a 2+2+3+3 rhythm pattern (almost throughout the whole song, except the last part which is in 6/8 time signature - and some single bars in the song are in 9/8). I first had to analyze what I had written. I analyzed the rhythm pattern and found out that it's 2+2+3+3 and then I just started jamming the rhythm in my head and wrote the whole song. Once you get past the intro riff, writing the song becomes so much easier. I wrote this song in a couple of days after I had come up with the second idea (that is really similar to the first idea but it just emphasizes the rhythm a bit more). Sorry about the sloppy playing at parts. I didn't bother re-recording it.

https://soundcloud.com/jaakkorauhamaa/5-4-demo

As you can hear from the song, you can do lots of things with just one rhythm. The whole song is based on that one rhythm pattern.

Also add other instruments, not just guitar. Because it sounds a lot better with all instruments playing.

And don't worry, I think everybody has problems with writing full songs. Songwriting isn't easy. I have lots of riff ideas that I haven't continued because I simply can't (and also I just don't have time/will to complete the songs - and when I come up with something, it sometimes sounds too cliche or too lame or too similar to some other song I have written).
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#7
I save all of my ideas, I have a folder with about 100 riffs I'll probably never use. But occasionally I will, so don't get rid of them!

Finishing songs is a skill, I'm sure of it. The best way to do it is to practice writing a song to completion - the more you get used to working on structure and such, the easier it gets. I'm currently a step ahead of that, I'm trying to practice finishing projects, with a death metal EP soon to hit the streets But yeah, if you work hard on actually finishing stuff, it'll get easier and easier
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#8
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I have a problem that I can't stay focused on a song long enough to finish it...ever. Because of this I have so many ideas and riffs and licks but no complete songs. Each time I try to complete one i end up unable to come up with a progression or riff that suits the song and end up coming up with a new riff that would be better as a new song. It's really starting to irritate me as I don't want to settle for half assed generic riffs just because I want to finish

Self Discipline.

Also identifying and letting go of all the inner head stuff that derails you.
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