#1
Is creativity something that can be taught or developed in a structured manner? And if so, how? All the theory I've learned and techniques I've practiced are virtually useless if I can't create anything decent with it. Sure I've come up with a few catchy riffs, but in almost eight years of guitar playing, I have yet to produce one full, original song. I guess I just don't "feel" it. Is there something I can do to improve my creativity, or am I just wasting time?

And don't say drugs. I can't afford them...
#2
Ear training. Use your ears, try to hear something in your head.

Play other people's songs (preferably by ear).

Don't just write riffs, also write melodies, drum beats, basslines, whatever. Try to finish a song. Start with a good riff and maybe add a melody on top of it. it doesn't need to be the most original sounding thing. Once you have written one complete song, it gets a bit easier. Just write a boring song with four chords and the most unoriginal melody to figure out what it's like to write a full song. Even boring songs can be made interesting by adding cool stuff in the background. You can also always improve your songs. Replace some parts with more interesting parts. Remember that not every song needs to appear on your album.

Oh, and also join a band. Try to write with other people.

And yeah, nobody was born as a songwriter. Your first songs will not be anything special. Songwriting is a skill that you can learn just like playing the guitar is.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at May 12, 2014,
#3
I agree with MaggaraMarine, just wanted to add: Don't keep playing stuff expecting something interesting to come. If you want to write a good song you must first listen to it in your head and then transpose it to the guitar.

Also, forget about theory when writing (actually, you should completely forget theory while playing). Theory is only to help you train your ears as you study (if you study correctly), because in the end it all comes to the sound and not to the "math".
#4
Quote by MaggaraMarine

And yeah, nobody was born as a songwriter. Your first songs will not be anything special. Songwriting is a skill that you can learn just like playing the guitar is.

I kinda disagree. I think it's something you either have or don't have. It's more natural for some people.

Of course you can theoretically "learn it" but the tracks won't be anywhere near the same level as a guy who has a lot of natural talent for it.
#5
Quote by dolphus.bryant
Is creativity something that can be taught or developed in a structured manner? And if so, how? All the theory I've learned and techniques I've practiced are virtually useless if I can't create anything decent with it. Sure I've come up with a few catchy riffs, but in almost eight years of guitar playing, I have yet to produce one full, original song. I guess I just don't "feel" it. Is there something I can do to improve my creativity, or am I just wasting time?

And don't say drugs. I can't afford them...


The only advice I can give you ( since it doesn't seem to be intuitive for you yet) is that the more you work on creating songs, the better you will get at it. It's a skill that needs to be worked on. It's not enough to simply work on a riff for a few hours every few weeks- you really need to put some time in before writing becomes easier. Trial and error for different ideas is a good place to start.

Start paying close attention to the structure of songs ( verse/chorus/bridge etc.) and looking them as a whole. Theory can help to give you ideas and paths to work with.

Eventually it gets easier, but you need to put in the time.
#6
Quote by Elintasokas
I kinda disagree. I think it's something you either have or don't have. It's more natural for some people.

Of course you can theoretically "learn it" but the tracks won't be anywhere near the same level as a guy who has a lot of natural talent for it.


I kind agree with you, but even though there are some born with natural talent, they have to make it flourish, and it'll only happen if the person exercise his/her talent. Lots of people have a huge talent for making music but this talent goes unnoticed because the person is unable to give life to what is in his/her head, simply because he/she doesn't have a good enough ear to get the creation out of the head, for example.

And you can learn how to be creative. If you listen to other people's music and understand it (not from a theoretical viewpoint) and practice making your own, you'll start to learn similarities and patterns that make a good song (it'll likely be in you subconscious though).
#7
Quote by mp8andrade
I kind agree with you, but even though there are some born with natural talent, they have to make it flourish, and it'll only happen if the person exercise his/her talent. Lots of people have a huge talent for making music but this talent goes unnoticed because the person is unable to give life to what is in his/her head, simply because he/she doesn't have a good enough ear to get the creation out of the head, for example.

You're absolutely right. I was gonna add that to my message but didn't.

You have to "unlock" that skill and really work hard even if you're talented. It's like the talented people just progress a lot faster and end up better.

I dont understand the ear thing, though. I never had any problems writing down my ideas and the things I heard in my head. Even before I did ANY ear training. It's just that as I learned more about music, I started hearing more possibilities (altered dominants, chromatic passing notes and stuff).
Last edited by Elintasokas at May 12, 2014,
#8
OK so you have riffs already. That's your base, you can build on that. Play melodies or improvise over it until you find something that sounds nice or "right" to you. Make a drum track that works with it and follows the general rhythm. Make a bass line, it works best if following the drums but try different things. Try more harmonies or adding full chords. You can have several melodies at once, it's about ear and experimenting. Don't have high expectations, if your song/riffs aren't that great - it's OK.

Best way to learn this is to learn from others who do it well:
-Find your favorite song with much melody and transcribe everything in it. Figure out what all the instruments are doing. This gives great insight into what works and you can apply it to your own songwriting.
#9
Quote by fanapathy

Best way to learn this is to learn from others who do it well:
-Find your favorite song with much melody and transcribe everything in it. Figure out what all the instruments are doing. This gives great insight into what works and you can apply it to your own songwriting.


I think the best training is making song arrangements. Of course this is some more advanced training.
#10
I'm going to say that "creativity" can't be taught, but the ability to sit down and write a song, can be. Learn how melodies are constructed. Learn how songs are constructed. Learn what a bridge/verse/chorus/breakdown/etc. is and why people use them, and how they fit together.

If you don't even know how to write a song, then worrying about writing the next "Free Bird" (or whatever you kids think is hip these days) is a bit premature. Your first task is to write a song, any song, and then iterate over the process and improve on it. Your first song is not going to be a hit. Stop expecting it to be. Also, creativity is overrated. Don't get so wrapped up in trying to be "original" that you paralyze yourself.

I'd go so far as to say that if you don't know how to apply the theory that you've learned, then you haven't actually learned it. Or rather, the next step is to learn how to apply it.
Last edited by CarsonStevens at May 12, 2014,
#11
Quote by dolphus.bryant
Is creativity something that can be taught or developed in a structured manner? And if so, how? All the theory I've learned and techniques I've practiced are virtually useless if I can't create anything decent with it. Sure I've come up with a few catchy riffs, but in almost eight years of guitar playing, I have yet to produce one full, original song. I guess I just don't "feel" it. Is there something I can do to improve my creativity, or am I just wasting time?

And don't say drugs. I can't afford them...

Creativity is a combination of imagination and discipline.

Imagination is the ability to come up with new and interesting ideas. A close relation of imagination is curiosity.

But without the discipline to follow through and bring the interesting ideas out into the world imagination is useless and can not ever become creativity.

A writer can have the most interesting characters, scenes, and plot twists that have ever been. But without the discipline and focus required to sit down for hours on end, work out the fine details, and most importantly put words on paper, they will never actually create anything. Thus they are not creative.

You need to pinpoint what it is exactly that is holding you back.

The most common problems are a lack of discipline to sit down and do the work required and perfection paralysis where you start something but feel it's not good enough and discard the work moving on to try to find something better and more worthy of your time and effort.

All those things can be improved. A discussion about natural talent is somewhat pointless. You have the natural talent that you have and you can either work hard to polish whatever level of talent you have or do nothing and let it languish.

"Talent" is often an excuse for not doing the work. You either have talent so don't have to work or you don't have talent so there's no point doing the work. So forget about natural talent and do the work.

What work? Well, what exactly is the problem? Once you know then you can start developing exercises to strengthen your weakness.

Quote by CarsonStevens
If you don't even know how to write a song, then worrying about writing the next "Free Bird" (or whatever you kids think is hip these days) is a bit premature. Your first task is to write a song, any song, and then iterate over the process and improve on it. Your first song is not going to be a hit. Stop expecting it to be. Also, creativity is overrated. Don't get so wrapped up in trying to be "original" that you paralyze yourself.

This^

I would go so far as to say don't even think about it as writing a song at first just think of it as an exercise, or a series of exercises.
Si
#12
How it works for me is. Occasionaly I am in a creative mood and then it flow naturally. Other times it requires a bit of luck (holding your neck and making a funky chord accidentaly). And easy songs can be written without too much thought. Just listen to a lot of music, play a lot of music and the creativity will reach you.
#13
Quote by liampje
How it works for me is. Occasionaly I am in a creative mood and then it flow naturally. Other times it requires a bit of luck (holding your neck and making a funky chord accidentaly). And easy songs can be written without too much thought. Just listen to a lot of music, play a lot of music and the creativity will reach you.

Yeah, exactly. Luck does sometimes play a role. When you don't have a starting point and just start jamming around. Then you semi accidentally come up with a cool lick and start building upon that.
#14
This is something I struggle with. I feel like I dont actually have anything in my head to play apart from other peoples songs.
Reading through this thread I think its a lack of discipline to finish a song and also straight away being disappointed with what I've come up with instead of just sticking with it and finishing it.

I also find that if there is something I like that I dont know what to do with it or where to take it further. :-/
#15
I remember how Stephen Covey in '7 habits of highly effective people' talks about how things are created twice. First in the mind and then in physical form.

I make an effort to listen to my favorite records on a regular basis. For example I'll play Noel Gallaghers latest solo stuff, that and several oasis albums, Crosby, Stills and Nash and other stuff and think about the tunes they make and build songs from there.

I'm a fan of writing 1 chord songs. Strum G for example, find a good strumming pattern and speak, whistle, hum or sing a good melody then....you're almost home.


I also regularly 'glue' segments of riffs and stuff I've made together. I'll be lost for how to add on to a riff and add to it a grooves segment I made 'last week'. Do you get what I'm putting down?
#16
Quote by LTaces
This is something I struggle with. I feel like I dont actually have anything in my head to play apart from other peoples songs.


Lucky for you then that the actors you saw on Breaking Bad and Criminal Minds didn't say how the story should be told. Instead you saw characters living out the script of writers. Writers who are good at creating a make-believe world.

As a song writer you can tell any story you want, as long as the listener can get down to it and relate.

I'm sure you can make several make-believe relatable stories
#17
Quote by dolphus.bryant
Is creativity something that can be taught or developed in a structured manner? And if so, how? All the theory I've learned and techniques I've practiced are virtually useless if I can't create anything decent with it. Sure I've come up with a few catchy riffs, but in almost eight years of guitar playing, I have yet to produce one full, original song. I guess I just don't "feel" it. Is there something I can do to improve my creativity, or am I just wasting time?

And don't say drugs. I can't afford them...


Can you play any full songs of other people, or just random riffs here and there?
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#18
Have you written any bad songs?
This is an important step. You need to write loads ofebad songs before you start writing good ones. Just force yourself to start and get a few stinkers out of the way, you'll feel lots better afterwards.
#19
Quote by innovine
Have you written any bad songs?
This is an important step. You need to write loads of bad songs before you start writing good ones. Just force yourself to start and get a few stinkers out of the way, you'll feel lots better afterwards.


Building on this, even if you write a bad song, keep it. I've revisited songs I wrote years ago that I thought were absolutely terrible at the time, and managed to turn them into something decent with a bit of work.
#20
Quote by 20Tigers

The most common problems are a lack of discipline to sit down and do the work required and perfection paralysis where you start something but feel it's not good enough and discard the work moving on to try to find something better and more worthy of your time and effort.


This, I think summarizes my dilemma quite well.

Quote by AlanHB

Can you play any full songs of other people, or just random riffs here and there?


I have several full songs under my belt, a few more I'm working on, and all kinds of random riffs!
#21
Being able to show discipline shows the difference (for example) between writing 6 lines for a verse and leaving it at that and writing the 6 lines then developing a bridge type of block (chorus or something) and then a brand new set of verse lyrics.

Building 6 lines of rhyme isn't usually difficult (when you've got a a blank canvas), going further is pretty rewarding and takes a good bit of mental elbow grease.
#22
Ear Training (intervals, scales/modes, triad quality, seventh chord quality, chord progressions, melodic dictation (1 and 2 part), sight singing, scale singing, transcribing)

Technique (picking exercises, speed bursts, string crossing, slurs, finger independence etc.)

Rudiments/Theory (Scales, modes, arpeggios, sequences, note names on guitar, intervals and 12 notes/key knowledge as well as how to read treble clef helps; knowledge of different types of chord progressions theory and ear training together)

Examples (learning songs/licks/solos/riffs)

TLDR

you need to have a lot of things down to really be able to get your ideas out easily, it takes time. Heres the things that helped me a lot)
Quote by The Spoon
Unless you're sure she likes you, telling her you like her has a 110% chance of failing.

But hey, at least you have a 10% chance of absolutely guaranteeing failure.
#23
TS, you are creative - you have already been able to write your own riffs. Writing songs is a different thing - you need to find something to connect your ideas or come up with new ideas or something. If songwriting was easy, everybody would write songs all the time. It's the same as playing the guitar - you didn't become a great guitarist the first time you picked it and started playing it. Nobody can do that. You needed to practice it for years to become good at it. Even the greatest guitarists had to work really hard to become really good. You didn't start with Dream Theater guitar solos. You started with simple riffs like Smoke on the Water and Paranoid.

So why not do the same with songs? When you are inexperienced, you just can't write a song that sounds mind blowing. Try writing more simple stuff first, just like you started with playing more simple stuff on guitar. Write straight forward rock or generic four chord pop. Maybe write your own 12 bar blues based song. Bands like Dream Theater have years of experience in songwriting so of course their songs sound a lot better than your first song.

Quote by CarsonStevens
Building on this, even if you write a bad song, keep it. I've revisited songs I wrote years ago that I thought were absolutely terrible at the time, and managed to turn them into something decent with a bit of work.

This is true. When you "finish" a song, it doesn't mean you can't reuse the parts you have once used in a bad song. And you can change a couple of parts or add something interesting and make the song sound so much better.

I don't think I have actually written any "bad songs". I have just written some not that great ones - they are kind of OK but nothing special. You don't need to write terrible songs. Don't think about it too much and just write. If you get a new idea, write it down, no matter how generic it sounds like. You can always improve your ideas. Your riff doesn't need to sound good on its own. Add other instruments and it starts to sound better.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at May 14, 2014,