#1
Where do you look for inspiration for writing songs? It might be my lack of music theory knowledge but at the moment I feel empty. There's nothing coming out. Nothing.

So,how do you overcome that nothingness?
#2
Quote by Oddly_Phrygian
It might be my lack of music theory knowledge


Nope, not likely.

Quote by Oddly_Phrygian
Where do you look for inspiration for writing songs?


I don't exactly look for it. The inspiration just comes. Usually I get my best ideas from listening to a lot of music.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#3
Quote by Kevätuhri
Nope, not likely.


I don't exactly look for it. The inspiration just comes. Usually I get my best ideas from listening to a lot of music.

/s? lmao

Well if it only were that easy for me D:
#4
I get my song ideas from life. Whatever happens in my life (whether it be good or bad) i take it and try to make a song out of it. For instance, I recently just got into college and i hate it so i wrote a depressing song about that. I also wrote a song about this cute girl i met in one of my classes.
I literally write about anything that causes me to have a strong emotion about something. That's how my best songs are written. If i try to force a song to happen it will usually sound like shit.
#5
Quote by J23L
I get my song ideas from life. Whatever happens in my life (whether it be good or bad) i take it and try to make a song out of it. For instance, I recently just got into college and i hate it so i wrote a depressing song about that. I also wrote a song about this cute girl i met in one of my classes.
I literally write about anything that causes me to have a strong emotion about something. That's how my best songs are written. If i try to force a song to happen it will usually sound like shit.


Yeah true that,forcing stuff is never to come will probably never yield results. Or rather,it might. But it'll be,as you say,shit
#6
Quote by J23L
If i try to force a song to happen it will usually sound like shit.

I generally agree, but sometimes I get stuck in the writing process and need to force myself through it to get going again.
#7
Quote by Oddly_Phrygian
/s? lmao

Well if it only were that easy for me D:


I'm not sure if I understand the /s symbol

I'm not saying that it's easy. I haven't felt inspired in a while. But that's how it goes. For example, I've been playing this game called Metro: Last Light for a while now, and the intro to that game has this really beautiful, dark, acoustic song, and it inspired me to write acoustic music. On the other hand, I've been listening to a lot of ambient music and such, and the way some artists use orchestral sections has given me some ideas on the classical front. I just hear something cool, and think of ways to assimilate it to my own style.

It's a shame that I'm far too busy to practice properly at the moment, and it kind of bothers me. I also have really shitty gear, and no money for new stuff, which has been really detrimental for my motivation for a long while now. I hope I'll find a nice job soon, and then I could maybe save some money for a new guitar and amp as well, which will hopefully get me back into regular practice.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#8
Judas Priest is always inspiring.A couple of great guitarists right there.No need to look any further really.Gary Moore, Michael Schenker, I'm more of a death metal guy but i usually look back at the old school masters for inspiration even though i don't play anything like them.
#9
Quote by Kevätuhri
I'm not sure if I understand the /s symbol

I'm not saying that it's easy. I haven't felt inspired in a while. But that's how it goes. For example, I've been playing this game called Metro: Last Light for a while now, and the intro to that game has this really beautiful, dark, acoustic song, and it inspired me to write acoustic music. On the other hand, I've been listening to a lot of ambient music and such, and the way some artists use orchestral sections has given me some ideas on the classical front. I just hear something cool, and think of ways to assimilate it to my own style.

It's a shame that I'm far too busy to practice properly at the moment, and it kind of bothers me. I also have really shitty gear, and no money for new stuff, which has been really detrimental for my motivation for a long while now. I hope I'll find a nice job soon, and then I could maybe save some money for a new guitar and amp as well, which will hopefully get me back into regular practice.


/s=Sarcasm

ahh man,I hope you get going more regularily soon Good luck with the job hunting!
#10
Quote by Kevätuhri
I hope I'll find a nice job soon, and then I could maybe save some money for a new guitar and amp as well, which will hopefully get me back into regular practice.

Wouldn't count on it.

In my experience, gear only gives a short motivation boost. After the novelty wears off, you're more or less back to square one. That is, of course, unless your original gear was total garbage to begin with.
#11
I read a lot about song writers and the one thing they seem to have in common is that they have good work ethics. Songs don't usually come in a moment of inspiration, they come as you work at writing songs. John Lennon said songs are just out there and if you work at opening yourself to letting them into your head, you can write good songs. In order to do it you need to do it a lot and dedicate a portion of your day to writing songs whether they are good or bad. Often a small piece of a bad song will be the catalyst to writing a better song. If you just wait for inspiration to strike like some kind of magic, it probably won't happen. That's not to say there aren't musical geniuses' that can just write from inspiration but it's really rare.

A friend of mine who was a fairly successful song writer named Stan Penridge (RIP) who wrote songs for KISS like "Hooligan", "Baby Driver", "Beth" and many others plus wrote or co-wrote all the songs on Peter Criss's first two solo albums, use to carry around a notebook. You rarely saw Stan without a notebook somewhere nearby on table in his bag, whatever. He would write phrases or song ideas as they occurred to him. He was always writing. He told me that he tried to come up with at least one fully realized song and demo every week.

On the "History of the Eagles" DVD Don Henley mentions that he learned to really write when he and Glen Frey lived in an apartment over Jackson Brown's basement apartment. Jackson Brown got up every morning and started writing on the piano, going over and over the same song or parts of songs for hours. It was a daily event. Henley said that up to that time he and Glenn were just writing when an idea hit them. If you can set aside time to play guitar everyday you should set aside time to write a song or part of a song everyday.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Oct 23, 2015,
#12
I gave up guitar playing for a few years.Worst time of my life really.I wasn't doing drugs or drinking or anything bad just missed playing guitar.There was no good reason for quitting, my only guitars neck warped and i played maybe once a week uninspired.Y
#13
Quote by Elintasokas
Wouldn't count on it.

In my experience, gear only gives a short motivation boost. After the novelty wears off, you're more or less back to square one. That is, of course, unless your original gear was total garbage to begin with.


Whoops, I made a huge wall of text. I don't expect anyone to read it, but if you want to hear my main issue just read the last paragraph.

It is. I have an old Ibanez guitar that has very, very poor intonation thanks to it's locking trem and years of misuse (I got it when I was 14 and had no idea how locking trems work, so I guess it's my own fault), and I start liking the way the neck feels less and less over time. And I have a POD HD I used to have a tube amp but I had to sell it due to economical constraints. The POD HD is a fine piece of gear, but it's nothing compared to an amp.

I play with fender and yamaha guitars every now and the when I visit the local shop, and the feeling is incomparable to my ibanez. I started on a fender copy, and i think my hands are still used to their necks since every fender I try feels so good. I'm in no way an inexperienced guitarist, I can spot the difference between good gear and bad gear. And I do mean that you can't even begin to compare the ibanez to some better guitars, even relatively cheap ones.

I am completely aware of the "new gear doesn't fix motivation" argument, and I give that advice regurarly to other people myself. But I guess it could help considering that I have a guitar that's worth 200 bucks or something and I don't even have an amp. And I've had better gear; I've had a fender copy, I've had a LP copy, I've had a couple of solid state and one tube amp but my economy is just so poor at the moment that I've been forced to sell most of my things.

Also, due to the bad gear, I can't get the tones I want at all. I've been playing guitar for a while already, and I've written a ton of my own stuff and I feel like I'm completely capable of working in a professional band. But I can't join a band nor can I record my music since I don't have the gear to make that happen. I know that you might still feel like the gear isn't a problem, but if anything, consider this: I'm simply too poor to join a band or record my own music at the moment. And that is one of the most demotivating and depressing things in my life.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#14
Yeah, I think there's a certain threshold at which the quality of your gear stops being a factor regarding motivation. Of course, it sucks to play when gear related problems are constantly in the way.

Also, you're right about needing more gear to play in a band. A small bedroom practice amp, for example, isn't gonna cut it in band practice.

Valid points overall.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Oct 23, 2015,
#15
Listen to something you usually wouldnt. Old Willie Nelson, a film score, Stravinsky, Bauhaus, etc. Anything you have to go out of your way to listen to. That tends to open some doors. On top of that, learn a new technique or a song from a new artist. Seeing how to play one Cynic or White Stripes song can totally change your outlook on piecing a song together. If you're feeling adventurous, improvise. Find a cool backing track (G maj/E min is probably a good starting point), and go from there. To make any kind of pleasant noise, either take the time to find the notes that sound good, or learn the appropriate scale in one position and go from there. If youre having a hard time with memorizing the scale, use some dollar store stickers to mark the notes on the fretboard. Even if you get frustrated with it, keep coming back to it. Every improv session is easier than the one before, and its a great way to find new melodic ideas and finger patterns. Once you have an amp that can keep up to a drummer, find one who can improv as well. I can almost guarantee its the most fun youll ever have with your pants on.
Quote by soundgarden1986
Screw your bases. If she doesn't let me go elbow deep in her ass on the first date, it wasn't meant to be.


Quote by willT08
Every thread on here to do with audio quality is like walking into a paddock of shit slinging chimps
#16
Quote by Oddly_Phrygian
Where do you look for inspiration for writing songs? It might be my lack of music theory knowledge but at the moment I feel empty. There's nothing coming out. Nothing.

So,how do you overcome that nothingness?


I disagree that learning more won't help. If you study rhythm, and study song structure, you can start putting something together as a framework that you then gradually fill in. These two don't have to involve any pitches at all .... initially ... so you can try a different approach.
#17
I don't think it's a theory problem, though it helps to know more than zero.
Try approaching writing just as a series of decisions. choose a tempo. Choose a time signature. Choose a key, or series of keys. Choose some chords, and some voicing for those chords. Choose a rhythmic feel. Choose the first note of your melody, the second note of your melody, etc.

All of the music in the universe is waiting for you. All you have to do is choose.
#18
Quote by jerrykramskoy
I disagree that learning more won't help. If you study rhythm, and study song structure, you can start putting something together as a framework that you then gradually fill in. These two don't have to involve any pitches at all .... initially ... so you can try a different approach.

This is probably the best comment Jerry has made so far. Listen to it.
#19
Usually I have to make myself just sit with the guitar or keyboard to write music. Just start doing something - anything - and eventually you'll hook yourself on an idea and get more and more curious about where that sound goes.

As for theory, it helps you write music when it's something you already do. Without a clear idea of song structure, I don't think analyzing harmony will do much good. The value is in being able to recognize sounds and patterns, which means you don't have to hunt for the next chord. If you know what sound you want, you already know what chord changes make it.
Last edited by cdgraves at Oct 30, 2015,
#20
Quote by Oddly_Phrygian
Where do you look for inspiration for writing songs? It might be my lack of music theory knowledge but at the moment I feel empty. There's nothing coming out. Nothing.

So,how do you overcome that nothingness?
Songwriting is a matter of vocabulary, as well as inspiration.

I agree with Kevätuhri, you need to listen to a lot of music - and I mean a LOT. Not just listen to it, but learn as much as you can. The more vocabulary you can stuff into your head, the more you'll find weird new combinations springing up from it.

The classic example is the Beatles. The main thing that made them such great (and prolific) songwriters was the number of songs - of all kinds, all genres - that they'd learned to play before they ever made it. It was almost like they'd learned so many songs, they couldn't help write their own - all that stuff had to come out some way.
In those days, performers didn't generally write their own songs, so they would have been under no pressure to do so from anyone. In fact the opposite: it was they who demanded that their first single should be their own song, not a professional composition they'd been given.
They started a trend that persists of course. Now, any beginner musician thinks they ought to be as good at songwriting as playing guitar, or whatever.

Songwriting is a skill, like any other. Inspiration doesn't come from nowhere - even though (with a little experience) it sometimes feels that way. You need three things, IMO:

1. An idea. What's your song going to be about? You need a reason to write a song - beyond just "I want to write a song"!
This means a lyrical idea, of course, not a musical one. (If you get the musical idea first, that's great - but that, as you know, is harder to control. It comes, or it doesn't, you can't make it.)
When you have a verbal phrase you think could be the germ of an idea - maybe the song title? - try singing it to bring out its natural rhythm and melodic shape; it's crucial that it feels good to sing, which normally means exaggerating and simplifying the phrase's natural rhythm and pitch shape.

2. Plenty of experience playing (and/or singing) other people's songs. This will teach you lots of common formulas and effects: chords that go together, changes that sound good, rhythmic tricks, melodic phrasing, etc etc. This is your fund of vocabulary, the stuff you draw from, either consciously or unconsciously.
The latter is what we experience as "inspiration" - and is usually the source of melodic ideas (as opposed to the more conscious lyrical ones above). It doesn't come from nothing, it comes from cross-fertilisation of all the stuff you've ever heard, especially stuff you've actually played or sung before.
You can also do it consciously: take part of a phrase from one song, attach it to a phrase from another song. Or try to feel how the first phrase might unfold differently from the song you've taken it from. Can you then attach different lyrics to it? Before long, you've hammered it into something unrecognisable from where it came from.

3. Theory. This is the least essential element, but it simply means some consciousness of the nuts and bolts of a song, the terms to describe those elements; and maybe some concepts you haven't yet encountered in all those songs you already know (or only encountered in mysterious fragments). It's an add-on, if you like.

The really important thing is to work from songs first, theory second. If you work from theory first, you can develop the misconception that there are "rules" that songs need to follow. And then that will (a) tend to limit what you think you "can" do, and (b) confuse you when you find songs that "break the rules".
When you learn songs first, you have no conception of rules. Obviously, everything you hear "works" - so it's all "correct". It's simple common sense that if it sounds right it IS right, and if it sounds wrong then it's wrong. No successful song ever breaks any rules. (If you think it does, you're applying the wrong rules.)
So you don't really need any theory knowledge at all. Use precedent (what works in other songs), and use your ear (what sounds right).
What theory gives you is maybe a few extra tools - an overview that can fill in the gaps in the knowledge you gain from experience.

Theory is tools, not rules!
Last edited by jongtr at Oct 31, 2015,
#21
Jongtr is 100% correct. That's probably the best written and most accurate thing I have read on the forum in regards to songwriting and theory in general. Not much left to add. I give an especially big thumbs up to playing all types of songs. If you only play one style of music you have limited yourself immensely to a whole world of ideas.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.