#1
So, I've been playing guitar for about 10 years, started to take it very seriously around 3 or 4 years ago. While Im a huge fan of all music, metal is my true love. I can play some things like Necrophagist, Fallujah, TBDM, Cattle Decap, etc. My dream is pretty much to record an album some day. The only problem is, literally all my riffs sound like crappy ripoffs of the aforementioned bands. Either that or old school death metal riffs that have been over done. Another problem is when trying to create riffs in the necrophagist style, I keep playing the same sequences of notes in different orders, trying to find out how to get that chaotic/dissonant sound. How do I break out of this?
#2
Creating something that sounds fresh and new is not easy. Also, if you are trying to write in some other band's style, you usually end up sounding like them. That's just how it goes.

But remember that songwriting is not all about coming up with the most unique riff. It's also about how you connect different riffs to each other. It's also about what the other instruments are playing. It's also about the overall structure of the song. A lot of riffs don't sound that awesome/unique on their own. It's usually more about how they are used in the context of the song.

BTW, how good is your ear? Do you ever learn songs by ear? Do you hear musical ideas in your head and can you play them on your instrument? If the way you write music is by noodling around on your guitar, your fingers will mostly play patterns that they are familiar with. You will most likely run out of ideas pretty fast if that's how you write songs.

One thing is just writing songs without caring about them sounding generic. Not all songs are meant to be released on an album. Not all songs are meant to be hits. Also, if you come up with something generic, you can always change it. Figure out why it sounds generic and do something about it.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Dec 2, 2016,
#3
There's no shortcut to being consistently original and creative. Sounding like a copycat hack is just part of the process of finding your own style. Your music is buried beneath layers of your influences, and all you can do is start digging through them.

Use this to your advantage. You're not copying anyone. You're inspired by your favorite artists. Exploring sounds intentionally is very important. If you were a composition student at a university, you'd be asked to compose things that follow specific traditions and styles.
#4
Should I complete my songs even if they are blatant ripoffs? And I do have some formal music training. I can identify the basic intervals, yes.

@MM, yeah, that is what usually happnens to me. I noodle around in the variations of the minor scale I know, and I don't know why I expect anything different from when I am playing. I find that when I write away from the guitar, I am able to transcribe riffs I hear in my head much better. And I feel its not like I'm trying to specifically emulate a sound, but I find myself playing in the rhythms of the bands I listen to. Its so weird.
#5
Completion is a good goal - you get an idea of the basic structure of a song, and that will help in the future.

I usually only write away from instruments too (and mute the output until I'm ready to listen). Listening to real instruments drowns the other instruments out.

Songwriting (and invention) is an active skill, much like writing and speaking, and requires a different (but somewhat overlapped) set of skills than playing/regurgitating other people's stuff. I'd suggest learning how to describe more than just the techniques; learn to describe the notes, not just as intervals in a horizontal line of melody, but vertically in harmonic relation to each other. Doing so will help you decode the "chaos" that Necrophagist makes in its music.
#6
If you're worried about making music that sounds original and creative, ask yourself this: what would you like to hear in a song that you haven't heard before? That has to be your starting point if you want to make something truly original. Think about what you want your contribution to music to be.

Also, remember that creativity is playful in nature. It's about exploring new territory and lifting limitations. The more you let your mind wander to wherever it wants to go, the more original your music will become and the more your personality will truly come through in the music.

And you have to stop seeing yourself as just a metal musician. One technique I've used several times in the past is to try to write music in a genre that I know nothing about. Interestingly, what comes out sounds nothing like the genre I was trying for. What ends up happening is that I trick myself into lifting the limitations I put on my songwriting that I didn't even know were there.
Artist: Mad Orca
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#7
Quote by johnhayman1337
So, I've been playing guitar for about 10 years, started to take it very seriously around 3 or 4 years ago. While Im a huge fan of all music, metal is my true love. I can play some things like Necrophagist, Fallujah, TBDM, Cattle Decap, etc. My dream is pretty much to record an album some day. The only problem is, literally all my riffs sound like crappy ripoffs of the aforementioned bands. Either that or old school death metal riffs that have been over done. Another problem is when trying to create riffs in the necrophagist style, I keep playing the same sequences of notes in different orders, trying to find out how to get that chaotic/dissonant sound. How do I break out of this?
It may be that you're working in too narrow a field - drawing from too narrow a range of influences.

You could either branch and listen to other genres, to expand your vocabulary (anything you steal could still be played in the style you want, I'm sure). Or you could take those riffs you've stolen - or that sound too much like rip-offs - and try systematically altering small elements. Raise or lower one note by half-step, or whole step. Shift the timing somehow. After all, there's no problem in sounding like the bands you mention - surely that's the whole idea of fitting into the genre?

If you're bored with your riffs, try listening closely to those bands' riffs that you find most successful and analyse them. Maybe the appeal is in the rhythmic shapes, and not the notes? Great rock riffs are always about the rhythm first, notes second. Or maybe you're just bored with death metal, but can't admit it?
#8
Quote by johnhayman1337
Should I complete my songs even if they are blatant ripoffs?
Yes, imitation is one of the best ways to learn
Si
#9
I would complete and save any riffs/song ideas you write that end up somewhat mirroring another band/style. Sometimes I'll listen to too much of a band or genre, and end up writing a rip-off riff/song, but I save it and revisit the idea later when I am back in the right mindset to create something a little more original, or that reflects my type of songwriting better. You might find that you initially had some pretty good ideas flowing with said ripoff, it just needs to be tweaked a bit.
#10
In an attempt to say something different from all the good advice here:

Everything thinks that each section of the song needs to be the CRAZIEST RIFF EVER OMG THIS IS AWESOME - that's not necessarily the best idea; it tends to make your compositions sound like technical workouts.

Try coming up with one really good figure/hook/whatever, and writing the rest of the song around that. Support the thing that works really well. You're allowed to write more than one song, don't blow all your ideas on the first tune.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp