#1
Title really says it all. I'm fucking frustrated because whenever an idea comes to my mind, I play it, write it down, try around until I find a chord progression or a riff that seems to sound right - just to realise that I've subconsciously copied another song. Which REALLY sucks if I've invested three hours into a song just to find I wasted my time upon my mind fucking with me. The other day I had a really cool idea, and when I recorded it, I thought "this sounds familiar" - turns out because it was almost the same as The Cure's Lullaby (the chord progression and the overall feels, anyway).

I figured I can't be the only musician to face this problem, so I was hoping someone has any advice how to get over this. I'm really at a loss. It makes me feel as though every possible piece of music has already been written, and while that's bullshit, it only serves to kill my remaining motivation and make me feel like crap. Every riff I've tried to come up turns into "Tears Don't Fall" sooner or later, even though I haven't listened to that song in months, every lead I play sounds the same, every chord progression I write ends up as I-V-vi-IV in the end - I feel like I'm going insane because I can't seem to come up with anything original. I had a streak some time ago when the ideas came faster than I could write them down, and now I feel like I've "drained" my creativity.

Sorry for the long rant... anybody got a cure for that? I thought of trying to deliberately listening to completely different music, but I usually end up copying songs I haven't even listened to recently, so that kinda makes no sense. Anybody tried that?
#2
Historically speaking, many genres such as blues, bluegrass, pop, pop punk, rock n roll. and jazz are all, to an extent, built around songs that use the same progressions. 12 bar blues. Old bluegrass songs are 95% I-IV-I-V songs. There are a million pop songs that are I-V-vi-IV or it's buddy, vi-IV-I-V and tons of old 50s and 60s rock n roll ballads that go I-vi-IV-V or I-vi-ii-V and plenty of 12 bars. And in jazz there's the twelve bar again and the even more common ii-V-I.

So that's like 80% of pop music ever with just 7 different chord progressions. All are tried and true. The arrangement, melody, rhythm, and lyrics are what makes a thousand songs with the some progression different.

If you really want to sound different though outside chords like II, III, , iv, v, VI, and bVII can all sound really neat. For Example, Radiohead's song creep goes I-III-IV-iv pretty much the whole song. The theme from Steven Universe also uses that.

Quote by HashtagMC
I thought of trying to deliberately listening to completely different music, but I usually end up copying songs I haven't even listened to recently, so that kinda makes no sense. Anybody tried that?


Good luck with that. Even completely different music boils down to the same progressions being common.
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#3
Quote by theogonia777
Historically speaking, many genres such as blues, bluegrass, pop, pop punk, rock n roll. and jazz are all, to an extent, built around songs that use the same progressions.  12 bar blues.  Old bluegrass songs are 95% I-IV-I-V songs.  There are a million pop songs that are I-V-vi-IV or it's buddy, vi-IV-I-V and tons of old 50s and 60s rock n roll ballads that go I-vi-IV-V or I-vi-ii-V and plenty of 12 bars.  And in jazz there's the twelve bar again and the even more common ii-V-I.  

So that's like 80% of pop music ever with just 7 different chord progressions.  All are tried and true.  The arrangement, melody, rhythm, and lyrics are what makes a thousand songs with the some progression different.  

If you really want to sound different though outside chords like II, III, , iv, v, VI, and bVII can all sound really neat.  For Example, Radiohead's song creep goes I-III-IV-iv pretty much the whole song.  The theme from Steven Universe also uses that.


Good luck with that.  Even completely different music boils down to the same progressions being common.

After I read your post I tried to play around with progressions with more than four chords in them.

What scale has got C# D# E F F# G# Bb B in it ^^
#4
Diminished scale.
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#5
Quote by theogonia777
Diminished scale.

Are you sure?

HashtagMC 

If you drop the E, you'd have Mixolydian. Major with flat 7.
If you drop the F you'd have Dorian. Minor with raised 6th.

Depending on how you are using the notes, and over what chords, I'd guess Mixo with an added minor 3rd.

D#, E, F, F# are each a semitone apart.

This site is good for working out scales. https://www.scales-chords.com/scalefinder.php
#6
Vreid

Yeah I'm sure...

...that it isn't.

I see now where I goofed.
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#7
Quote by HashtagMC
After I read your post I tried to play around with progressions with more than four chords in them.

What scale has got C# D# E F F# G# Bb B in it ^^

That's some kind of a bluesy sounding scale (with both major and minor 3rd and a flat 7th). Not all of the notes that you use need to fit one scale. I would see the E as a chromatic passing tone.

Also, what the scale should be called depends on the context (it's mostly about harmony). If you use the E over one chord and the "F" (should be E# if we are in the key of C#) over another, then you are just mixing major and minor and I wouldn't see them as a part of the same scale - you would be using notes from the parallel major and minor scales. Usually trying to understand chord progressions with scales is really not the best way (especially if they use non-diatonic chords).
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#8
The chords are C# E F# B and A# (major, minor & diminished). That'd make it C# natural minor, except for the fact I play a C# major, and a G#dim, and that there's an A in it...

ok, I get it... not one scale.

At least I can say that I didn't end up frustrated this time ^^ tried another time signature and a more complicated chord progression.

theogonia777 
 I-vi-ii-V 

Hey, that's also used in "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)"! Rock'n'Roll... I thought RnR was mainly 12 bar blues.
#9
HashtagMC

Just be careful with that. Using outside chords is great, but you don't want your songwriting to "rely" on them to be compelling. Some of the most well-known songs in the history of popular music, including many that are cornerstones of their genre 8r signature songs of their instrument, where written with only three or four chords with no outside chords.

A good writer can work magic with just I, IV, V, and vi in whatever order they choose. A bad songwriter will have trouble no matter what they have to work with. It's all about the sum of the different parts (lyrics, melodies, instrumentation, rhythm, etc) and just a complex chord progression or two.
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#10
Quote by theogonia777
HashtagMC

Just be careful with that.  Using outside chords is great, but you don't want your songwriting to "rely" on them to be compelling.  Some of the most well-known songs in the history of popular music, including many that are cornerstones of their genre 8r signature songs of their instrument, where written with only three or four chords with no outside chords.  

A good writer can work magic with just I, IV, V, and vi in whatever order they choose.  A bad songwriter will have trouble no matter what they have to work with.  It's all about the sum of the different parts (lyrics, melodies, instrumentation, rhythm, etc) and just a complex chord progression or two.

Well, "Welcome to the Black Parade", "Famous Last Words" and to some extent "Helena" are all built from more than just three chords. All still within the scale, though. But my point is, a more complex progression isn't necessarily bad.

And don't worry, I can do with simpler stuff, too. Many of the songs I wrote during the last year rely on three or four chords.
#11
There's nothing wrong with that, but the important thing to remember is that chords and scales and playing techniques are all tools. As an artist, you don't want to have to rely on a lot of fancy tools to make a piece. It's like when a guitarist learns tapping or sweeping they feel the need to throw them in wherever they want to show how great they are as a lead guitarist. Meanwhile they lack the fundamentals of a well rounded lead guitarist. Put them next to someone with good fundamentals but can't sweep and while Shreddy-Tappy Sweepyheimer-Schmidt might be more technicallyskilled, it's all style and no substance and so it gets uninteresting very quickly.

Personally I have always thought that the mark of a good artist is to be able to make something compelling with whatever tools they are given, even if it's just the simplest tool. When you have to rely on a particular tool, then you will not have much to go off of. As nice as advanced techniques are there is a time and a place and they are inappropriate in many situations while fundamentals are always necessary.

Too many advanced techniques is like using a lot of spices. In some cooking there are not strict limits on spices, but even so it is important to have a variety of soices. This is how Cajun cooking and curry work and how well technical death metal and progressive metal work. But other dishes avoid excessive use of spices and avoid many spices altogether. Muffins generally don't call for cumin, paprika, and coriander.
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#12
Quote by HashtagMC


Sorry for the long rant... anybody got a cure for that? I thought of trying to deliberately listening to completely different music, but I usually end up copying songs I haven't even listened to recently, so that kinda makes no sense. Anybody tried that?

1) There is a simple solution - I call it the Kurt Cobain approach.  When writing a progression - arbitrarily try using the same chord voicing one half step up or down from the usual chord you would hit that sounds good to you ( so slide it up or down one fret).  This will result in unusual sounds and will forcibly take your progression out of the usual diatonic platitudes, which are probably what you're running into over and over. You can try that over any of the chords in a progression, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. For example, instead of playing Gmaj then Cmaj, which is insanely common, try G then C#maj or G then Bmaj.  You can this for any chord and sometimes it really sounds good.

2) Another good approach, if you've written a chord progression that is similar to another tune is to simply   change the time signature - so instead of 4/4, play it in 6/4  or 6/8.  Also, change up the duration of the chords ( i.e. stay on a chord longer or shorter than the other song.) and play at a different tempo -  That will change things up enough to take you out of the plagiarism zone.

3) everybody has this problem - just keep at it. 
Last edited by reverb66 at Aug 24, 2017,
#13
A similar approach is the black metal modulation approach. In black metal (and death metal) it is common to play a riff and then repeat at a different interval. So if you play a riff that outlines an Em, you move up a few frets--three or four semitones are common because they sound very ominous--and play the same riff verbatim but transposed to outline a G or G#.

This can be done with simple 2 chord groups as well. Try playing G-D. Now modulate. We'll pick a third (4 semitones). In this case we're not going to physically move things by frets. Just find the closest voicing. So up a third would be B-F#. Once again and we get D#-A#. One more change and you're back to the beginning.

A good example of this is a Miles Davis tune called Tune Up. He uses a ii-V-I and that's four measures. Then the next four measures is another ii-V-I but down a step. And then another ii-V-I another step down, but in measure 12 in breaks away and I forget the last four measures. But the important thing is the modulation of ii-V-I in the first 11 measures.

Another thing to do is to take any chord progressions, including ones using the above ideas, and simply switch a minor chord for a major chord or vice versa. This can make some interesting changes. Keep in mind that changing your 3rd may affect your note choice when playing lead through some or all of the piece. So for example in the key if A minor, you can change your iv to a IV and get Am-D which is very often associated with the Dorian scale and melodically speaking you would raise your b6th note F to an F#, especially when playing a D chord. Then you might have an E chord, which is v to V. This means G changes to G#, especially when played over the E chord. This is strongly associated with the harmonic minor scale and if you keep the D chord then the melodic minor scale would fit well.

There are of course many other options, but those are some of the most common. Even if they are the most common, they're still interesting. Another example that I mentioned before was Creep, which goes I-III-IV-iv when I-iii-IV with the last chord for two measures is what would be expected under strict diatonic harmony with no outside chords.
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#14
I once had a band where all we did was reverse Black Flag songs.  It was ok.  
"I definitely don’t write all my music in a blackout, like I used to, although I did come up with some good stuff in a blackout."
-Matt Fucking Pike
#15
The only way to get past "copying" familiar sounds is to figure out what makes them all sound the same. And then do something different. And there's a lot of things nearly every song does the same, beyond the chords, which means there's a whole lot you can do different, too. But it's a thing you have to figure out on your own in order to develop your own style.
#17
Quote by Vendetta V
isn't C# D# E F F# G# Bb B  almost same as the follow (like the modificaiton)

C# D# E F# G# A# B#
That'd be C# melodic minor with a E#/F inbetween? 

No. Where did the B# come from?

It would be either C# D# E F# G# A# B or C# D# E# F# G# A# B (so C# Dorian or C# Mixolydian, depending on whether you count E or E# as part of the scale). Or it would be neither and it would be just mixing major and minor, and it actually seems like this is the case.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

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Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
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Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#19
I think in the end it boils down to some C#m variation. Many of these notes were passing notes, and the scale seems to be mainly C#m, except for the fact I play a C#7 somewhere in there. Chords used are C#(7), G#m, Bmaj7, E & F#. If it weren't for the C#7, that'd be some C#m stuff I guess.
#20
But where does it resolve? That's what matters. If it doesn't resolve at C#m it isn't in C#m. If it doesn't contain a C#m it probably doesn't resolve on C#m.
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#21
Quote by HashtagMC
I think in the end it boils down to some C#m variation. Many of these notes were passing notes, and the scale seems to be mainly C#m, except for the fact I play a C#7 somewhere in there. Chords used are C#(7), G#m, Bmaj7, E & F#. If it weren't for the C#7, that'd be some C#m stuff I guess.

As theogonia777  said, it all depends on which chord it resolves to.

You could be playing B Major. The C#(7) is the secondary dominant, 5 of the 5, so the scale changes the  4th degree E to E# 

Or you could be playing G# minor. The C#(7) chord is usually minor, but commonly changed to major,  so you raise the sixth degree E to E#.

Because you said you throw a C#(7) somewhere in there , makes me think it has nothing to do with C# anything.
#22
Get together with some other people and write with them. You just need another perspective, that's all.

“We’re built of contradictions, all of us. It’s those opposing forces that give us strength, like an arch, each block pressing the next. Give me a man whose parts are all aligned in agreement and I’ll show you madness. We walk a narrow path, insanity to each side. A man without contradictions to balance him will soon veer off.”



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#23
Quote by an.interloper
Get together with some other people and write with them. You just need another perspective, that's all.

+1 

Writing with other people can get you out of your inward spiral of self critique and help you regain freshness in writing stuff. Also, as stated above: all music you can come up with has elements of songs or pieces you've listened to in the past. It's called inspiration.
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#24
Well, I'd love to hear something that brings The Cure's Lullaby to mind.
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#26
I wouldnt worry about plagarizing you favorite bands, it probably how they started.

In reality, maybe 5% of people who hear it will notice, and your only going to get sued if it goes gold.