Songwriting: Sounding The Same? Try This

Writers block can be very hard to break, especially if everything you do sounds the same.

Ultimate Guitar
One of my greatest fears of songwriting is having all my songs sound the same. As a self taught player who hasn't studied any music theory (starting to now) I can share from experience. Unfortunately there is no magic formula to writing songs. Something I recently tried doing was writing without an instrument in my hand. But lets talk about what happens when you try to write a song with your guitar. Every time you sit down to write something by playing you aren't necessarily creating anything new. What limits your creativity is your playing ability or habits (this can go for all players). Over time you pick up habits of playing that same shape or scale, or perhaps you really like this one lick that is very easy for you to play. When you are writing music with your guitar in hand, you're only writing what you can play. With this you aren't going to advance your songs technically nor are going to have very different sounding pieces. I soon realized this with my song writing after some feedback on my songs sounding "boring because they all sound the same" after running out of ideas. However you can fix this. Writing without a guitar in hand, you are able to break the walls down and expand your pieces of music. Now I don't mean this by sitting down at a desk and writing out scores of music from your head. I mean this by using software such as a MIDI editor. Most of us here who have downloaded guitar tabs know what a MIDI editor or more easier put, tabbing software. You can find all sorts of tabbing or midi software on the internet with a Google search. Using software such as Guitar Pro or Power Tab to write your own pieces of music allows you to write what you want (rather than being limited by skill and/or habits of playing). Editors have lots of features that can help assist in the songwriting process. Learning these features can really help make it much easier and as least painstaking as possible. Once you write your song you basically have to learn your own song. If it's challenging to you than you know that what you wrote would most likely not be anything you'd write if you had tried writing by playing. Another advantage to writing your songs with tab software is that you are able to print out your tabs in nicely formatted and customized sheets or go back and make some changes whenever you feel. As I began writing more and more complex pieces the more I realize how I wish I started studying music theory earlier on. Theory goes a long way and I've barely just started realizing how useful it can be. But by knowing theory you can speed up the song writing processing greatly. Anyway I think that sums it up. If you're having a tough time creating different sounding recordings than try writing some songs with some tabbing software and see how it works for you. I highly recommend learning all the tabbing software's features so you can get the most out of it. Hope this goes over well, it's my first article here! Thanks!

18 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I mean, seriously guys. I'm DYING for a $25 Ed Hardy Polo. So, anyways... this is some great advice. I use Guitar Pro to work on stuff, too. If you can afford the full version and can use the RSE, it can really help you get a better idea of how the song will sound in full, too. Plus, what the hell? You can add strings, keys...instruments that you might never otherwise be able to play. The possibilities are endless! ...unless you don't know how to count to 24.
    Amazing, my friend! You just described my cronology as a musician... I totally recommend the use of Guitar Pro to write up your ideas, and so turn it into a masterpiece. Ps.: I often learn my own songs! hahaha
    but the only prob is that you have to pay for it I think so I might be better starting to learn theory.
    Tux guitar is a free tablature editor that can play guitar pro and powertab tabs. Great program to have.
    Guitar Pro is good, but I think the best way is jaming session with your friends in tuning room
    Guitar pro is great. I made an entire album just using guitar pro. Even though I still got the 'It all sounds the same response' people liked it.
    This is so true. I always find myself coming up with similar chord progressions on both guitar and piano, and even the same patterns. I always find myself wishing that I could do more and that I need to progress my skill level. Of course I should still do this, but the software could help in the meantime. I'm also going to be studying music theory coming up in the next year, so hopefully I'm on my way to having more interesting, complex songs.
    I thought I was the only one who did this! This idea really works, especially since some MIDI editors (I use Guitar Pro) can show you scales on the fretboard and let you use a totally different scale than any of your usual ones.
    When it comes to composing music thats constantly fresh a good tip would defiantly be to think of it more from a rhythmic perspective like for example you could even be at a mates place or work or somewhere where you dont have access to an instrument and you can just tap out a rhythm thats completely pulled outa nothing and write it down or record it on your phone then later you can add notes and chords on a guitar tab or guitar pro as the article suggests to the rhythm you noted down earlier it works trust me!! Great article by the way
    ive never had the problem of all my music souding the same but i guess thats mostly becasue i purposely try to play and write things i cant or normaly dont play now...but ill try this song writing technique
    Guitar pro and powertab (free) are good options. I know very limited theory and learned guitar by ear. But as someone above said, try jamming with other musicians or friends. Doesn't have to be a full band, even just another guitar or piano will do, and you will get feedback from someone else, not just a computer
    About 4 years ago I found myself in the same rut. Doing the same sounding things. Guitar pro helped because of the scale finder alone I started composing way different pieces than I would have ever imagined.
    I do this a lot, glad to see I'm not the only one. I'll jam out a couple riffs on my guitar and run straight to Guitar Pro and tab them out, then start filling in the gaps and learning how to play the parts later. It feels like cheating in a sense to write music without an instrument, but it helps to be able to see your music. Then you can start writing out harmonies, melodies, bass lines, reconstructing parts you jammed out, and feel like an old timey pen and paper composer.
    I actually use GP for two main things: keeping my riffs and whatnot straight(because I play all of the parts of music so there's more to remember) and writing individual parts for MIDI(mainly drums) that I drop into my DAW when I'm recording(because I don't know the keyboard as well as I know standard notation and tabs). So yeah if you don't have it, save up and get it. It's worth it.
    losing battle wrote: You could also try learning to read music and play it at a piano or just sit at a piano.
    The same still applies to a piano. I still find myself having similar patterns and chord progressions on what I do on a piano. Although, it should at least be different from guitar styles to some extent.
    I completely agree. I myself have been trying to create tunes in my head first and then trying to play on guitar or keyboard. When creating directly on instrument, they all sound the same. Its depressing And ironically I see that some of the best songs I composed were created with guitar pro, logic pro's score editor or ableton's piano roll.