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If you're a musician/songwriter, the title of this article may remind you of a past nightmare. If you & I were playing a round of "Jeopardy"...and the answer I gave you was "practicing scales & writer's block", your response might be "what are 2 things we try to avoid"- LOL But what if I were to tell you that routinely practicing scales might help you avoid that dreaded writer's block? Would it be worthwhile then? Obviously, I can't answer for you. But my personal answer is a resounding YES! As a member of online musician forums, I've seen countless posts & conversations about both of these topics individually. Typically, posters complain about scales being mindlessly boring and inquire about how to fix supposed writer's block. From what I can tell, many people view writer's block and the absence of ideas & motivation as 2-ways of saying the same thing. Personally, I've never cared for the term writer's block, but I guess that's easy for me to say. You see...in over 15 years of songwriting, I've never had it! Seriously....never! I certainly have my share of other problems, just like everyone else. But, I've never had that one. My biggest obstacle has always been available time. Are all of my ideas brilliant? Absolutely not! But that's not my point. My point is that I'm never without at least one viable song idea. I can't attribute that continual flow of ideas to any single variable. But I can tell you that I've stumbled across a number of them while practicing basic scale patterns. "Too Small To Save", "Pentatonic Playground", "Reluctant Love", "Bottom Feeders" and "Middle Class Blues" are all examples of this accidental discovery process. Each sprang from a riff that I came across while doing my typical warm-up routine. I'd love to tell you that these riffs came to me in a dream...that I immediately woke up & wrote them down...& that I felt as if they were inspired by God himself. But that would be an absolute load-of-crap! Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has already bestowed enough of that upon us to last for several lifetimes. So I'll try not to add to the delusional mystique that is so commonly used to shroud the creative process. OK, back to the subject at hand! Let me try to connect-the-dots a little better by providing some detail about that typical warm-up routine I mentioned. Years ago, I got myself in the habit of using scales to warm-up on guitar. Generally, I'll pick 1 specific type of scale/mode (natural minor, diatonic major, mixolydian, etc.), pick a key & run a basic block pattern...6th string thru to 1st string then back again. Once I've started to loosen up: I'll allow myself to begin deviating a bit...within the confines of that same basic pattern eventually, I may shift to a pentatonic version in the same key then fiddle around a while by selecting different starting & stopping points, doubling back on various strings, incorporating hammers & pull-offs...basically farting around, but remaining within the structure of that same scale pattern. It's this final farting around (improvising) stage of the warm-up that's proved useful in generating riff ideas. Once I'm warmed-up, I allow myself the creative freedom to roam around inside the given scale structure, trying different combinations and free-forming. Since I'm already operating within the parameters of a set scale, I have the advantage of knowing that anything I come across will be theoretically sound. I don't have to consciously think about what notes I'm playing. I simply play & listen for any random combination that I like. I've always been of the opinion that creativity happens when we allow ourselves the opportunity to play around & experiment. That's become easier for me, because I routinely practice scales. That practice has helped me to develop finger memory. Finger memory means that my hands know the shapes of the scale patterns. Because of that, I'm able to allow my mind the freedom to play around & hopefully discover. Bottom line....if scales weren't already a routine thing for me, that simply wouldn't be possible! Will this work for you? There's only one way to find out! Do yourself a favor though....if you do decide to try it and you stumble across an idea, make an immediate record of it. Personally, I never trust a new idea to memory! I always make a quick recording or a written record of it. Most times, I do both! For quick recordings, I've typically used either a cassette-tape boom box or a hand-held digital recorder. My written versions are usually tablature. Once that's accomplished, I forget about it & move on to whatever I had originally intended to do. I'd be willing to bet, that right about now, someone is asking themselves -"what...you don't drop everything else & continue working on that new idea?" No! Almost never! I find that my life and my work flow in a more orderly fashion when I plan my work, then work my plan. And no, I didn't just make that up. It's an old adage in business. My life is less chaotic that way and my projects get finished! As with most other things in life, I do leave room for the occasional exception. But it doesn't happen often. If you can get yourself in the habit of keeping organized, detailed records of all your ideas, you may find that you begin to develop a surplus. Wouldn't it be nice if your biggest problem was finding time to develop your ideas, rather than not having any? I've always thought so! Since a picture is supposedly worth 1,000 words, I thought it might be a nice touch to include a video attachment with this article. It's a quick guitar demo of the primary riffs in "Middle Class Blues". http://youtu.be/25UoTx-mBfc Thanks...and as always, your feedback is welcome & appreciated! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.youtube.com/tomhoffman1 http://www.tune-smith.com
Writer's Block, one of the worst enemies for a songwriter. The writer's block is something that restricts a songwriter or lyricist from being able to be at his or her creative best. You might have an idea in mind which you'd want to make a song out of but you're not able to find the right words or what you come up with sounds too cliche or that you can't come up with anything at all. Being stuck in a rut can really bum you out and make things further difficult to resolve. The following article deals with some insight and a few tips to overcome a writer's block and bring about a fresh approach to songwriting. Every songwriter is different in his approach but these tips may help you get more out of your musings nonetheless. http://www.songstuff.com/song-writing/article/writers_block/ Do you have any tips to overcome a writer's block? Let us know in the comments below or on the forums! Be sure to share and like the article if you find it useful. If you have any questions, feel free to discuss it on the Songstuff Community Forums.
New to the forum & chat world, I am hoping not to step in too many chatroom faux pas. I'm a odd duck 30 something songwriter outta Mass. I sing loud n quiet sometimes, I play slide guitar & acoustic but I'm most comfortable belting & crooning my own material with someone else on the guitar. I've put out 2 cds Learn Abandon & Trouble with Dibble, both are usually classified as Americana. I am picky with lyrics & love songs that can let you peak into some humor in the tragedy. I've recently moved to IN & I'm having some writers block & am eager to make my way through it. I can't wait to meet the characters roaming about here & I'm eager to give & get input from all.
teammusicwhirl posted a topic in Songwriting DiscussionAny ideas on a way to create an environment conducive for better songwriting? (I have 3 kids, and a dog at home...) TeamMusicWhirl www.musicwhirl.com