Saturday, June 29, 2019

5 More Songwriting Ideas to overcome writers block

Last time we talked about five ideas that can help get your writing ideas flowing and help you overcome writers block. Here are five more ideas that should help you blast right through that writing block and get onto writing great songs.

1. Rewrite a Movie - Rewrite your favorite movie (or not so favorite movie if you think it can be better as a song) into a song. Maybe you went out to a movie and was totally inspired by it. Sit down and try to figure out what it would be like if it were a song. Maybe one particular scene in the movie would make the perfect song. Give it a shot, I know that there were several songs that came about this way.

2. Style Imitation - Imitate a style of music you like or try to write a song that you think your favorite artist would have sung or written. This can be a vast area of inspiration. I know that one of my favorite bands, Fountains of Wayne, wrote a lot of songs that sort of imitated popular hits from the past. Maybe they used a keyboard or guitar riff that reminded people of earlier pop songs, or maybe they mentioned one of their heroes in a song, but they were always pointing people back to the music that they loved and listened to growing up. I think this is a cool thing to do. But it can go further than that and you can literally try to write a song in an historic style, maybe you could write a dixieland song, or a hymn, or a 40's swing tune. There are so many different styles of music, and maybe something you write will encapsulate that time period perfectly. Or perhaps you might just take flavors of those time periods and sprinkle them into to give your modern song a little flavor.

3. Rewrite an Old Ballad - I am currently working on a book about the Child Ballads. There are over 300 songs in five volumes, with a multitude of variations per song, that one could use to rewrite and come up with a new song. Dylan did this with his song "The Man in the Long Black Coat." The Child Ballad was called "The Deamon Lover," and Dylan was recreating the "House Carpenter" version of that ballad in his song. If you don't know the Child Ballads, you really should get to know them. If you want to be a good story teller, they are a great place to start.

4. Write a Hymn - I'm all for writing a good old time Jesus Loves You gospel song, but in this case, I mean write a song that has a hymn-like structure that evokes a sense of calm. Elton John's "Skyline Pigeon," is an example of this. It's a beautiful song that is ambiguous enough to not really know what the lyrics are about, but they speak to the human feeling of being trapped. Everyone has felt that way at time, be it in a dead end job, or in a broken relationship. So the hymn structure of the song helps you to focus on those feelings, and maybe even resolve to take steps to fix it. Classical religious hymns worked the same way. They help us focus on an aspect of God and help us resolve to draw closer in some way to whatever aspect of God the hymn is talking about. This is different than what I would term a Gospel Song. A Gospel Song, tells the story of the Gospel, and is meant for people outside the faith to hear it and understand the basic doctrine of the "good news." But a hymn is designed for people within the faith who already know the basics and are going deeper.

5. Turn Your Favorite Poem Into A Song - Now again, this might be a song that you can't actually record and spread to the world, depending on copyright, but if you have a favorite poem from a long dead author then feel free turning it into a song. Or take a few poems by the same author and use the verses of one for your verse, and the verse of another as a chorus or a bridge.

So if you have been stuck for songwriting ideas, hopefully something here will launch you into a new season of productivity. If you found these tips helpful, you can find out more about songwriting tips and tricks in my new book: "Lyrics and Music: Music Theory for Aspiring Songwriters" available now at, or with several additional Appendices at Barnes and Noble.

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