Writing Music When You're Not Inspired

Writing Music When You're Not Inspired

By Unden Leslie
5 years ago

You ever have one of those days, that you don't have to do anything, and you finally get some serious time to work on your music.  You've been looking forward to it all week, and you want to write some great songs.  So, you turn your phone off, put on some comfy clothes, get your instruments plugged in and ready, and then...poof.  Nothing.  You play some of your favorite chord progressions to get you going, but you're just not feeling it.  You turn your phone back on to see if anyone texted.  You check the internet for tweets, and next thing you know you're on boredpanda.com and hours have gone by.  Writing songs doesn't always come easy, and it can be hard and frustrating work.  So, here's some things that have worked for me in the past, that might work for you or give you some ideas.

Get a drum beat or loop going: This is my go-to method.  For practicing, for writing, anything, even meditating.  I pick some kind of interesting beat, usually something hip hop around 70 - 80bpm, and then just start playing some kind of lick or chord progression on top of it, over and over, like a mantra.  Then I might add some interesting idea or ostinato to it, maybe even some vocal idea, and when I find something that sounds pretty good, or really good, I record it.  It saves time later if you get a decent recording, but if recording kills the creative vibe, then just get something down so that you can the gist or feel of the song.  Plus, if you're like me, I like to record lots of ideas, and listen to them later to see if I still like it or not, or want to build on it.

Find a song that you want to imitate:  Don't worry about plagiarism.  You'll put your own stamp on it 99% of the time.  I like to play the song, and then improvise on top of it.  I like to mess with the chord progressions.  If the song has 1 chord per measure, you might play 2 chords on the 3rd measure, or even change one of the chords.  I might improvise a vocal accompaniment or bass line. Then I find a drum loop similar to the song or tempo, and start working with that a little bit.  Maybe add some syncopation or synth percussive accents.  If you have a good drum program, like Xfer Nerve, it really helps to keep the creative flow going, so you don't end up spending all your time loading programs and sounds, which can really kill your flow.  Which brings up my next point...

Setting up your studio and workspace: Initially this does take time and cost money, and time learning your how to use your programs, but it can really save you time writing and recording your music.  I already mentioned having a good drum machine.  A good external audio interface that you can plugin into and record fast is important also.  I can quickly plugin a mic, guitar, or bass directly into my interface and record directly into my DAW.  I have a lot of presets saved ahead of time as my go to effects, so I don't kill my creative flow by going through hundreds of presets and settings right when I'm about to record.  I can always modify these settings later after I've recorded.  I find it much faster than using external pedals and effects, especially for writing and initial recording.  And the same definitely goes for synth sounds.  As for the space or room itself, I try to keep it simple and pleasant to look at, with nice lighting, so that I can enjoy spending hours in my space working on music.  With that said, get up and take a break every once and a while and be kind to yourself for the work and time you've committed to your songs.

Most of my ideas work really well for recording alone, which is what I mostly do.  Of course, working with other musicians can have huge benefits for writing and coming up with new ideas.  I also recommend driving in your car for coming up with ideas, as well as trying new effects and sounds on your instruments for new ideas.  Good luck, and if this has helped you write an awesome song, send some good karma my way! (aim for Austin, Texas)

(Photo by Tikkho Maciel on Unsplash)


If you get a chance, check out one my favorite songs on my album, "Peace".  Thanks!


    Unden Leslie

    Unden Leslie

    Austin, TX, USA
    Austin-based songwriter and pianist Unden Leslie began playing piano at 16 years old, and earned several degrees in Composition in Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
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