Every songwriter experiences writer’s block from time to time. Whether you’re stuck on a second verse, debating over a funky chord, or just out of fresh ideas, here are 5 exercises to you get you back on track!
1. The Minute Game
Free writing can play a huge role in breaking through a writer’s block. But what do you free write about? And for how long? Here is a simple exercise that is easy to do, and only takes 10 minutes!
Start by choosing 4 words. For example: letter, change, coffee, and valley. Now you’re going to write about each word for different lengths of time.
Letter: 5 minutes
Change: 3 minutes
Coffee: 1 minute
Valley: 30 seconds
Set a timer and write as much as you can about each word within the time limit. How you choose to write about your word is up to you! As soon as the timer goes off, start on the next word. When you’ve completed each word, go back and review all of your work, highlighting or circling phrases that you like. You may end up with potential song lyrics, or perhaps you’re just inspired by a new subject. Who knows what might come out of this awesome exercise! Here are a few more words to get you started:
plane, pencil, photograph, table, light, explore, box, winter, rose, black, phone, city, pebble, street, carpet, hands, paint, shelf, handkerchief, message, dessert, exit, memory, step, rain, clouds, yellow, fade, again, past, future, new
2. Observe and Report
People watching can be great for a number of reasons, but we love it for song inspiration! Grab a journal and a pen, and get out of the house for a few hours. Find yourself a spot at a park, mall, coffee shop, restaurant, or any other place that you can stay put for a few minutes, and start writing! But don’t just write about what you see… write about all of your senses. What do you hear, smell, taste, or feel? Often times we get so caught up in going from one place to the next that we miss a lot of small details in the moment. Giving yourself a chance to dig into those details may inspire a pretty great song or two!
3. The Buddy System
What’s better than one great songwriter? TWO great songwriters!
If you check the songwriters behind most songs today, you will find more than one name. Many times, you’ll find even 5 or 6 names! If you’ve never collaborated with another songwriter before, it can seem a little awkward at first. But find someone you can trust, whose writing style is appealing to you, and you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to have an extra mind on a song. You might even become the next Rogers and Hammerstein, Lennon and McCartney, or Pasek and Paul!
4. Reverse Your Process
There are a lot of different ways to approach writing a song, but often times, songwriters get into routines. If you feel like you’ve been stuck in your writing process lately, try switching up your routine! If you usually start with lyrics, try starting with the music. If you normally write the music first, start with lyrics! Though it seems simple, you will force yourself to think first where you normally think second, and you may be surprised at the amount of new ideas you come up with.
5. Learn Something New
Musicians know that there is a never-ending world of knowledge when it comes to Music Theory. Even if you’ve studied Music Theory, took classes on it, or have a degree in it, the possibilities are endless! Use your songwriting slump as an opportunity to learn something new that you can incorporate into your music. For example, discover pentatonic scales or secondary dominants, modulation or augmented sixth chords. Once you’ve taken some time to learn something new, try to incorporate it into a song. Your chord progressions and melodic ideas will transform into fresh and interesting ideas, hopefully breaking the wall you’ve been up against!
We hope that these exercises will be helpful to you in your songwriting journey! Whatever you do, don’t stop writing. The worst thing you can do for yourself as a songwriter is getting out of the habit of writing regularly. You may not love every song that you write for a period of time, but the longer you work at something, the better you become at it! Happy writing!