The five most effective creative techniques for songwriting

So much for 'it has all been done before': this is how you support each other in composing and writing lyrics

Sometimes there is this one idea, this one topic that you want to convert into music - but you lack the inspiration to turn your idea into a whole song? That happens sometimes. We have five creative techniques which will boost your writing process by giving new impulses and which cost nothing.

1. “Stagnation can be petrifying. Write your songs in different places and try out new instruments”,

says Nils of the band The Hirsch Effekt

“For me it is helpful to write in different places. To be invariably staring at the same screen in the same place can paralyse your creativity. So change your surroundings. Otherwise, your brain will eventually switch into the mode of always doing the same thing, like in an office job. Maybe you as a band could rent a holiday home for a few days and, if you want to be really thorough, even one without Internet access. The number of possible places to write in is endless nowadays. We live in an age in which many things are portable, for example the laptop and the tiny recording interface for about 80 euros for taping.”

The cliché of the poet writing in a café is not at all far-fetched. In a café there are many outside influences which can all be possible inspirations. The boisterous group of senior citizens over coffee and cake, the couple taking Instagram photos with their Danish pastries, the vastly bored art student behind the counter, in short: life. Write it down.

2. Mapping: visualise your thought snippets

If you are now afraid you will have to paint or draw, take a deep breath. By mapping, we mean different kinds of mind maps. But for songwriting? Perhaps the German term 'Gedankenlandkarte' (map of thoughts) is more descriptive. Your main idea for the song is in the centre. Then associations to the main idea branch out into individual streets. This can bring forth lines or whole verses. Or it can simply help you sort out your creative thoughts. Sometimes you just have to rid your mind of some ballast and creativity slips in.

Example of a mind map for a new song:

3. Archiving: methodically compile your ideas in a central place

Call it an idea book, creative folder or whatever, but write down good thoughts immediately. Ideas bubble up all the time in everyday life, in the shower, on the bus, at the bar - do not let them slip away. Use a small notebook, an app or send yourself voice messages about snippets of thoughts, poetry ideas or a riff. And the next time you have writer's block, flip through or listen to your creative treasure. This has great side effects:

  • You clear your mind and have more freedom for new thoughts.
  • Some song ideas mature over time. After a few weeks you can start again and finish the song.
  • Using your archive, you can merge several song ideas.
  • You keep track of your progress over time.

4. Rec 'n' roll: fine-tuning has to wait, creation comes first

Maybe you have heard the term freewriting before. Freewriting means taking a blank sheet of paper and simply start to write. You write down non-stop exactly the thoughts that flow through your head. It does not have to make sense at first, and it certainly does not have to have a structure. The main thing is that you pour your entire spontaneous flow of thoughts onto a sheet of paper. You define a length of time for this, e.g. five minutes. And then you write for five minutes without stopping. This works for lyrics, but also for instrumental songwriting. Set up a microphone and a recording interface, turn on the metronome and just plonk away, five minutes without stopping.

Alea is the Latin word for dice or chance. In aleatoric music, the notes for a piece are chosen haphazardly, the result is a random sequence of notes. This can help you write songs. How? Your mind wants order. The random, chaotic sequence of sounds will be straining for your head; it will try to create order. Thus, you find new inspiration for melodies and riffs in the randomness.

You can start, for example, with the rhythm guitar. Select a beat and a rhythm. Start in 4/4 and just play eighth notes at 90 BPM. Then decide on a scale. Now take two dice and always write down the note of the scale you rolled. If you roll a five, it is a g on the major scale, if you roll an 11, you go back to the start and it is an e. Do you use tablature? Then use power chords or the keynote depending on the outcome: five on the dice stands for the fifth fret.

5. Brainwalking: distribute your thoughts throughout the room and remix them

Brainwalking is a bit like a decentralised 3D mind map in your flat. Distribute several A4 sheets of paper in your flat. Pin them to the wall so that you can write on them. Then walk around your flat, maybe listen to some music and write your thoughts alternately on the sheets. Let your associations flow, do not judge anything. It is best to walk a fixed route through your flat. On the one hand, it is like brainstorming with movement. On the other hand, you remix your thoughts through the alternating sheets of paper. When you are finished with sheet six and start again at the first sheet, you might see older shreds of thought in a completely new light. The effect is even stronger if you leave the sheets hanging for a few days and take a turn every now and then. Do one brainwalk in the morning and one in the evening. This is like a continuous remix of your creative thoughts.

We hope one of these creative techniques will help you with your writing. Feel free to continue browsing the IMG STAGELINE magazine. Here we write content about recording, sound engineering and the music business in collaboration with our endorsement bands.

Photo ©   junce11 | Adobe Stock