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40 Simple Solutions for Musicians to Overcome Songwriter's Block

40 Simple Solutions for Musicians to Overcome Songwriter’s Block


Ah yes! Good ol' writer's block. The unfortunate dilemma that every musician faces now and again. 
So how do we overcome this infamous struggle? Well, before you give up and bash your instrument over your roommate's head, check out these 40 simple solutions for musicians to overcome songwriter's block!


Note: this article contains affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through them, I receive a commission at no expense to you.

  1. Maintain Your Gear

  2. Have all of your gear well maintained, so that when you are writing, you can actually get the most out of it.

    This also means having backup strings on hand in case you break one just as inspiration hits. I like to buy in bulk. 

    Or maybe you still haven’t gotten around to get a power supply for your pedals (one of these days, I know). And you forgot to unplug the pedals after your last jam. And now all your batteries are dead.

  3. Be Organized

  4. It sounds lame, but having your equipment and music files organized allows you to focus on writing rather than spending all your time hunting stuff down.

    Disorganization prevents you from performing at your best, so declutter and find a place for everything. For less than $15 I was able to get my gear under control and I haven’t looked back. 

    No joke, you’ve gotta buy the following:

  5. Be Ready to Capture

  6. Musician Writing Song

    Having a good system in place for capturing your song through notebooks and smart recorders is important for capturing your inspiration when it strikes.

  7. Know Your Instrument

  8. When you're not writing, make sure you are brushing up on your scales, chord inversions, and upping your knowledge of your instruments and equipment. This will make a huge difference when you want to take what's in your head and make it into music.

  9. Block out Time Consistently

  10. Whether you're feeling inspired or not, block out time every day to get some writing in. You may struggle at times, but sticking to this discipline will hugely improve your music writing abilities.

  11. Change Your Location

  12. Songwriting in the Mountains

    Writing in the same place every day does work for some people, but if you're feeling stuck, a change of scenery may do the trick.

  13. Change Your Writing Time

  14. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Are you too drained after work to give any real effort to your music writing? Switching up the time of day when you write can make a big difference.

  15. Use the Rhythm of Rap Lyrics to Inspire Your Melodies

  16. When you’re stuck on what to write, think of some of your favorite hip hop verses. You can apply the rhythm of the rapper’s flow to your own melody.

    Annie Clarke, AKA St. Vincent, shares one of the most powerful tricks for overcoming songwriter’s block on an episode of the incredible Youtube channel Guitar Moves

  17. Try a Different Instrument

  18. A lot of artists have found that switching between instruments can inspire them to think in new and creative ways.

    So if your main instrument is piano, for example, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up an instrument that you don’t know so well, like a ukulele

    If you don’t have another instrument and can’t afford one, there’s still little things you can do. You could buy a slide for your guitar. Or you could try a free keyboard synthesizer app for your phone (or go to the reference page and check out the recommended phone apps). A harmonica costs like $12. 

  19. Try a Different Tuning

  20. Similarly, stringed instrument players can benefit massively from experimenting with alternate tunings.

    It’s a license to explore the guitar with all the benefit of the technique you’ve already mastered.

    You can also try using a capo to put your guitar into a different octave. Sometimes open chords and drones will sound really cool. 

  21. Force Yourself to Play in a Different Key

  22. Most musicians tend to have a favorite key or scale. But by mixing it up with something more exotic, you can force yourself to explore new opportunities.

  23. Play on Only One String or in Only a Couple Octaves

  24. In the opposite direction, it can help to purposely LIMIT your options. You may discover a world with in a world.

  25. Flip It and Reverse It

  26. Playing upside down is incredibly helpful at coming up with creative chord voicings and melodies. So much of the guitar is different, but enough is the same that you can easily muddle through and come up with really interesting parts that you can then improve upon on with an instrument that faces the right direction.

  27. Sing It

  28. Singing For Songwriter's Block

    When you find yourself in times of trouble, don’t be afraid to try singing a melody instead of playing an instrument. Sometimes singing can be more spontaneous and direct than an instrument, and it can help you work your way around writers' block.

  29. Tell a Story

  30. If you’re stuck on a musical melody or solo, put yourself in the frame of mind of telling a story.

  31. Use Loops

  32. Music loops can be an incredibly powerful way of breaking through songwriter’s block. The rhythm from firing up a drum loop can inspire you to play chords in a certain way or create a fun riff.

    You can find all sorts of loops for free on the internet. For example, I put together this list of the best sites for free loops. Just make sure you pick the version of the loop pack that is compatible with your recording software. 

  33. Come up with a Theme and Write Songs Around It

  34. Sometimes when I get stuck on a song, I’ll come up with a very average melodic theme, and try to write five or six variations of it, without thinking too hard. Just by exploring different angles of the same theme, you can end up coming up with different approaches, in a jazz-like manner.

  35. Come up with a Title and Write a Song Around That

  36. If you’re having trouble getting started on a song, you could always try coming up with a song title first, and then write your song around that. Whether your song is called, "Killer Clown" or "One True Love," you'll have a better idea about how to compose it.

  37. Change Times

  38. Most of us play music in 4/4 four fourths of the time, but some amazing songs are written in 3/4, 5/4, 7/4, 11/4, and so on. Step out of your comfort zone and see what happens.

  39. Create Music for an Unimagined Film

  40. When struggling with writer's block on a new song, it helps to figure out what kind of scene your music could be the soundtrack to. What kind of song would you write if you were commissioned to write a song for the 27th installment of The Fast and The Furious?

  41. Deconstruct a Favorite Song

  42. If you’re still stuck in a rut, why don’t you try deconstructing your favorite song. Breaking down the components of a beloved song doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll use them, but it can serve as a good point of reference.

  43. Play the Blues

  44. Playing The Blues For Songwriter's Block

    I can’t tell you how many song ideas I’ve gotten just by playing some blues riffs over and over, almost meditatively. Eventually you tend to fall into a cool rhythm, pattern, riff, or variation that breaks the mold while staying in it.

  45. Beatbox

  46. Sometimes we need a rhythm to play against, a force of tension to draw the music out. Beat boxing (you know, making drum noises with your mouth) can often be the solution.

  47. Use Random Words from the Internet or Newspaper Cutouts

  48. If you’re really struggling, you can also use the internet to generate random phrases. You could go to https://randomwordgenerator.com/phrase.php and just keep hitting the button until you find a phrase that inspires you.

  49. Play with Friends

  50. Reacting in real time to other musicians will get you out of your comfort zone and introduce ideas that you wouldn’t normally consider.

  51. Find a Weekly Jam Session

  52. If you can’t find a writing partner, there’s plenty of other ways to be involved. You could go to an open mic night, sitting in at a jam session, find a drum circle, or just have a few friends over.

  53. Play Live

  54. Musician Performing Live

    Playing live is one of the best ways to feel inspired. Even if you’re just playing a cover show, feeling the energy of the crowd is incredibly euphoric.

  55. Public Accountability

  56. Public accountability can be a huge inspiration for some. I know a lot of musicians who were unable to finish their album until they had the additional pressure that came from putting a deadline “out there.”

  57. Write a Song for Somebody

  58. Writing a song for someone can be a great way of finding inspiration. How many hits have been written for lovers? But even if you’re not in love, there’s plenty of ways you can write a song for someone!

  59. Exercise

  60. Did you know that there are tons of statistics that say that exercise is good for you? It’s true! But it’s also really good for inspiration.

  61. Take a Walk

  62. Walking can also be incredibly good for you. Just go out there and take a fifteen minute stroll in the middle of your session. You’ll feel relaxed, more in tune with yourself, and you’ll come back energized.

  63. Turn Your Phone off and Close Your Browser

  64. If you’re going to sit down and try to do some writing, turn off your phone, close all your browser windows and disconnect. You’ll be free of distractions and able to focus on the main task ahead of you: writing.

  65. Listen to a Different, Challenging Style of Music

  66. Explore genres that you aren't familiar with or listen to more challenging music, like classical or jazz. Either way, you'll find some genius which may just inspire you.

  67. Meditate

  68. Man Meditating

    Meditation and mindfulness exercises are a great way of staying balanced and gaining clarity. You’ll also be much more calm and energized when you resume writing.

  69. Take a Break

  70. While consistency is ultimately king, don’t feel bad about taking a break. Taking time off may just be what you need to come back and refocus.

  71. Read a Book

  72. Certain books just contain such powerful ideas, such striking characters, such poetry, that there is no way that you come away without being inspired.

  73. Read a Book About Music

  74. Reading about the struggles that other musicians have undergone, their creative processes, and just about the general history of music can be incredibly inspiring.

  75. Watch a Music Documentary

  76. Between YouTube and Netflix, there are a plethora of great music documentaries. Seeing the methods and challenges of other musicians can be very inspiring.

  77. See a Concert

  78. There is nothing like live music. The energy that develops when people get together and perform is truly special. Basking in it nourishes the musical soul, like a church for musicians.

  79. Altered States

  80. I'm not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. However, I have heard that crack is whack. I have also heard that Jim Morrison performed best drunk, but then he also died from a heroin addiction. We've lost enough great musicians to drug and alcohol abuse, so be smart and responsible.

How to produce one song a week

How to Produce One Song a Week

At the end of the day, music licensing is a numbers game.  You need to produce one song a week. The more songs you have out there, the more likely you are to have the right song for the right client. Having more songs means your songs are more likely to be found by prospective clients, and it also means that there are more songs that might fit a specific need.

Plus, the more frequently you write songs, the faster you'll start to improve! 

But having more songs means writing and recording more songs!

And that takes time. I don't know about you, but I never seem to have enough of it.

Over the past few years I've been thinking hard about how I can finish more songs. And that's lead me to a bit of an assembly line process.

This video is from my stock music licensing course.

You can get a free Five-Day stock music licensing crash course by clicking on the button

​​​​​​​​​​​​How I FINISH One Song a Week

The first thing to remember is that the goal isn't to just have recordings on your hard drive. You actually need to FINISH your songs. It's not good enough to just say this is a demo. Even if the song isn't perfect, you have to finish it and move on.

In other words, this isn't about creating the demo of one song a week. You still need to do that. But you also need to finish another song in the meantime. 

So with the goal being to actually finish a song, this is how I keep things moving at a nice clip.


You can watch me describe the process in more detail here.

The 5 Phases to Producing One Song a Week

Basically, I break up my process into 5 steps, and try to do a different one each week.

The 5 steps are:
1. Songwriting
2. Demoing
3. Recording
4. Mixing
5. Mastering

I try to have 5 songs going at a time, each at a different stage of the process. This way I don't get bogged down working on a specific song, and I can maintain a sense of perspective. Plus it prevents burnout.

I only focus on the step that I'm working on at the moment. And I never say that if "there's a problem with the recording I can fix it during mixing." Well, I say it, but I don't let myself get away with it.

Doing the Administrative Work


Then, of course, there's a 6th and 7th step: uploading my song to Pond 5 (and adding the keywords) and registering the song with BMI. I try to do these administrative steps in a batch process, i.e., once I have 3 or 4 songs mastered, I'll take some time to do the administrative end.

What do you do to speed up your process?

How to write a song - intros

How to Write a Song: Intros

If you want to learn how to write a song, the first thing you’ll need is a *strong* intro. As the saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and that’s as true in song writing as it is in anything else. In fact, as I’ve said in my tips for tips to write a song that sells, having a strong intro is one of the major factors in success.

This is one of the key things I reveal in my free video on how to license music.

Just think about it. People’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. There’s literally 1000’s of songs being uploaded every day. If people don’t like what they hear in the first few seconds, they may not wait around until the better parts of your songs.

That’s why you’ve got to learn how to write an intro to your songs.

Now I’m going to give you guys a template with 5 different styles of intro you can use for writing that killer intro.

These techniques have gotten my songs placed on NPR and on National TV, among other spots.

Are you ready to learn how to write a song that instantly grabs your listener’s attention?

Great! But before we go further, I usually write the intro to the song last! Because ultimately, the intro has to fit the song, not the other way around.

1st Intro Style – Re-sampling & Chopping

This technique is great for electronic music and for hip hop. For example, you can hear Daft Punk doing this ALL of the time.

Basically, what you do is you “sample” the verse or the chorus of your song, select a little chunk of it, and then line them up together in little segments that get shorter and shorter.

Here’s how you can do it for hip hop.

And here’s an example of how you can do the Daft Punk style build up.

Using these techniques will instantly bring energy to your songs. They also work great for breakdowns, buildups, and bridges.

2nd Intro Style – Creating an Ambiance

This style of intro involves creating an artificial soundscape that’s interesting, then slowly fading your song into it. This is great for bring the listener’s attention to the song, and much more powerful than just a straight fade in.

You can use this with almost any genre, from rock to EDM to hip hop.

Hear how the cacophony of the jungle gives way to the energy of the samba? Trust me when I say that this is 10x more powerful than just starting with the song itself. Of course, you still need to know how to write a song, but the soundscape helps place it in context.

This technique probably will require you to use some extra samples to get the ambiance right. But don’t fret – here’s a list of some of the best sites for free music samples!

3rd Intro Style – Filter Sweeps

This intro style probably works best with electronic music, though it also fits well with pop. Basically, you put a high pass and a low pass filter on your master bus and slowly decrease the amount of filtering as the song builds up.

You can hear an example of this (and the 1st & 2nd style, all combined!) in the song Digital Love off of Daft Punk’s Discovery. I highly recommend listening to this album a thousand times to learn all sorts of great production tips.

Yep. That’s how you write a great intro.

How to write a song 4th Intro Style – Surprise

This 4th intro style relies on the art of surprise. Basically, you use a weird instrument or effect to kick things off, and that grabs the listener’s attention.

You can hear how this royalty free disco funk song starts with a highly processed drum beat that would be annoying if played for much longer, but it’s also weird enough to be interesting. It’s yet another way how to write a song intro.

5th Intro Style – Come in HOTTTTTT!

If you’ve got an energetic upbeat song, then one of the best ways to start it is by just coming in hot! Start with a huge drum fill or searing guitar solo to instantly grab your listener’s attention. You can back it off from there, but it’s a great way of putting your best foot forward, especially if you know how to write songs that can maintain a high energy level throughout, but also have dynamic verses and choruses. This is especially good for fast paced classic rock music.

Ready to start putting these tips into practice? Learn how to start licensing your music today!

6 Songs that sell

5 Secrets for a Song that Sells

If you’re interested in licensing your music, here are some secrets for a song that sells! Check out these five simple tips that will make your songs instantly more marketable to start earning a passive income by selling your music.

Watch this free video to learn how to license your music and put these 5 secrets into effect!

1st Secret for a Song that Sells – Keep it Short!

Most successful songs used in licensing are short. Keep it around 30 seconds. Usually, the buyers of stock music are looking to establish a mood quickly and move on.

Just watch HGTV, the Discovery Channel, A&E, whatever. On those shows, songs play for 5-10 seconds before moving on.

Same with commercials, Youtube videos, and corporate scenes. Most buyers aren’t looking for an extensive montage.

2nd Secret for a Song that Sells – Tell a Story

Good production music tells a story efficiently in its short time span. You should force yourself to write a beginning, middle and end into your song. Take the listener on an evolving journey.

How do you do that?

Well the first step is to remember that you’ve only got a little bit of time to grab a buyer’s attention, so start on the right foot! Whether it’s an energetic rock ‘n roll drum fill to start the songs or a sad melancholy piano chord, don’t leave the listener guessing.

3rd Secret for a Song that Sells – Establish a Mood

From the first note to the last note, your stock music songs should establish a mood. Just because it’s a short song, but that doesn’t mean it should be devoid of emotional content!

Think of a mood and craft your song specifically around that. Here are some ideas for moods that you can experiment with:

  • Joy
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Surprise
  • Wonder.

As a song writer, I’ve found that trying to write songs in different moods can be uniquely rewarding and challenging.

But it’s not just about the notes, it’s also about choosing the right instruments and production vibe. It would be weird to use an accordion in a death metal song, and it would be equally strange to make a hip hop song that sounds like it was recorded on an old vinyl record from the 1920s.

 

4th Secret for a Song that Sells – A strong ending

There’s a reason that everyone knows the phrase: “End on a high note.”

It’s because you should always leave a strong last impression!

It’s just human nature to tie our memories strongly to the most recent memory. For a listener, that’s going to be the end of your song.

You always want the last note of your royalty free music to be interesting. Whether it’s a chord that resolves things, or adds a touch of dissonance, whether a sudden stop or an interesting drum fill, I’d strongly encourage you to put a lot of thought in to your endings.

If you ever need any inspiration, just check out the Beatles. They were the masters of about a million things, but endings were one of their strong points.

For the perfect ending, check out “A Day in the Life” off of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

5th Secret for a Song that Sells – Clean Production

You don’t need to be making Grammy-worthy recordings to license your music. But you do need clean, professional sounding audio. I’ve licensed plenty of songs with recordings that are far from perfect. Just don’t let the production distract from the song, and you’ll be fine.

Clean up any flub, remove any harsh frequencies, and set levels in such a way that the emotion and energy of the song are clearly conveyed. Make sure the overall mix is balanced across the frequency spectrum, and that there aren’t too many wide dynamic shifts.

When it comes to mastering, you don’t need to participate in the “loudness wars.” Just make it a reasonable volume. If a client needs your stock music to be louder, she can always turn it up in her video production software.

Think you’re ready to start licensing your songs? Find out how to get started!

 

Best Sites for Free Samples And Free Loops

Best Sites for Free Samples & Free Loops

The only thing better than good samples are good free samples or free loops. Don’t worry. I’ve done the digging for you to find you some great sites.

Since rap exploded on to the music scene, the use of loops and samples has become ubiquitous in all genres.

Whether we’re talking about pop music, rock, hip hop, or EDM, there is always a place for samples .

For example, in rock recordings, producers often layer the sound of real drums with sampled kicks and snares. Electronic music has relied on vocal samples and percussion loops since nearly the beginning.

Of course, samples and loops can be expensive. And that’s not to say that they’re not worth it. I’ve pick up some absolutely amazing sample packs over the years that were worth every penny.

But sometimes money is tight. Or maybe you don’t feel like you need an entire sample pack, just a sound or two.

Whether you’re looking for a song starter, a banging drum loop, or some horn samples, this list of the 5 best sites for free samples and loops will get you making music in no time. Some of these sites are a little on the obscure side, but if it sounds good, it is good.

Some of the links below may be affiliate links.

The 6 Best Sites for Free Samples & Free Loops

  1. Loop Cloud – Loop Cloud, by Loop Masters, is the ultimate tool for musicians making sample-based music. It keeps track of ALL of the samples on your computer, lets you sort by instrument, style, key, bpm, and more. And it comes with 1GB of free samples, plus 150 free samples a week!
  2. Loopmasters.com – Loop Masters sells some of the best sample packs out there, with a huge variety of styles. The quality is professional grade and you can find just about anything. If you sign up for its mailing list, you get 500 mb of free samples. Plus, many of the Loop Masters sample packs allow you to download free demo versions with about 15-30 samples and loops.
  3. Sample Magic – Sample Magic also makes incredibly good sample packs (I’m in love with the samples and loops in the Sunset Sessions!). If you click on the “store” tab on top of the page, you’ll see a link to “free downloads.” There you can find about a half dozen high quality free packs.
  4. Converse Rubber Tracks – Converse, the shoe company, has created an absolutely amazing royalty free sample library. Which is weird. But let’s not look this gift horse in the mouth. As of June 2016, it had nearly 40,000 free samples, made by some of the best producers in the business. Free samples by the likes of RJD2, Com Truise, and the Gospel Choir All Stars. There are samples in dozens of genres. The only real downside is that samples are very well organized, and it can take a while to find what you need.
  5. Producer Loops – Producer Loops has one of the biggest collections of free samples & loops available. And the library of these free loops is really easy to navigate. But… there’s a catch (there’s always a catch). You can get 2 free sample packs for each sample pack that you purchase. Still, it’s a pretty solid value.
  6. Hip Hop Makers – Hip Hop Makers offers a lot of great samples and loops for free download in the hip hop genre. It also offers a great community for producers looking to get into the hip hop music production game, including a section on how to sell beats!
Bonus Free Samples & Free Loops

Bonus Free Samples & Free Loops for Reason 8+ Users (Image by Carnagenyc)

Bonus Free Samples & Free Loops for Reason 8+ & Propellerhead Figure users:

Update: Propellerheads stopped supporting Alihoopa, so it is now dead. RIP. With Reason 8, Propellerheads also launched a website called Alihoopa. Alihoopa is loaded full of free samples & free loops, but requires Propellerhead’s software to actually download and open. Nonetheless, this is a great resource (though I miss all the free third party samples the Props used to host on their website so many moons ago).