Even the most talented songwriters and composers sometimes hit a dry spell. This can be due to several factors; stress, boredom, and fatigue can all contribute to 'musician's block', making it diﬃcult to summon the energy or inspiration to come up with something new and original.
Your ability to write music may also be hindered by events in your musical career, such as low self-esteem following a poor critique, or working on an album that you simply don’t enjoy.
Fortunately, we are blessed to live in a world which is full of inspiration, just waiting to be uncovered. Here are a few top techniques for overcoming musician's block.
Stimulating With Self Care
If you’re not taking care of your body and mind, your brain will have a more diﬃcult time coming up with innovative ideas. Fatigue, hunger, and stress can have the eﬀect of creating a 'brain fog' that makes it harder to focus.
Taking some time away from your instrument or computer can give your brain time to relax, which helps you to come back to your work with a fresh pair of eyes.
• Have you eaten a healthy balanced diet today?
• Have you drunk enough water?
• Have you had between 8 and 10 hours of sleep?
• Have you washed and dressed yourself today?
• Is your environment a relaxing and clean place to work?
• Have you taken regular breaks?
Spending Time In Nature
Nature is a great source of inspiration for many musicians and artists, and the natural world has inspired many of the greatest hits of all time, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Bob Thiele’s What A Wonderful World.
Taking the time to go outside and engage with nature also has many benefits for mental health, such as improved concentration and attention, lower stress levels, and increased endorphin and dopamine levels – all of which result in feelings of happiness and calmness.
You may also find inspiration from the sounds found in the natural world: Pink Floyd famously sampled a range of animal noises on their album Animals, while the Doors’ Riders On The Storm uses storm and rain samples to create a moody atmosphere. In modern pop, Lana Del Rey is also known for her use of ocean sounds in many of her tracks.
When you’re out for your next walk, why not record any sounds that spark your imagination? You can then use these samples in electronic tracks, or attempt to replicate them using instruments.
Play A Word Game
If you prefer to write your lyrics before the music, playing a word game such as Scrabble can be a great way to get over writer’s block. These kinds of games stimulate your brain and can help you to identify catchy words or phrases to use in your lyrics.
Investing in a set of word fridge magnets can be a great way to experiment with diﬀerent words and phrases for your songs. Every time you go to your fridge throughout the day, take a look at your magnet set. Which words go well together and why? How can you use these phrases to make an impression on your audience?
Use Your Experience
Experience is a powerful tool for creating emotional songs that your listeners can connect to. Many classic songs have been inspired by powerful events - both good and bad - that affected the artists or their loved ones.
You have likely had many experiences in your life that have made an impact on you; these experiences can be something that has happened to you directly, stories you have heard from others, or a combination of the two.
What experiences in your life stand out to you? How did you feel back then? And do you feel diﬀerently about them now?
Exercise: Identify one positive experience and one negative experience from your life that have made an impression on you. How can you communicate the feelings attached to these events through music and lyrics?
Do you want the music to match the lyrics in tone? Or is it more eﬀective to communicate feelings of confusion by using contrast, such as happy lyrics with sad music, or vice versa?
Read A Book
Books are an excellent resource for musicians and can help artists to build a creative persona. Many popular songs have been based on books, including Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, and Jeﬀerson Airplane’s White Rabbit, which was inspired by Alice In Wonderland.
And if classical literature isn't your cup of tea, A Perfect Circle wrote So Long And Thanks For All The Fish inspired by Douglas Adams’ successful sci-fi comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
When writing about your favourite novel consider:
• Which character(s) do you relate most to? How can you communicate their personality through music and lyrics?
• What is the overarching storyline or theme of the book?
• Are there any thematic elements you can use from the book to enhance your music, such as sounds or well-known quotes?
Whatever your writing style, there are countless sources of inspiration to draw on. So why not kick back and enjoy your favourite works of literature? You may find they inspire your own masterpiece.