The small room that I make music in has a skylight in it. The view is quite limited—just a small blue square with the occasional cloud, bird or airplane. But I think I’ve learned more about my own process from that small blue square than any guide, walkthrough, or manual could ever teach me. It lets me think clearly. It doesn’t even need to be a window either. Just something silent to stare at. Like a tropical aquarium, or a nice piece of art. These days you have to actually rip yourself out of the hyper-fast distractions that are constantly there (computer, cellphone, etc.) to find some quite silent time.
Once you do you’ll get into a way better space to write some songs.
Do you think Brian Wilson composed ‘Good Vibrations’ while he was replying to an email, ordering an Uber, checking his plays on SoundCloud and tweeting about the weather at the same time? I don’t think so.
Start with a free account and browse any of LANDR Samples‘ exclusive sample packs. There’s so many avenues for you to explore—whether you’re making electronic, pop, R&B, trap or even country and rock! LANDR’s got so many loops—just dig around, find a few sounds you like and arrange them into a totally new creation in your DAW. Best of all, LANDR Samples is the only online sample marketplace with Creator—the beatmaking tool that makes it insanely easy to mix and match samples. Creator will time stretch and pitch shift up to eight different loops into your chosen key and BPM, so you don’t need to worry about whatever key your sample is in. It’s the best way to instantly hear how different loops sound when played together—great for sketching out little ideas before committing to an arrangement. Once you’re happy with your Creator loop just download the loops and start arranging them in your DAW. You never know quite what you’ll find—sometimes inspiration can come from a completely unexpected sample that you never would have used had you never looked. Get started with LANDR’s free samples and make your first Creator beat!
Take a temporary oath of silence. Your songwriting will thank you. A whole day might be a bit much. Besides, you HAVE to talk to lay down that earth-shattering vocal of pure genius. But It’s no secret that silence is good for you. Even an hour of silence is more than enough time to reset your brain. Whether you know it or not, talking is a huge and complex task for your brain to carry out. Putting it aside for a little while will put you in the right place to write. And during all that silent time all those deep memories and feelings will have a clear path to the top of your mind. Y’know, all those thoughts that make great songs. So take a break from the chatting and try silence for awhile. Let your brain do the talking and find all the inspiration you need.
Your neighborhood is full of interesting sounds. Why not go find them, record them and put them into your own context? Just grab your field recorder (the smartphone in your pocket is a great starter) and hit the streets. Think of places around you where you could get an interesting snippet to sample—loud conversations at your local Italian coffee shop, college students wandering home late at night during frosh week, birds in the morning, church bells ringing, rainfall… the list goes on and on. Once you record them, they’re sounds that only you have. So get inspired and find some songwriting inspiration with a carefully considered sound walk.
Guess what? Diamonds by Rihanna was written by Sia in 14 minutes. She put the beat on and the lyrics just flowed. It has gone platinum 5 times in the US alone. Time is a hard scale to balance. Too much and you end up second guessing everything. Too little and you get nothing done. The solution? Set a time limit. Even better, set a time limit that’s way shorter than what you normally write in. Setting slim boundaries will help you focus on what matters, write more songs, and streamline your entire process. And the more you do it, the better you’ll get. Try it out and make your songs shine bright like a… gold brick?
My favourite feeling in kindergarten was grabbing a handful of crayons and scribbling all at once. To be honest, I’m not sure why I stopped. Well, I guess I didn’t really stop necessarily. I Just do it in my DAW now. If I’m stuck building a beat I often open my piano roll, load up an instrument, grab the pen tool and just start scribbling down notes. After I’m done I play it back and listen for the happy accidents. Most of the time it’s 90% crapolla. But that interesting 10% is super valuable for ideas. So grab your DAW and channel your inner 5 year old every now and then.
Stream of consciousness is especially popular in writing circles. Poets and authors have used the technique to spur on ideas and tap into the subconscious mind. The technique translates fairly well to writing music but there’s a few things to keep in mind when trying it. Sit down, relax and grab your instrument of choice, forget everything you know about music theory and rules or structure, and dial in a great tone and pick some effects you like. Now all you have to do is stare out the window and play whatever comes to mind. Let your mind and your fingers guide you and have a little unstructured self jam. After a while, you might notice some patterns, chords and notes you like. Make note of them and start working out a riff or lick you’d like to try building a song around.
Here’s a really good tip if you’re stuck: GET TO THE POINT. When it comes to songwriting simple is always effective. But it’s hard to pull off. You have to be ruthless with your approach. Just ask the Beatles. Their song ‘Love Me Do’ has exactly 19 unique words in it. But it’s still one of the most iconic songs of all time. Simple is a skill that every songwriter should master. It keeps your songs relatable, engaging and catchy. Who doesn’t like a good sing along?
The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to stay focussed, maintain a flow state and get things done quicker. It was developed in the 1990s by Francesco Cirillo to divide sections of focussed work and break time into blocks of time. Pomodoro in this case refers to the tomato-shaped timer the Italian used to develop the idea during his university days. The blocked time schedule works as follows—25 minute of focussed work (also called a pomodoro) on the task at hand and then 5 minutes of break time. These blocks are to be timed and adhered to strictly with the premise being that short spurts of focussed work can increase mental clarity and focus. It’s also recommended to break specific steps or tasks down into pomodoros—so you could break your routine into a 25-minute pomodoro for chords, a 25-minute pomodoro for lyric writing and beyond.
Infinity exists. The only proof you need is a blank DAW. There’s infinite VST plugins, infinite effects, infinite processing. But infinity isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes the best way to better your songwriting is to set a gear limit. Start with a strict list of what you’re gonna use. Limit your ideas to your gear list. Ideas will take shape much faster than having to constantly decide between a million options. It might sound weird but limitations can actually make you more creative. Because you have to work with what you’ve got and bend it to your sound. Plus keeping yourself limited will give you a deeper understanding of the tools you work with because you’ll have to push them all to the limit.