Finding stuff to write about

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thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3382
edited November 3 in Making Music
I spent some time earlier trying to come up with some new ideas for stuff today but found it really hard. Basically I had nothing to say, nothing I wanted to convey, music or words wise. Anybody got any tips for finding what you want to write about? Seems hard to come up with stuff you can feel strongly about if you're starting from such a mind blank

Feedback from my last stuff was very indifferent and my family simply said it sounded depressed, which I think was for two reasons - 1) that's what my voice sounds like and 2) because that's all I have to write about. I just want to write stuff I can like and believe in but I'm finding it too hard, I don't mind stuff being difficult but as I have no other outlet it's very frustrating.

I find it easier to pretend what I'm trying to put across in classical as that's all about just imitating what everybody else does, but finding it too difficult and disheartening with guitar based stuff

Thanks

Water, come drown me, I'm done

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  • PolarityManPolarityMan Frets: 4334
    You could try writing to a particular aesthetic, rather than about a specific topic or experience. ie/ I want to write a song that feels a bit like a Gregorian Chant, or I want to write something that sounds sci-fi or whatever.
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3382
    You could try writing to a particular aesthetic, rather than about a specific topic or experience. ie/ I want to write a song that feels a bit like a Gregorian Chant, or I want to write something that sounds sci-fi or whatever.
    I did try that to start with but maybe need to give it a fresh go. I basically thought it might be good to a set of "imitation tributes" to existing things but it just seemed to bring about more frustration as I was then comparing what I'd come up with to what it was influenced by and obviously got nowhere near it!

    Water, come drown me, I'm done

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  • Moe_ZambeekMoe_Zambeek Frets: 2425
    edited November 3
    I’m no great shakes at songwriting, often I start with a phrase (words that is) and try and work something from there. Very occasionally I have a ‘story’ or theme but that’s not the majority of the time. 

    I have a notebook to try and write things in when I hear something that sounds poetic or sticks in my head. Not easy to do

    I’ve been Patreon-ing Mike Doughty and he seems to work with patterns of sound and then finds words to fit, seems to work for him.

    Edit - that’s on the lyric / melody side of course. Though to be honest I do similar for musical phrases. I record everything now on a zoom if I have a musical idea or riff then review from time to time to see if I can stitch anything together. 



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  • fastonebazfastonebaz Frets: 237
    Allot of famous songs take a catch phrase and write a song around that which works well. 

    But don't write a song about a bloody  umbrella,  ella,  ella as you'll sound retarded. 
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  • When I draw a blank songwriting I do one of a few things. 

    Come up with a phrase and work it into a good hook before writing the rest of the song around it, as mentioned above. 

    Use a film or news story as inspiration. I wrote a song that went down great with audiences a few years ago based Loosely on the film Almost Famous. I took Penny’s story and tried to tell it through the song. 

    Or. The most expensive element of songwriting. Is buying a guitar and playing it. I’m a firm
    believer that different guitars have different stories. Not in the sense that I’m some kind of guitar whisper ;) but in the sense that they can inspire you to play in different ways!
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3463
    Anybody got any tips for finding what you want to write about?
    Write about topics that arouse strong emotions in you. That could be joy or it could be anger.

    The Elvis Costello song, Coal Train Robberies, was prompted by a television documentary about South Wales families struggling financially after the 1984-5 Miners' Strike. Some of the lyric narrative exactly matched the television programme content.
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3382
    edited November 5
    Anybody got any tips for finding what you want to write about?
    Write about topics that arouse strong emotions in you. That could be joy or it could be anger.

    The Elvis Costello song, Coal Train Robberies, was prompted by a television documentary about South Wales families struggling financially after the 1984-5 Miners' Strike. Some of the lyric narrative exactly matched the television programme content.
    The problem with that is this is why my songs are depressing! You are of course correct though really.

    Perhaps I asked the wrong question, perhaps instead I should ask how to learn to pretend other people's views/reactions/feelings in guitar music, the same way I can in classical! However sadly I know the answer to that and how many hours it took that simply don't exist any more.

    Not to worry

    Water, come drown me, I'm done

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  • TeyeplayerTeyeplayer Frets: 730
    edited November 4
    A) don’t give two hoots if folk think it’s depressing, that’s part of the human condition,
    and
    b) if the story doesn’t come, walk away and write it another day.

    I often find I can’t write when I feel I aught to or want to. Equally when it flows I find I’m laughing at the lyrics because they flow too easily and fit a niche I’m not expecting or trying to hit. 

    The big thing with writing is being willing (and able) to re-draft and to bin the chaff. Do this and eventually you’ll have lines you’re happy with -just be prepared for it to take time.
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  • joetelejoetele Frets: 146
    Have you tried just writing instrumental stuff only? I find I'm way more creative/prolific since switching mainly to instrumental stuff. I always felt lyrics/vocals added extra pressure - even though I'd written thousands of lyrics when younger, it can be really hard to get the urge/impetus to write lyrics, and is entirely dependant upon how you're feeling at the time. Whereas I could happily sit down every day with my guitar and pedalboard, and just start playing something until it develops into other stuff. Even if it's just a bit of delay/reverb to start with on the pedals, and looping a few chords. (A looper pedal is fantastic for helping come up with stuff). 

    I also struggle with the notion that almost everything I write could end up sounding contrived, which is a big part of why I've sort of gone off lyrical stuff (both my own and others) in general. 
    Pedals. 
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  • kinkin Frets: 574
    That are plenty of examples of well regarded songs where the lyrics are stream of consciousness drivel and it's the melodic hook that carries people along.
    If the melody is catchy enough you can sing oohs , ahhs and na na na's  and it won't matter one bit 
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  • CirrusCirrus Frets: 3581
    To a certain extent, you need to totally discount what your family think.

    Who cares if it's "depressing"? So much great music is, so I don't know why that kind of feedback would make you do anything different. People who know you well, especially non-creatives, can't separate the personality they know from the art to look at things objectively.

    All you can do is write about things that inspire you. If you're not inspired, don't write, Or, just noodle around and maybe you'll hit on something that surprises you.
    Captain Horizon (my old band);
    Very (!) Occasional Blog
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 7372
    Anybody got any tips for finding what you want to write about?
    Write about topics that arouse strong emotions in you. That could be joy or it could be anger.

    The Elvis Costello song, Coal Train Robberies, was prompted by a television documentary about South Wales families struggling financially after the 1984-5 Miners' Strike. Some of the lyric narrative exactly matched the television programme content.
    I was listing to Costello on the Mastertapes show. He was talking about telling the stories of people - the songs that people think are political like Shipbuilding are just stories about people he finds interesting. 

    A lot of rock/ pop songwriting is a melody improvised over music and then words found to fit. The famous illustration of this being The Beatles’ Scrambled Eggs. 
    The function of a lyric isn't to read well it's to sing well within the context of it's song. Wether that's Led Zep or Rhianna or ( something 21st century) people aren't interested in or simply won't get literal meanings. It's not musical theatre ( dahling). 
    Dum dum dum, dum dum de dum, dum dum dum, dum dummmm.
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  • joetelejoetele Frets: 146
    Anybody got any tips for finding what you want to write about?
    Write about topics that arouse strong emotions in you. That could be joy or it could be anger.

    The Elvis Costello song, Coal Train Robberies, was prompted by a television documentary about South Wales families struggling financially after the 1984-5 Miners' Strike. Some of the lyric narrative exactly matched the television programme content.
    I was listing to Costello on the Mastertapes show. He was talking about telling the stories of people - the songs that people think are political like Shipbuilding are just stories about people he finds interesting. 

    A lot of rock/ pop songwriting is a melody improvised over music and then words found to fit. The famous illustration of this being The Beatles’ Scrambled Eggs. 
    The function of a lyric isn't to read well it's to sing well within the context of it's song. Wether that's Led Zep or Rhianna or ( something 21st century) people aren't interested in or simply won't get literal meanings. It's not musical theatre ( dahling). 
    I'd agree to an extent with this, but there are also songs/bands/artists for which the lyrics are genuinely incredible, well-considered and poetic / relevant / moving / etc
    Pedals. 
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 7372
    joetele said:
    Anybody got any tips for finding what you want to write about?
    Write about topics that arouse strong emotions in you. That could be joy or it could be anger.

    The Elvis Costello song, Coal Train Robberies, was prompted by a television documentary about South Wales families struggling financially after the 1984-5 Miners' Strike. Some of the lyric narrative exactly matched the television programme content.
    I was listing to Costello on the Mastertapes show. He was talking about telling the stories of people - the songs that people think are political like Shipbuilding are just stories about people he finds interesting. 

    A lot of rock/ pop songwriting is a melody improvised over music and then words found to fit. The famous illustration of this being The Beatles’ Scrambled Eggs. 
    The function of a lyric isn't to read well it's to sing well within the context of it's song. Wether that's Led Zep or Rhianna or ( something 21st century) people aren't interested in or simply won't get literal meanings. It's not musical theatre ( dahling). 
    I'd agree to an extent with this, but there are also songs/bands/artists for which the lyrics are genuinely incredible, well-considered and poetic / relevant / moving / etc
    getting something that works well in a musical sense and works well in a literal sense is a hard thing - I guess to some extent you do the one and the other follows subconsciously. Probably just lots and lots of doing it .I was thinking of something like Subterranean Homesick Blues ( it's a well known song and it was mentioned in that Elvis Costello interview) which works at both levels but then even Bob Dylan doesn't really keep that up and he does a lot of words set to music in other songs. 

    The OP feels he has nothing to say and lots of songs can be great but say very little ( I'm happy, I'm sad, I'm horny) - it feels like he is getting stuck on something that wouldn't necessarily prevent him writing, just prevents him writing a certain kind of song. Or: free your mind and your ass will follow

    As Matt is ( and I don't think I'm exaggerating here ) a big Jack White fan I read a couple of things online about Jack and songwriting. He was non specific regarding process but he seems to split into a slightly more cerebral process of writing songs with others and for others and had a very time limited, spur of the moment type approach with The White Stripes. He talked about the need for constraints  and being spontaneous within set times ( if that's not an oxymoron). I don't think he would worry about it he'd just do it.

     I think my favourite person talking about songwriting is Lionel Ritchie who simply hears a completed song on God's radio and it's his job is to transcribe it. I wasn't sure that was going to help much here though.   
    Dum dum dum, dum dum de dum, dum dum dum, dum dummmm.
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3382
    edited November 5
    Thanks all for the input, bit of reading and (over) thinking to do maybe.

    I'd love to write good lyrics, whether depressing or not, but that's not the aim as such as I'm no wordsmith by any stretch (though used to be better with practice, as with everything really). But it's not about that as such, it's about writing as a whole to reach something I can believe enough in to give a better performance when I record it. That goes for the music as much as (if not more than) the words. 

    I think maybe as ever the problem is with me not believing in anything enough, or not being passionate about anything enough to believe in what I'm performing. Hence why my classical piano playing is basically imitation of what I like by other people.

    I did want to go off grid and doing instrumental based stuff that nobody else would ever hear, but the problem with that is that I'm not technically apt enough to be able to play stuff like that and make it interesting. My strength is in piano, not guitar or singing but I've no interest in writing classical at this stage in life, I can do that when I'm old!

    I guess nobody can really give me the shove except myself. Just want to give myself a chance of writing stuff I could be proud of

    Water, come drown me, I'm done

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  • IMC1980IMC1980 Frets: 22
    Cirrus said:
    "....If you're not inspired, don't write....."
    This sums it up IMO. Don't try and force it, take a break and wait for the magic to happen. I waited from 2007-2013 to feel inspired.
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  • joetelejoetele Frets: 146
    Thanks all for the input, bit of reading and (over) thinking to do maybe.

    I'd love to write good lyrics, whether depressing or not, but that's not the aim as such as I'm no wordsmith by any stretch (though used to be better with practice, as with everything really). But it's not about that as such, it's about writing as a whole to reach something I can believe enough in to give a better performance when I record it. That goes for the music as much as (if not more than) the words. 

    I think maybe as ever the problem is with me not believing in anything enough, or not being passionate about anything enough to believe in what I'm performing. Hence why my classical piano playing is basically imitation of what I like by other people.

    I did want to go off grid and doing instrumental based stuff that nobody else would ever hear, but the problem with that is that I'm not technically apt enough to be able to play stuff like that and make it interesting. My strength is in piano, not guitar or singing but I've no interest in writing classical at this stage in life, I can do that when I'm old!

    I guess nobody can really give me the shove except myself. Just want to give myself a chance of writing stuff I could be proud of
    Not sure if it helps but I'm by no means a technical or particularly good guitarist - I tend to play very simple melodies or droning chords and loop it, and experiment with sounds using pedals. But as you said you're mainly a pianist that might not be an option. Have you got keyboard or synth options? Sometimes a departure from the norm, spending time playing something different or experimental can help. Even if it's just random noise. 
    Pedals. 
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3382
    I have a slightly faulty microkorg which I've never understood despite reading the manual over and over, i just end up playing the Stranger Things theme and X Files; and a Yamaha something or other keyboard which is just a midi type keyboard thing, but my classical piano isn't really suited to writing modern stuff as it's a very different type of playing

    Water, come drown me, I'm done

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  • joetelejoetele Frets: 146
    I have a slightly faulty microkorg which I've never understood despite reading the manual over and over, i just end up playing the Stranger Things theme and X Files; and a Yamaha something or other keyboard which is just a midi type keyboard thing, but my classical piano isn't really suited to writing modern stuff as it's a very different type of playing
    That Microkorg would sound amazing through some pedals
    Pedals. 
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3463
    my classical piano isn't really suited to writing modern stuff as it's a very different type of playing
    Costello reference again. Steve Nieve - Royal College Of Music graduate. Seems to be able to turn his hand to almost any style.

    Let go of your trained pianist mindset. Instead, break the musical content of your song ideas down into rhythm (drum patterns), chord changes and melody. 
    something I can believe enough in
    With respect, this is a self-confidence issue. 

    Perhaps, you would benefit from collaborating with another composer/musician? Hopefully, that other contributor will spot potential in your initial sketchy ideas where you might reject them out of hand.

    The obvious analogy here is comedy writing partnerships. If both contributors laugh at a gag, it stays in the script. 


    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3382
    edited November 5
    It is the confidence thing, or at least a mental situation thing init, you're right. A silly topic on my behalf to be honest, once again!

    I'm not really in a position to collaborate so I've no idea if that would help, though I suspect my rather passive personality which is causing my frustration would just cause me to completely back down and close up in a two person scenario as that's usually what's happened in the past when I've tried to join in with anything. 

    Sorry, I should abandon this topic I think! Sorry all

    Water, come drown me, I'm done

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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3463
    Sorry, I should abandon this topic I think!
    I disagree. When the going gets tough, it is time to increase one's efforts.
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • kinkin Frets: 574
    There was a very interesting interview with Ryan Adams on , i think, channel four , called "the great songwriters " or something like that.
    It showed him using A thesaurus/dictionary and books of sayings, just randomly opening them up, picking out a phrase here and there and getting inspiration from that. He called the process "stacks" i think.
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  • flying_pieflying_pie Frets: 434
    Just write about wanting to have lots of sex as per almost every pop song ever recorded
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3382
    Just write about wanting to have lots of sex as per almost every pop song ever recorded
    Oh I'm 100% sure my music is not what the sexy pop world needs ;)

    Water, come drown me, I'm done

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  • CirrusCirrus Frets: 3581
    Sex doesn't have to be poppy.

    Or even sexy.  ;)

     =) 

    Captain Horizon (my old band);
    Very (!) Occasional Blog
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  • DannyPDannyP Frets: 818
    Robyn Hitchcock has always been a favourite songwriter of mine. His album 'Robyn Hitchcock' from last year is fantastic.

    There's a song called Sayonara Judge - the verses are lists of stuff he's losing:

    Losing my face, losing my friends, losing my temper
    Losing my place on the map, losing my home
    Losing my January to December

    etc.

    He lifts is from being a straight list with the sort of surreal pathos that is his style - but plenty of songs start life as lists.


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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3463
    Just write
    Just write whatever comes to mind WITHOUT immediately thinking up reasons to reject your efforts. 

    Keep writing until the flow of ideas dries up.

    Only edit or make corrections after the flow of ideas has dried up. Maybe, even, leave an interval between writing and revising.

    On the music side, it is usually easier to fit chords to accompany a melody than the other way about. 


    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • PolarityManPolarityMan Frets: 4334
    DannyP said:
    Robyn Hitchcock has always been a favourite songwriter of mine. His album 'Robyn Hitchcock' from last year is fantastic.

    There's a song called Sayonara Judge - the verses are lists of stuff he's losing:

    Losing my face, losing my friends, losing my temper
    Losing my place on the map, losing my home
    Losing my January to December

    etc.

    He lifts is from being a straight list with the sort of surreal pathos that is his style - but plenty of songs start life as lists.


    Nicotine, valium, vicadin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol
    Nicotine, valium, vicadin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol
    Nicotine, valium, vicadin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol
    Nicotine, valium, vicadin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol
    C C C C C COCAINE!
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3382
    DannyP said:
    Robyn Hitchcock has always been a favourite songwriter of mine. His album 'Robyn Hitchcock' from last year is fantastic.

    There's a song called Sayonara Judge - the verses are lists of stuff he's losing:

    Losing my face, losing my friends, losing my temper
    Losing my place on the map, losing my home
    Losing my January to December

    etc.

    He lifts is from being a straight list with the sort of surreal pathos that is his style - but plenty of songs start life as lists.


    Nicotine, valium, vicadin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol
    Nicotine, valium, vicadin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol
    Nicotine, valium, vicadin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol
    Nicotine, valium, vicadin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol
    C C C C C COCAINE!
    Not do much into feel good music ;)

    Water, come drown me, I'm done

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