Songwriting can take a variety of different forms. The problem is that you can get stuck in a particular way of writing, unable to say anything new with your songs.
Your style may have served you well to this point, and may even be something you can fall back on in the future, but if writer’s block is plaguing you, it’s time to try something else.
Here are some tips on how to change your song writing style.
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Change Your Perspective
Unless you have a very deliberate approach and process to songwriting, most of your songs are likely coming from your own perspective.
And while your viewpoint is both valid and valuable, the well can run dry pretty quickly when you’ve written about every sad thing that’s ever happened to you in your life. When you’ve run out of life events to draw from, you have to wait for the next event to happen, which is something you can’t control.
I say “sad” because most songwriters find it far more difficult to write a happy song than a depressing song. If you’re able to write happy songs consistently, more power to you.
But when you draw from the events and the perspective of others, your songwriting palette really begins to open up. Now you can live vicariously through others and channel their experiences, thoughts and feelings into a new song.
Explore New Song Structures
Another “default” that begins to develop as a songwriter is song structure.
It might be along the lines of:
Although it’s fine to be thinking about writing songs that are radio-ready (i.e. three and a half minutes, hook at the beginning and in the chorus, a general message that can apply to anyone, etc.), that keeps you locked in a certain way of doing things.
Granted, this can develop into a stylistic approach that you become recognized for. And from a branding perspective, that’s great.
But from a creative perspective, it’s a problem. You could end up writing a lot of songs that “feel” the same to your audience. I would encourage you to shake things up from time to time, even if it’s only in small ways.
You could start a song with a guitar solo. You could have a “false chorus” that hints at what’s coming, but doesn’t actually arrive until after the second verse. You could have a song that doesn’t have a bridge or a solo.
This is something you will have to do consciously, as it won’t happen by default (you already have a default, remember?). By exploring different structures, you can add a lot of flavor to your music and keep audiences interested.
Collect Attention-Getting Phrases From Articles & Books
Why do all the work when there are already amazingly provocative and imaginative phrases and ideas in circulation?
This is exactly how the band Collective Soul got their band name. They found the phrase “collective soul” in the book The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here: I’m not suggesting that you lift phrases and sentences word-for-word from articles and books. That’s akin to plagiarism. Ideally, you’ll want to tap many different sources and add your own spin to them.
You can edit and arrange the phrases in a unique way that it becomes its own creation. You can be a curator of different thoughts and ideas.
This forces you to use sentence rhythms and terminology you aren’t used to using in your songwriting. If you’ve become dependent on certain rhyming schemes or sentences of a particular length, you’ll have to look for ways to fit the new rhythms and words into your music. This will definitely open up new possibilities.
Collaborate With Other Songwriters
You don’t always need to write songs all by your lonesome. I would encourage you to collaborate with others if you aren’t doing that already.
You have a particular songwriting method, and so does your songwriting partner. But when you blend them together, you’ll be able to create and shape something entirely new.
I’ve worked on a number of pieces with other writers in the past. Oftentimes I would come to them with some music, and they would write most of the lyrics. Or I would provide them with a theme, and then they would go to town with different lyrical ideas.
In this kind of situation, the writer has to fit their ideas and words into a riff or chord progression they may not have sung to before. And that has a way of bringing new lyrical ideas to the surface.
The collaboration can really take any form you want it to. You could write the lyrics together, or write half a page worth of lyrics separately, and then come together to see how you can combine them into a single song.
Working with others can really help you elevate your game and polish a song until it’s a work of art.
Open Yourself Up To New Input
The things we take in influence our philosophy, mindset and way of thinking. Your parents, the teachers you had in grades school, the TV shows and movies you’ve watched, the articles you’ve read, the music you’ve listened to, and a variety of other things have all had an impact on your perception of the world and the manner in which you express yourself.
The problem is that many people stop expanding. They become more close-minded with age, and they get set in their ways. As songwriters, these type of people settle into a groove and keep tapping the same creative well until it’s beyond dry.
This is why you need to stay open to new ways of thinking, new ideas, and new input. If you’re going to take in anything new, challenge yourself to find literature and media that doesn’t already agree with your worldview. Find sources that force you to see the world from a new vantage point.
You can try different approaches to songwriting, but I don’t believe that you can permanently change you style. What you can do is hone your craft, improve upon it, try different things, bring new ideas to the table, and so on. You can keep evolving without losing your identity. That’s what I would encourage you to do.