Composing has an arch nemesis, and that evil is known as writer’s block. It’s a challenge to get through especially if you’re just starting to write your own music. Here are some steps you can take when you feel that you have hit a creative roadblock in your workflow.
1. Break down big tasks into smaller ones.
If something seems like a large undertaking then try to sit down and break it up into smaller parts. This type of workflow can offer you insight on time management. You’ll start to get a better idea of the different tasks you’re good at and maybe some others that you’re not very good at. Let’s say that you’re really great at writing a catchy choruses, but you always get hung up at the bridge. You could dedicate double the amount of time composing a rockin’ bridge because you know that it takes you longer.
2. Take a break for a day, or two, or three.
Take a break from what you’re working on if you feel stuck. Think about what relaxes your mind and just do it. Don’t confuse relaxation with distraction. Turning on your favorite television show might tear you away from work altogether.
3. Find inspiration for yourself.
No one can flip a switch in their mind and obtain inspiration. Unfortunately it’s something that just comes to you when you least expect it. The secret is to understand in what ways inspiration comes to you. Does it happen to you while you’re listening to new music? Does it happen to you while you’re at a show? Maybe it happens when you’re driving or walking from one place to another?
Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt created “Oblique Strategies” – a deck of cards aimed at improving lateral thinking and breaking writer’s block for musicians using various aphorisms. Check out this website for an idea of how it works.
4. Try a different chord voicing.
Invert your chord progressions so that the 3rd, 5th, or 7th are in the root. Run through all the variations of those chords and you might find something hiding in plain sight. For example, guitarists have the ability to change their tunings, add capos, and group together large intervals with ease.
5. Try one of these these compositional devices when you write a melody.
Inversion – Invert your melody by changing the direction of the intervals that your melody follows.
Retrograde – Play the melody that you’ve constructed in reverse both rhythmically and tonally.
Retrograde Inversion – Play your melody backwards and upside-down. This one is a bit mind-bending but it’s a great way to think about your melody differently.
Augmentation – Play your melody with longer note values so that it covers a longer period of time.
Bonus Tip: Try composing in a new workspace