Writer's Block

(8 posts)
  1. jazzacast55

    Hey Guys,

    It's been a while since I've posted on here but still check in and see what's up.
    I'm having a bit of a hard time writing new material, it's been happening over the past 6 months or so.
    I just can't seem to be happy with anything that I come up with and quickly write it off as to simple, to easy, no one will like this etc...
    I'm sure we all go through this even Kurt (hopefuly?) and am wanting to hear anyones advice or similar stories and maybe ways to get around it.
    I recorded my first demo cd a bit over a year ago and used up about 8 of my tunes I'd been playing for a while, since then I've found it challenging, I used to a bit more frearless and just churn out tunes not worrying about it but now I'm wanting to write tunes to do more shows and I need new material so I can get people to come along, can't keep playing the same set of tunes forever! haha
    Sometimes it feels like I'm comparing new ideas to those that I've recorded, It has changed a little since recording, just really want to get back in to it.
    Also for those who compose, I ask you this question:
    Why do you write music? when I asked my self this I found it a little trickey to answer at first but for me it comes down to having something I want to share with people, my music, something that brings people together and inspires them, makes them feel something, it's an exchange of energy, that's what I love about writing!
    Cheers guys!

  2. gleepglop

    Dave Douglas once said something that I found to be true myself: if you are feeling uninspired as a composer, start transcribing tunes. Getting in the head of another composer really helps break through your own preconceptions and limitations. For a real mind- and ear- opener, do ten tunes by one composer.

  3. gleepglop

    Also, write a lot. Don't be afraid to throw stuff away . . .all the prolific composers I know throw out a lot of stuff. At the early stages of composition, you're just meeting ideas. Don't be judgmental or critical, at that point you are just getting to know each other, you're not married or even engaged ;)

  4. jazzacast55

    Thanks gleepglop! Means a lot, good advice, I've also had some great advice told to me by Dave Douglas, I always think of things he said when I'm feeling stuck, transcribing tunes is a good idea, thanks!

  5. Try revisiting your past also---tunes you used to like/play (I just recently went back and relearned some Black Sabbath---after i did I started writing some riffs---but using changes).
    Also --go back and play some of your old tunes---especially the stuff you like. Maybe tear it apart and see what you like about it and try to mine that for some ideas.
    Post the Dave Douglas advice---i would love to hear what he has to say.

  6. jazzacast55

    I have some notes written down from the Banff workshop I attended with Dave Douglas a while back, a couple of things that stuck that he does see writing as "work", he's a professional musician and needs to write in order to do new albums/tour so he said that he see's it as a job, sits down in the morning and puts aside say three hours for writing, sometimes he comes up with something and sometimes, nothing.
    I never looked at it that way as I always just came across things on the guitar while noodling. I think it's good to almost see it as going to work, focusing on writing and see what happens, obvviously it not like that always but say he gets comissioned to write new work then he has to write.
    Another one was different techniques like sitting down and writing out random chord chnages or melodies, it's pretty fun, I've tried it, say you want to have 12 or 16 bars, just fill it up with and chords that come to mind or write out a melody and then play it and see what it sounds like, it really breaks you out of habbits and opens you up to discover something you wouldn't normaly write!

  7. gleepglop

    Yeah, coming up with specific challenges can be very inspiring. John Zorn's rule for Masada was that the tune could only take up half a sheet of manuscript paper! How much can you do with six lines of music? Very interesting. Trying to come up with interesting restrictions can be half the fun, devise an ostinato, some odd meter, etc.

    One thing I've done is reharmonize an existing tune and then write a new melody . . . this can be have very interesting results. Or take just the guide tone line from a standard and reharmonize that, and write a new melody.

    My general approach is to keep a notebook of "ideas" . . . the composing is the work that you do with the ideas after you have them. About 80% of it for me is just making the time to sit down and focus on the work.

    Another thing that I find can really fine-tune the composition is to always write at least a two-horn arrangement to go with it. Often small weaknesses in the composition become more apparent when you try to arrange it. If you make it into one process, you identify the weaknesses early on and can correct them at the compositional level. Writing a three or four horn arrangement can add depth, since you need to more fully develop your arranging ideas, and sometimes you can incorporate the results even in a smaller group concept.

  8. smoke

    I'll just toss out this little exercise which might inspire some new ideas.

    Take the 12 notes of the chromatic scale and write each of them on small slips of paper (maybe post-it notes, ex). Randomly draw 5-7. Those notes will be your entire universe of melody and/or harmony.

    Either use the notes as melody and harmonize following the melody or build chords from the notes (possibly implying harmony if you need to) and build a tune that way.

    Just something to offer a new, fresh way of looking at things. I had to do this a few times when I was studying with one of my teachers. I drew 5 notes and had to figure out what chords all of those notes could be. You will get some really interesting harmonic movement.

    Just a suggestion to hopefully help a bit.


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