One of the most important things for any songwriter is finding musical inspiration. The inside of our minds can appear to be overflowing with inspiration. All it takes is a few minutes to be able to come up with a brilliant new idea.
However, sometimes that inspiration seems to ebb away, and no matter what you do in order to come up with new ideas for a song, everything remains blank. If you need help to keep that creativity flowing, I have written these tips to help find musical inspiration.
To be inspired is so important for any creative person. This inspiration urges us to discover new ideas and keep our passion for our work.
I would like to first talk about what inspiration is before we talk about how to become inspired. Inspiration is this elusive mystery factor that always comes before any great piece of art. As if it’s something that appears from nothing. It comes upon us when we least expect it and suddenly everything becomes clear to us.
It might begin with a new idea for a beat or even just one element out of a whole production. You may find yourself with it circling your mind right the way up to a crazy hit. Inspiration is and the beginning of something good in your studio will keep you up till very late hours or completely make you lose track of time. This is one of the most interesting phenomenons in the creative person’s mind.
The problem is that our minds aren’t always prepared to think in a different way. We are so committed to our existing routines and habits of thinking. This makes it more difficult to find inspiration surrounding new experiences that cause our minds to think in a new way. I have put together some of my favorite techniques for creating inspiration for yourself in order that you can more quickly and easily write better songs.
In order to find inspiration, you must break your mental habits and many of these habits can be tied up within the place that you live.
Moving away from your regular surroundings can work wonders for the creative process. You change your location, you change the energy around you, and your luck is changing too. I’m sure there is a research on the subject somewhere, if you found it, let me know 🙂
There is no need to feel that you must go on a grand adventure. Heading to a new town isn’t about following a dream or excitement but more about moving away from what you have been used to.
Taking a trip to a town or city that you are not overly familiar with can give you the freedom to think more actively than you usually would.
New thoughts are sure to enter your mind such as where you might eat, if you aren’t familiar with any of the local restaurants, you’ll be sure that you are taking a gamble in any event.
You will have the opportunity to see new things and this will, in turn, create new thoughts. For example, seeing new faces around you, the way people dress, or just seeing a weird building that has a unique shape and wondering what it might be like to live there.
The great thing is that you don’t have to choose a town or city, it can be any new place that takes your fancy, a beach, the mountains, wherever you please. The point of the exercise is to remove you from your usual surroundings in any way at all.
This always reminds me of the great movie “Into The Wild”, where the guy just left everything behind in search of a new life.
Another idea is to spend some time in a part of your town that you wouldn’t usually frequent. Perhaps there’s an unusual café that you have never visited. Pop over there for a little while and see if any new lyrics spring into your mind.
To break your mental habits, you don’t necessarily have to do anything that is extreme or wild, the simple act of going to a new place that you aren’t used to will definitely make you think in a different way than you normally would.
I often find that going for a walk is one of the most effective methods for getting creatively unstuck. Something in the movement of the body, the increasing heartbeat, together with breathing new air and getting the blood flow going can be the only thing that separates me from my next great idea. It happens all the time.
And I am not alone in this, a team of researchers discovered that the creative output of a person rises by up to 60% whilst out for a walk. Pretty amazing! I find, in my own experience that I feel less stressed about what I want to write while I am out walking. I’m, by no stretch of the imagination, a scientist or a researcher, but I would say that you become distracted by the physical activity just enough that it stops you from focusing too much on your work. Perhaps there is a nice local park if so, get out there and go for a walk!
I had some of my most proud songs come to me while out on a walk. It could sometimes be as though the wind were singing a beautiful, poetic melody into my mind as I walk. But sometimes it is not. I once wrote a folk song because I had that thought, “What would it be like if my house was painted blue?” Have a go at wandering around your local area or a park. Ask yourself, whilst looking at houses, trees or the sky, what these things might sound like.
You don’t need to work overly hard at this. Sometimes you will find that nothing comes to your mind. But other times a song will come to you, inspired by your surroundings.
So often, music theory can feel like the mind-numbing cousin of songwriting who you unintentionally began conversing with at a party. Music theory can actually be highly useful when looking for inspiration, despite sometimes being a bit dry. For example, if you have just been learning about Lydian mode, challenging yourself to use this to write something new will encourage you to create music that is totally different than what you would normally write.
You might find that you don’t like what you write in Lydian mode and that your first try with music theory is not all you thought it would be.
Having said that, there is a chance that you will discover something like a new chord change that you absolutely fall in love with. Then that new chord change may end up providing the inspiration for a whole new song. If you have an interest in learning more music theory, I would recommend trying Rick Beato.
Rick Beato is an expert in music theory and he does an incredible job of turning complicated music lessons into ones that are easy to understand and easy to engage with. His focus is more towards scoring than songwriting but his lessons can be a valuable learning tool for all musicians.
Being an introvert who is forgetful, I have to relearn this lesson at least every month. Being a creator doesn’t mean you have to work alone. Most of the time I do my work totally alone, in my room and most of the time that works well for me. Spending time with friends and making the effort to be sociable really is invaluable to someone doing creative work.
If you want to really expand your musical horizons then working alongside a friend can be an excellent way of doing that.
Working with a friend means bringing different styles of music forward, this will challenge you into moving outside of your creative comfort zone. And, with the minds of two people adding to the message that the song brings, you may find that you will work on a subject that you wouldn’t normally give a lot of thought to.
If you don’t have any musical friends then that is alright, you may find that the experience is something you will enjoy all the same. I have a very close friend who doesn’t know very much about music at all, but he is one of my favorite people to write with because he comes up with new ideas that I would never come up with on my own.
You might find that you and your friend don’t actually end up getting much work done, but it will still be a good use of your time because it is important to spend time with people that mean a lot to us.
It is a great thing if you and your friend end up writing a hit piece of music, but even if you simply spend the time catching up with one another and hanging out, you will find that you are more likely to be happier than if you did all of your work by yourself, all the time.
A little lack of experience or getting out of your creative comfort zone can be very helpful for your music. Do you usually write on the guitar?
By trying a new instrument, perhaps the piano, or some exotic instrument like my favorite Kalimba, and switching up the way you write can be a refreshing change from using your usual instrument. Especially because it will be something that you aren’t as familiar with.
I wrote on the piano for the longest time. Until one day my brother gave me his old acoustic guitar and taught me how to play 3 chords. This has added a whole universe of music creation potential to my arsenal. Every new instrument you put your hands on, opens you to a world of new possibilities.
The guitar was totally free to me, there were no rules and no limits to what I could do. Each time I spread my fingers and made a random “chord”, things sounded so crazy to me, especially the random open chords I’ve mistakenly constructed. I didn’t know the names of the chords, I hardly knew the roots, but man did it sound beautiful…
And coming from the very well organized piano, it took some time for me to wrap my head around the whole concept of the guitar, but once it happened, I knew that this relationship is going to last for a long time.
22 years later and we are still going strong!
I was challenged to completely think outside the box due to the fact that I had no idea to play what I usually would on the piano. I forced myself to think outside the box. The habits that I had developed with the piano were totally thrown out and I was free to try out new sounds, that was completely exciting to me.
I would also like to point out that there are things that may be very easy on one instrument and almost impossible on another. If I had stuck to writing on the piano, I would never have discovered so many playing techniques that led to so many good songs.
Of course, I’ve never left the piano, it remains one of my favorite instruments to play. However, when you write with an instrument that you are not as familiar with, it can create a whole new lease of life on your music. You may find yourself doing it on a regular basis and getting cool results almost every time.
From the very beginnings of music and poetry, songwriters have been writing their pieces from the perspective of a fictional character. songwriting doesn’t always have to be based on your own experience or opinions.
If you are struggling to think of something that has happened to you and incorporate it into your music, you could write a story.
You simply need to come up with a fictional setting that you would be keen to live in. Think about ideas, is the setting rural or urban? Is it day or night? Perhaps include politics or sports or some form of visual art. What is the setting known for?
Next, you need to think about a character who is living there. Ask yourself questions about them. What do they do in their life? What is their life like?
Now that you have a good idea of who the character is and how they interact with their world, you are ready to make an attempt at writing a song about it.
It may start off feeling less than sincere, but as you create the story, you will notice that it starts to really show your personality, after all, you are the one who has written it.
This is not really a tip but more of a “life hack”. when we get stuck our minds are bound to a certain state. But when we start laughing our brain releases certain chemicals that help untie us from this state. Too me it’s a bit like adding oil to a dry engine.
Things are starting to move much more easily and you find yourself in the creative process without even noticing that.
My favorite method is just to make a cup of coffee and watch standup comedy from my favorite comedians. After half an hour of laughing my ass off, the stress is just gone. I then go back to making music and things are just flowing. It works like magic.
Not kidding, this weird hack has proven itself to be very effective. This always gets my creative juices flowing. Do it without even thinking about is, just get and do 30 push-ups! Let me know if it works for you.
If for some reason, going outside or doing some exercise or laughing doesn’t do the job for you, you can try meditation for 10 or 30 minutes. Some people have a very deep inner world and they can just dive inside their minds to change the channel on their consciousness.
Or do real meditation by not thinking about anything. I find that after 30 minutes of deep meditation I’m almost a different kind of person with different creative forces. It’s super interesting.
Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that creating artistic stuff is not on-demand and not always available to us. Sometimes today is just not your day and the only thing you can do is just turn off the lights in your studio and come back tomorrow.
Always open yourself up to inspiration. Your attitude plays the most important part of finding inspiration. you might be a little more prepared to think creatively.
If you are stressed out the entire time whilst on a walk, the walk will not prove particularly useful. There is no need to get continually frustrated with yourself over your NEED to find inspiration RIGHT NOW.
The practices that I have described can all help but there is no guarantee that they will work all the time. It is important to make peace with the fact that inspiration will not come each and every time you head out for a hike. This makes it all the more important to try to make time to do these activities on a regular basis.
If no inspiration is found when you take your next walk, you can hopefully, at the very least, give yourself some inner peace and a happier mental state. The time after that, you can prepare yourself to think in a more creative fashion.
It is also worth thinking about the fact that different people find that inspiration works differently for them. The ideas that I have talked about above may help a lot of people but they are certainly not the only things that will work to help you find inspiration.
It is a good idea to look back and remember the times that you felt excited about doing work on a particular project and try to draw inspiration from that as well.
Where were you at the time?
What activity were you doing?
Were you with other people or were you on your own?
If you can find answers to these questions, you will be able to find out from where your inspiration comes and what situations cause you to be more creative.
What should I do if inspiration for a song disappears?
Inspiration may be an integral part of music writing, however it isn’t a permanent thing.
The spark of excitement that happens within us is often the cause of inspiration to begin a new project. But you are going to need more than this to finish writing a song. Sooner or later that initial excitement that comes with the beginnings of a project, will fade away.
When this happens, it is easy to start doubting. You might start to think about the idea you had in the first place and whether it was ever any good. You must remain dedicated and have faith in what you can achieve in order to be able to finish the project.
It is perfectly normal and ok to wonder how good your work really is. But it is important that you push through these feelings and finish what you started. If you don’t do this, you will be stopping yourself from improving and you will never find out how good your work is.
If you are unhappy with the end result, that doesn’t mean that you have failed. Even if a song doesn’t turn out the way you had imagined, you will have learned something from writing it in the first instance.
How to find musical inspiration?
Inspiration is all about changing your mental habits. Try these tips every time you get stuck and there is a very big chance they’ll help you find a way back to your creative state. Other than that, time heals everything, just give it more time. I believe in you.