For most of us, falling into predictable songwriting habits is more and more an inevitability the longer we make music. It’s natural to favor certain ways of doing things, whether it’s a specific genre, DAW, or instrument. But even if cohesion is one of your top priorities as a creator, your fans probably don’t want to hear you make the same songs over and over again.
Launching yourself into a new musical mindset every once in a while isn’t just a good idea, but is a way to creatively thrive as a songwriter. However, finding yourself in a new mindset takes work. Here are five ways to change how ways of thinking as a songwriter:
Trying out a songwriting exercise is one of the quickest ways to put yourself in a new musical mindset. By design, exercises like trying to write in a different genre or creating lots of music in a short period of time help us to alter our mindsets in huge and enduring ways as songwriters. If you know you’re in a serious rut, exploring these kinds of exercises and taking them seriously will help get you back to writing music you’re excited about again, or they’ll show you that bigger underlying problems are keeping you from making music.
Taking short breaks from writing
Breaks from music aren’t just a good idea, they’re absolutely essential. If you want a new musical mindset, it might be because inspiration and motivation are hard for you to find right now. By living your life, delving deep into your relationships, and assessing what’s meaningful to you, you’ll find all the inspiration and motivation you need. Whether it’s a week or half a year, don’t be afraid to step back from music when it’s just not happening for you as far as creativity goes.
Seeking out new music to listen to
If you think new musical discoveries are only for teens and people in their early 20’s, you’re sorely mistaken. Why do we think we can keep being creative as musicians if we’re no longer inspired by new music? More new music is being made now than at any other point in history, and a lot of it is incredible. And even if new music doesn’t move you, there’s more great old music out there to discover than you could listen to in a lifetime. By putting in the hard work of seeking out music that’s new and exciting to you, you’ll change your mindset around music listening as well as creation.
Fundamentally changing your writing process
There are countless ways each and everyone of us can upend our music-making process as musicians. But to do this, we first have to recognize our songwriting habits and preferences. If you always start writing new songs at the computer, move to the keyboard. Consider writing lyrics before anything else if you usually start with an acoustic guitar. Big changes like these will force you to use different parts of your creative thinking. One of the best ways to fundamentally change your process is by working as minimally as possible. For example, for those of us who are used to producing songs as we write and adding layer after layer of music, resist that urge and stick to a bare bones approach.
Embrace discomfort by trying something new
All of these changes can make songwriters uncomfortable, and, believe it or not, that’s actually the point. When we’ve come to the point when writing music feels boring and unfulfilling, drastic actions are needed. Bring in a new collaborator, learn a new instrument, or try writing a 15-minute song. What exactly you do isn’t important as long as it’s truly new and exciting for you. Our default as humans is to embrace habits and avoid pain, but by doing so, we run the risk of creating uninspired and predictable work. This is why the idea of adding newness, risk, and curiosity into our songwriting processes isn’t just something we do once, but for as long as we make music.
If your creative mindset isn’t genuinely excited and engaged with the music you’re making, one of these methods can help you shake things up and start fresh.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.