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How to start

Sometimes it’s easy to write. Sometimes it’s really hard.

When it’s hard, you need a way to get started. Try this.


Rip someone off

Everyone does it. Some people do it consciously. Others unconsciously write something they’ve heard before. This is really common when you just sit down with the guitar and start noodling. That usually leads to playing something you’ve played or heard before.

Of course, consciously taking a big chunk of someone’s work is shitty. But it’s perfectly fine to take a fragment.

For instance, you could take a single bar somewhere in the middle of the verse (or wherever), and build some ideas around that.

And remember, we’re talking about a first draft here. By the time you finish polishing the whole song, the bar you borrowed will probably be miles from where it started. It often changes as the things around it changes.

Borrowing people’s stuff is meant as a starting point, not the end. And if it doesn’t change a lot, then it acts like an homage to the other artist.

That’s a nice thing. Especially because 99% of the song is yours.


Beyond the fragment

Listen to your favourite song, and ask yourself why you like it so much. Is it the hook, the bass line, the arrangement, the lyrics? Does the chorus do something dramatic like lose the bass line, go to double-time, use a lot of silence?

You could use any one of those elements as a general idea for inspiration. The point is to really listen, and consciously list the things you like. Keep notebook for this. That way you collect a set of ideas and tools that you can use in any number of songs, not just the one you’re working on now.

The notebook becomes a place you go when you feeling stuck.


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