So you’re in a co-writing session and you’ve been firing on all cylinders until suddenly you get stuck. The most popular train stations on the line to nowhere are ‘Verse 2 Parkway’ and ‘Middle 8 Central’. It’s such a frustrating feeling especially when the writing up to that moment was flowing and full of momentum. Here are some tricks and techniques that I have learned from other writers and also from my own experience.
- Switch a Mic on (hopefully with an omni setting), put it in the centre of the writers, put a reverb on it and have it coming through the speakers. Play the song from the beginning until the point you get stuck and enjoy that gig reverb! Often you’ll be carried forward by the feeling
- Go for a walk. Often the very rhythm of walking will set you down a different path (quite literally somehow!) and having a chat along the way helps the subconscious gears do their business.
- Don’t loop the section you’re stuck on by setting up a loop cycle on the computer. Get some context. Play from earlier in the track or ideally play it live together (see 1)
- Swap instruments, chairs, or capo, or try a new sound. If you make a stale song sound fresh then often your ideas are too.
- If you’re stuck on a lyrical section (especially verse 2 or middle 8) think visually. What happens now in the video? What action occurs? Is this section a flashback? a flash forward in time? a freeze-frame? Does the camera look down from far away? Does the camera look from the other person in the song’s perspective (if there is one).
- Put in a verb. If you’re stuck lyrically at point number 5. Try and get a verb in the second word of the verse ‘I walked, said, cryed, ran, drove…. We danced, talked, parachuted. Try to think of action words and solid objects rather than thinking words.
- Put it in a drawer. There’s no shame in saying ‘lets come back to this section tomorrow and work on another section of the song instead or call it a day. My creativity seems to work best in 3 hour sessions and after that point the raw materials are hopefully out there and the editing and refining process can take over.
- Sing it in and sing it with conviction. Record the vocal up to where you’re stuck and sing it passionately. If you’re all unsure about a lyrical or melodic section then sing it in with conviction. It might be absolutely right when put in context and delivered properly
- Listen to some other music for a few minutes. Get your head out of the song and listen to music which inspires you or succeeds in the areas that your song is falling short. Try and unravel what makes their version successful and see if any principles here can be applied to your song.
- 10. Get the track sounding energetic and exciting. When writing we tend to write at a slower tempo than the track needs to be. Get the backing track cooking and crank it up on the monitors. Get the drums pumping and the bottom end grooving. I think that often these stumbling blocks in songs comes from a general running out of steam and energy that could be lack of caffeine or just the natural exhaustion after serious levels of concentration. Get the room energized, turn the air con up and up the lighting.
11. You all must have your own tricks here. Let me know what they are!
By the way, apologies for the strange numbering system. I can work Logic X Protools and restring a guitar but Microsoft Word….. Nope!