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Tapped Out

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What do we do when we're just tapped out musically? I don't want to be tapped out honestly. I love the process but I've just got nothing happening worth a damn right now. I worked on a song for like 3 months and it is just forced nonsense. Probably most of the stuff I post here is the same but I convince myself to buy into it. There are times when a song write just happens naturally and feels like a dream almost. It just works and flows and is over pretty quick. I know there are folks that can take an idea and turn out a pretty natural sounding song quickly and I envy those guys for sure. It's always been a longer road to a song for me than most it seems but lately the well is dry. I suppose I need to find that excitement again. I've always struggled with self doubt anyway and life as thrown me a few curves of late so I suppose that is part of it as well. 

 

Anyone else go through this and get the magic back? Even if it isn't earth shattering we buy into it ourselves at the very least and that is good therapy... 

 

 

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Yes, I went through something like this (with writing) earlier this year and with something personal that happened, that I think caused me to not write anything new for two months.  Yet, despite that I did continue to write (crappy little things) meaning things I wasn't satisfied with.  So, my suggestion to you Scott, is despite feeling like shit, to go with the flow. Feel it and don't resist the feeling when you're not 100 percent at what it is you're doing and or satisfied and or feel like you're pulling or tugging at yourself to do something new that's acceptable to you.  Acknowledge the moment, embrace it and try and do something even if it leaves you cold or empty. Whatever it is will pass.  We're like waves on the ocean and such is the creative process. Ride it, whether high or low. You'll make it through.

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Thanks! I'm just going to noodle on nothing to try and get things going I suppose. 

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Lend that killer voice of yours to some collaborations to get in the game.

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You're not alone Scotto! I know how you feel.

 

Sometimes, I think it may just be a lull before entering a new phase and taking a step forwards. Sometimes it's just a lull and time to get out and experience life (then come back refreshed).

 

Lending your voice is a great idea! You have such a great voice!

 

Also, I sometimes find just listening to new music can sometimes kick off the creative urge again.

 

Or learn a new instrument?

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Hi Scotto,  I just came back from a year I'm not writing one damn thing. Ideas used to come to me when I'd be walking home from work at night.   But I've been driving lately so that opportunity was lost. The last year also has been one of the most hectic of my life. and then this election cycle has just bombarded us at least in the United States with way too much unpleasant stimulation. I packed up my TV last June.  And  If you're from a northern climate it's a known phenomenon that the shortening of daylight hours discombobulates people.   Hobos advice is excellent. There's a lot of people who would love to hear someone put their words to music. Spanish Buddha's is advice is great too. this will most definitely pass. It happens to the best of them.

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Wow thanks guys.

 

I'm up for a adding some vocals if anyone has anything. Just leave me a PM. It is always nice to have a reason to work on something to force the issue. 

 

Hey Kuya. Yeah I'm stateside and pretty exhausted as well as cold ha ha. Cold weather is usually a good excuse to stay in, pick up an instrument and give it a strum or three, which I certainly have been trying. Just not feeling anything happen I suppose. Least not for song writing. I do get to play out live regularly at least and I wonder if that has something to do with it. Playing mostly covers 3-4 times a month might be distracting from writing or at least influencing it. It's good to have the mula coming in at any rate.  

 

Thanks for the encouragement. If anyone has something they want a vocal for let me know... ;) 

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Besides collaboration, new instrument, etc, I'd advise to just keep writing.   Even if you are not pleased with something after you've written it, put it in the "later" pile.  Sometimes prompts or exercises will force you to write, and the results will be les than ideal, but eventually there will be that one 'dream' song that gets written.

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Scott, didn't you and Ricky do some killer collabs?  Where the hell is Ricky anyway.  RICKY!!  Did I sound like Lucy? :)

 

P.S.  I think the title of your thread here - Tapped Out - would make a damn good song title.

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Oh yeah. Loved working with Ricky. Maybe I'll give him a text see if he has anything. Haven't heard from him in a while myself. 

 

Someone dropped me a vocal to try out so I'll give that a go as well. 

 

 

 

 

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As a bass player yourself. Do you ever try writing with just a bass guitar. Sometimes coming at it from a different angle might help. I'm not sure what kind of life's curves has recently happened. But would they be something to pull inspiration from? 

 I've been dabbling with playing out some, covers etc. And yes, I agree. That definitely steals creative juices from the songwriting process. I'm not sure how you can work around that. My advice. Somehow, someway, just come at it in a completely different approach as you normally would. If you haven't tried that already. 

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39 minutes ago, Onewholovesrock said:

My advice. Somehow, someway, just come at it in a completely different approach as you normally would. If you haven't tried that already. 

 

Like after a massive bong hit?  Unless that is the norm, and part of the problem. :) 

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8 hours ago, HoboSage said:

 

Like after a massive bong hit?  Unless that is the norm, and part of the problem. :) 

As a bass player yourself. Do you ever try writing with just a bass guitar. Sometimes coming at it from a different angle might help. I'm not sure what kind of life's curves has recently happened. But would they be something to pull inspiration from? 

 I've been dabbling with playing out some, covers etc. And yes, I agree. That definitely steals creative juices from the songwriting process. I'm not sure how you can work around that. My advice. Somehow, someway, just come at it in a completely different approach as you normally would. If you haven't tried that already. 

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What I have done before is worked up a cover song. Made some change to get it where I wanted it to go, then played with the melody to take it in a bit of a different direction. Strip the lyrics and write new ones, and since you did the modifications it's an entirely new song, some times unrecognizable from the original you patterned from, sometimes it sounds "inspired by".

 

I think  Nickleback uses this method to write their material.:ph34r:

 

Peace

 

 

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HA DinoRider! Hey at least they did it to their own songs... 

 

Actually, musically, it is always there. I can pick up a guitar or bass and have something in a matter of minutes. Right now it is strictly a lyrical problem. Not that my lyrics were ever great, they've been unusually awful of late and I just can't get anything to sit. That is to say I'm having issues with the lyrics to the music part of the deal so all the music is useless by time I screw it up by singing crap over it... 

 

I do write from bass a lot. Usually instrumentals. Last bit I tried was all keys but it originates from the bass lines. It's the latest thing on my sound cloud I think. Kind of stinks but it was a work out of sorts. 

 

I've got a collab working and more instrumental things looking for lyrics than I can shake a stick at... 

 

I did post a song from last year of a song from 2 or so years ago into the song contest. Maybe I should just keep regurgitating my old material. 

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Thanks to Mike B for letting me take a shot at something! I think it helped and the answer there is to just get out there and do it. Bad or good it helps. 

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I feel your pain, Scotto. Have had major writer's block for a while too, though I've written a couple of little things here and there. Maybe I will post something on the forum soon just to get some feedback and the motivation flowing again. Sometimes it doesn't help when you're kinda in a bubble and not bouncing things off of someone else (that applies to me, not sure about you). Anyways, thanks for putting this out there and to everyone else for the good suggestions :) 

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For sure. I'm not always great inside or outside that bubble but music is about interaction, give and take. So when I'm on my own I try and use this site to fill that need somewhat. 

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Hi S

 

  Yeah, normally lyrics are the stumbling block for me too. I mean, I want to write lyrics that fit the mood of the melody. Im always going back to Beatle songs for lyrical inspiration...though Elliot Smith has been an influence on me the past 10 years. Reading their lyrics give a different insight on how they approach a subject. If I can pull off something even half as well as some of my idols, then Im satisfied. In the end, Im always hoping the lyrics dont take anything away from what the melody has going for it.

   Musically, I go in phases too. Sometimes its just something as simple as buying a new guitar that can have a certain vibe when I get it in my hands. I wrote three new songs that Im doing with my band over this past summer as a result of getting a new Les Paul  and a Fender squier strat in June.

   Again, I dont sit around night after night trying to come up with songs. That would take the "fun" out of writing. I've always said, go out and do "something" other than music. Getting away from music or even enjoying the music of others can have a cleansing affect as well. Heck, go to an open mic night just to be around other musicians...

 

just my two cents worth

R-N-R Jim

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Hi, scott.

I have to say, I on the other hand dont feel your pain. I dont get writer's block. I'm always writing.

Here's the secret...routine, routine, routine. I know it's pretty boring  but that's it I'm afraid. Same old rituals every week is the key.

 

I have a routine for the writing process but  I also have a routine for diet, sleeping, meditation and anything else that affects  mood. I meditate for example twice a day at exactly the same times . I eat the same foods every day at the same time.  Think of the mind as an instrument and nothing else and yourself as a machine.  You gotta treat your instrument with respect, look after it, otherwise it cant function at full strength. keep re stretching the strings to keep the piano in tune.

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the primary reasons professional writers are professional writers, is because of consistency and output. In order to get to that output, a giant component to that is CO-WRITING. In Nashville, it is a 100% co-writing town. That is NOT because writers can't write on their own. Most all can. But aside from the POLITICAL aspect, the other is to keep a fresh flow of ideas going. If you are writing with multiple people, and run dry, usually someone else is going to have ideas, hooks, grooves. And the attitude of "I have to come up with something" is that same old phrase, "Nessessity is the mother of invention. It keeps your mind moving. 

 

We also often WRITE all our ideas, so it might push you in directions you didn't see. In addition, if you are working with others, particularly artists, finding something for THEM, and putting your own ego out of the way, can help you get to different places in your writing. Not to mention that if you have multiple songs going on at multiple times, you increase your output.

 

Putting it into the context of a 2-3 hour writing appointment also increases your endorphans and thereby increasing your output. Even if it is just for the excercise and the songs don't turn out that well, you are still WORKING THE MIND MUSCLE that is going to have to serve you all the time. Then if you look at the overall picture, you see how it takes shape.
ACTIVITY=PROXIMITY=OPPORTUNITY

If you write a LOT OF SONGS (Activity) each one gets better because you are constantly excercising that muscle.
IF you write a lot of songs with other people, it gets you out of yourself and places you and your songs in PROXIMITY of being heard.
That leads to more and more OPPORTUNITIES, with other writers, publishers, industry people, AUDIENCES, and therefore increases chances of success.

SPEED, FOCUS, ACCURACY. That is what you have to build if you are trying to do this. Co-writing is an essential way to build that. If you want to be a pro, you have to do what pros do.

 

MAB

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MABBO, what you say about output makes a lot of sense. You learn to ride a bicycle better and can go for longer and longer rides by going on longer and longer rides. There are definitely things in songwriting you do better by doing it more, but there are things you get better at by learning how to dig deeper, how to translate and illuminate personal thoughts, feelings and experiences into something that reminds strangers of their own. My Nashville friends were good when they first pulled up in Nashville, and they definitely got better at putting their lines into structured formats. And their melodies and arrangements sound a lot more professional these days. Discipline is there that maybe wasn't there before. But for most of them, when they come back to do shows I still hear the same clunker phrases in their newer stuff I remember from their old stuff, the same excesses of telling where it seemed to me they should've been showing. There are other things besides increased output that teach you to write lyrics that are more memorable and that evoke cathartic feelings in the listener. If the songs you're doing now don't have that effect, writing more and more of those songs won't make it happen. I'd almost liken it to ramping up your guitar technique. A huge part of getting better is playing more often and for longer sittings. But another part of playing better is ditching and replacing some of the techniques that have been holding back your velocity, rhythm, volume, tone production and general musicality. Some people improve all those things by osmosis, but others need some kind of intervention from outside help, whether from a teacher or close observation of more advanced players or hanging around better players and picking up their tricks.

 

People who write mediocre stuff can raise their quality all the way to the top, I've seen it happen. It seems to me it's more likely to happen once a person learns to recognize a qualitative difference between their own work and the work of the writers they most admire. The oyster needs that irritant to make that pearl. Too many people are hell-bent on getting discovered when they should be hell-bent on improving. You can't get better if you think you're already great. If that dissatisfaction and agitation aren't there, your next song won't be better than your last one.

 

Co-writing inspires and influences you when your co-writer is strong where you're weak. It's vital to hear and make friends with writers whose work just blows you away and makes you feel like you have a lot of catching up to do. If you have a chance to co-write with one, as you were saying, to know how to keep your ego out of the way. I'd think that's a vital skill to develop, knowing when to give way to another's different idea and when to stand your ground. MABBO, do you have some co-writes you think turned out poorer because of compromises you made sort of unwillingly, because the co-write couldn't proceed until one of you gave in to the other's preference? I'm willing to believe that for every time that happened there were maybe ten or 20 times where it was the opposite. But aren't there some song products you just know would've been better if your preference had held sway?

 

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Old thread! I didn't end up having a lot of output creatively in 2017 did I? I think I worked on 1 song and 1 collab for the whole year. On the flip side to that I was not un musical. I played a ton of gigs over the spring and summer and that allowed for a lot of improvement to some aspects of my playing. Also caused some bad habits I'm sure. 

 

That being said the biggest thing is inspiration. All those guys in Nashville or anywhere in the world that do this at every level are inspired and motivated to be doing what they are doing. When life throws curve balls, as it does, that inspiration can fall to the wayside as we focus on other things. Important things of course. For me creativity has always been a great escape and just something I love to do. Not having that total escape has hurt me I think. While the gigs fill that need somewhat it isn't the same animal as actually writing. I do feel uncomfortable with the lyrical and idea side of song writing most of the time. Strange but true. I take to heart scheduling times to just work on lyrics. It's a great idea and something I could be doing instead of noodling on the phone or iPad.

 

For my gigging stuff we add songs and deconstruct and rebuild them to suit us and that is always really fun. I learn so much about song writing and playing just through the act of going through that process. I also have the opportunity to play with some amazingly talented folks and a lot of the time I feel just lucky to be in the room. They let me grow in my playing. Taking improv solos from Jazzy to Blues to note for note. (Hate the note for note stuff honestly) I can at least say I've really grown musically this past year. With some of this newfound discovery I've recently found some great inspiration in my guitar (vocals not so much). Rather than meander as I usually do I am picking a style and writing to that style. Setting a goal and driving forward. I have song names mostly picked out where I will be converting some past works to this style as well as finishing off a lot of songs that started and stopped and applying this focus. What I've drawn up for myself will be very challenging. I have been listening to my genre of choice and really digging it but to pull it off I will be playing way over my head sometimes and that inspires me. Picking a genre feels limiting sometimes. There are 4 walls you are expected to stay in for the most part. Can I even make it sound like something that would sit on that station? That is my lofty goal anyway. As with most things it will most likely be a shadow of what I was aiming for but the journey is thing for me. 

 

Inspiration is the key here for any of us at any level. 

 

What gets us out of bed and makes us want to be creators? 

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Hello everyone, sorry I haven't been back, got sidetracked by snowmaggaddon here in Nashville. I don't get notices on this that someone responds so if I don't get back to you, please feel free to contact me at MBarne4908@aol.com, or here privately. I also have several videos on FACEBOOK addressing many of these subjects. Facebook/Marcalanbarnette.com

Joan has asked this:

"MABBO, do you have some co-writes you think turned out poorer because of compromises you made sort of unwillingly, because the co-write couldn't proceed until one of you gave in to the other's preference? I'm willing to believe that for every time that happened there were maybe ten or 20 times where it was the opposite. But aren't there some song products you just know would've been better if your preference had held sway?"

Joan, not really. What the majority of what I do in co-writing is TEACH the process of songwriting by doing. It is a TEACHING LESSON WITH A PRACTICAL APPLICATION RESULT. My job is to show the participant ways to approach the subject matter, character development, building melodies, direction, avoiding "second verse hell", and wrapping up in a format. So I usually hit my target 98% of the time. I'm generally pretty happy with the outcome, even in some of the weaker songs, they are often one of the better songs the other people have and helps impact what they do in ALL their subsequent songs. It's "teaching a person to fish, instead of giving them a fish."

What I have had to do is take weak ideas from the beginning because someone "JUST HAS TO WRITE THAT." It may be a style or title they have lived with for a long time and they have to get it out of their system. It might be a personal situation (someone who died, or a relationship they want to talk about. I once did a song called "SECOND MOM" that one guy was talking about, and while I really didn't think that much of the overall idea, the song turned out well. After we finished I found out that it was about the Mother of his best friend, who was literally his second Mom growing up and who, at the time was dying of Cancer. He did a "go fund me" account and recorded the song and did a video to play for her in her hospital room)

 

So that is something I do that might not be "commercial" and more of a personal side. But I try to make every one stand on their own legs and have had the situation where several turned out MUCH better than I envisioned. I have a CD full of those. LOL!

When I am brought in with my friends who are professional or even hit writers, I am brought in for a specific reason. I am very country blues stylewise and so I am brought in to bring those Southern Influences. Two of my co-writers, Joie Scott (Not that Different) and Jim Peterik (Eye of the Tiger, Hold On Loosely) got stuck on a song they were trying to write that was a very southern rock feel. They brought me in to inject a little of the "South" in it. (I'm from Alabama and grew up steeped in Southern rock.) I am known to many as "The BIG CHORUS GUY" and have been brought in for the purpose of JUST WRITING A SINGABLE CHORUS.

 

I'm one of those guys who takes everything as it is presented to me, and one at a time. And for the most part, am pretty satisfied with the results. I guess when I am no longer asked for anything, I'll know I'm no longer doing it.

 

But one of the reasons I can do this, particularly in a very tight time frame (almost everything is written in a two hour framework) is from years, years and decades of constant co-writing. It builds up your stamina, speed and focus, just like going to the gym. You learn by doing. With each song you learn something, and even if the song doesn't turn out to be one of your best, you still try to bring that one to be the best it can be. And you learn when to MOVE ON. There is something to be said for GETTING SOMETHING DONE. And if you look at the overall numbers, (an average successful songwriter will get attention on 5-8% of their overall catalog. So you want a VERY HEALTHY 5-8%.


The more you do something.....
MAB

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