For songwriters both old and new, sometimes you run into that sinking feeling that your songs sound just like everyone else’s.
In pursuit of creativity, there’s arguably nothing worse than feeling like a copycat. Furthermore, doubt and imposter syndrome tend to set in for songwriters who feel like they’re spinning their wheels and not bringing anything new to the table.
News flash: no artist wants to be labeled “generic.” The problem? Making our songs feel a bit less cookie-cutter is easier said than done when you’re in a creative rut.
If you’re racking your brain to figure out what you can do to take your songs out of the realm of “ordinary,” consider the following five strategies to step up your songwriting chops once and for all.
Experiment with New Sounds
If you’re only relying on acoustic instruments or are using the same old plugins, perhaps it’s time to try something new? There are endless opportunities for musicians to experiment with all sorts of sounds, after all. From plugins that emulate old-school tape recorders to the best Kontakt libraries that contain the most epic string sounds around, your recordings can soar to new heights thanks to some fresh downloads.
Switch Up Your Song Structure
There are seemingly endless “templates” out there for how to write pop or EDM songs; however, when everyone following the same structure that you hear on the radio, everyone ends up with homogenous tracks.
Don’t be a total follow when it comes to how you structure your songs. Explore new song structure patterns that are seemingly unconventional. For example, you could write a song that begins with a chorus or doesn’t have any choruses at all: the choice is totally up to you.
Throw in Some More Tracks
Generally speaking, the more tracks and layering you have on your recordings, the more complex and interesting your songs have the potential to be. Of course, any additional layers you add beyond your core instruments need to actually contribute to the sound. Extra synths, backing vocals and guitar tones, for example, can be a major plus for accenting your tracks.
Listen to Music Outside Your Genre
This is a big one. If you only listen to Nirvana and The Beatles, you’re only going to end up writing songs that sound like, you guessed it, Nirvana and The Beatles.
Despite what genre you’re writing for, make it a point to explore new artists on a regular basis. Listening to old-school hip hop and disco might throw you for a loop if you’re writing electronic music, but also think about bands such as Daft Punk who expand across multiple genres and are almost universally beloved. Don’t underestimate the power of giving new artists a shot.
Throw Away Your Rhyming Dictionary
Lyrically, relying on the same old AABB or ABAB rhyming patterns can grow a bit tiresome for listeners. Consider new rhyme schemes for every track you write and don’t be afraid of exploring more abstract, stream-of-consciousness lyrics that don’t adhere to a specific scheme. If people are going to criticize something for being “generic” or bland, it’s probably going to be your lyrics: experimentation ultimately helps you avoid such criticism.
Don’t stress out too much if you feel that your current songwriting output isn’t up to snuff. Simply stick to these tips and be willing to experiment: you might be surprised at what you come up with when you take yourself out of your comfort zone.