You probably know the feeling. You've got the first few lines of a new song, but somehow the rest just won't come. And the harder you try, the more your brain seizes up and blocks the free flow of creativity.
It isn't that your brain has suddenly lost its creativity. You have what writers call 'writer's block' (as though no-one else ever suffers from it). So what can you do?
Here are three brain unblocking techniques, all tried, tested and proven to work...
First popularized by Edward do Bono, lateral thinking seeks to work around a problem rather than hitting it head on.
Let's say you have written the first half of the lyrics of a verse, but you're stuck on the second half. OK, reach for a broadsheet newspaper. Or a fat thesaurus. Or anything that contains a lot of words in fairly random order (i.e. not a dictionary, although that's better than nothing).
Close your eyes, open up your random word source and put your finger on it somewhere. Take a look and see what the word underneath your finger is.
Now what you do is think of all the associations that word has with the topic of your song. Suppose the word was 'frog'. I don't know too many songs about frogs but I suppose Paul McCartney would tell you differently.
Frogs jump, they are often green, some are poisonous, they have long sticky tongues, they eat flies. Think of everything you can that is connected with frogs and look for links with your song. You'll be amazed how quickly you can come up with a creative idea that would otherwise not have occurred to you.
That's just one lateral thinking idea. Although de Bono's book is getting on in years now, it is still well worth a read.
This one is completely different, but it demonstrates how the brain has power that is locked away and not available for conscious use.
Classical pianists often practise to the beat of a metronome. It is often wrongly thought that this is to help them play in time. Drummers would benefit from click-track practice, but playing the piano really should not be subject to such restrictions.
The true benefit of metronome practice is this...
Suppose you have a section of music that is difficult to play without hitting wrong notes. Slow practice is beneficial, but it doesn't necessarily lead to being able to play the passage at full speed.
So set a metronome to a tempo that is slow enough to play comfortably. Play the section a few times, then increase the tempo a couple of BPM. Play again a few times. Rinse and repeat, over and over.
Here comes the interesting bit...
At some point in the sequence of increasing tempi, you will find that your conscious brain can't handle all the data throughput. So some of the processing will be handed over to your subconscious brain. As you continue increasing the tempo, you will find yourself thinking less and less about where your fingers are going. They will seem to find the notes themselves.
Interestingly, this works for improvised playing too. Improvise to a slow beat, then increase the tempo bit by bit. Soon you will find music flowing from your fingers without conscious thought. It can almost seem a little spooky, as though someone else had taken control of your playing.
The word 'riffing' can mean to play riff-based music. But it has another meaning related to improvisation.
Try this... Put a backing track together, or borrow a sample from someone else's music (just in private so no copyright issues). Four, eight, sixteen or thirty-bars work well. Make it loop round and round.
Now set up a mic and put some EQ, compression and reverb on it so that it sounds nice. Get a nice blend between loop and microphone on headphones (it seems to work better on headphones I find).
As the loop plays, start singing. Just start singing. Any old syllables will do and any old tune. Vary what you do. Go crazy.
Then start forming words. Force yourself to sing one word after another, in tempo with the music. Sing any word rather than let the mic fall silent. When the words are flowing, force them to start making sense.
Once again, your brain will be compelled to draw on its subconscious reserves. After a while of doing this, you will have the creative backbone of a new song, which you can further develop.
Over to you...
These are just three ways out of many to access the brain's hidden reserves. The human brain is an incredible resource that is often left largely untapped.
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