Busting Writer's Block


Mastering Metal Songwriting


Lesson Info

Busting Writer's Block

Do you ever get it? Um I get it in really small doses lately um and something we touched on earlier and one of the reasons why I don't get it in major ways is because I have so many little little sparks little idea beginners on my phone or you know, recorded in some fashion that if one thing is just not working I could just move on to the next so I think having like, uh kind of a little library of little ideas and it could be, you know, just a kick pattern, it could mean that that could be really minute things or they could be, you know, pull parts where one part goes into the next and you've got like, the guitar idea and you've got the drum idea and you've got, uh, vocal melodies or cadence ideas um any of those kind of things are going toe uh, help you not hit that really kind of roadblock thing the times that I get it arm or in the minutiae of, um, usually happens more often than not in writing lyrics if there's a certain there's something I want to say and I'm having trouble saying...

it with this many syllables because that's the section that I have to fill or if I kind of wanted to rhyme with the lion prior to it and I've literally wore out every rhyming word and there's not one that says what I wanted to say things like that that's where I'll really get blocked but on a grand scale I think having like just a little library of ideas in my pocket is is a huge, um kind of uh the battles against that for sure and do you think that, uh it's because you actually go and reference those ideas and expand on them or is it because you kind of just there keeping yourself in the discipline of writing or the momentum of it? We're both I think even if you're not like in the zone or in that writing mood, which I think is really ultimately kind of like what the catalyst for like writer's block is that if you're just not like feeling it um or maybe you feel like you've done everything that there is to do and you're kind of empty uh I think that the reason why these like just kind of tapping into and ideas that you had maybe weeks or months ago is good because not only does it give you something to work from without having to really think about it, but it also kind of throws you back into that mode of being creative you can kind of by proxy of listening to the thing you can kind of be back into that like creative state um so I think utilizing free recorded or pre thought of ideas um can often kind of rejuvenate you right there on the spot and sometimes when I'm like not feeling it I feel like every rift that I'm writing sounds like something else or sounds like a song we've already done or whatever if I use kind of one of these little uh ideas from the bank and then start riffing on that one like all of a sudden I'll be playing stuff that sounds different than like what I was stuck in do you ever get this thing where you're writing wrists and you just can't tell like it's like think it's ok but for sure it's just like I don't know how to describe its just like nothing yeah yeah for sure and I mean I've I've gotten to the point now where if I could if I may be I can't tell if it's awesome or not but I can at least tell if it does that it doesn't suck I'll flush out that idea that song or whatever and maybe the verses I feel like the verse guitars are a little bit like uh you know they're little say me to something that we've done before or or their little boring or something like that um even though I'd like I said I kind of right in the vacuum and I write by myself I still like more and more as the band has progressed teo I'll give those demos to uh my guitar player patrick who's ten times a guitar player I am and I'll basically say like, okay, so this part I'm not too sure about I think it's a little boring and then this part I feel like, you know, we could we could add like some kind of little lead thing before the chorus or, you know, some kind of transitional thing maybe some kind of technical and then over this part I could hear like a little lead that's real kind of slow and moody and simple that kind of repeats, you know, give him a little bit of direction, but it also allows the part or the song too to go beyond like what I was kind of stuck in on dso I'll either asked for their input the other guys in the band I'll say like, you know, we'll sit down and listen to all the demos and we'll be like, okay, there need toe just dump right off the bat um and what kind of everyone on old give their piece on each song? And then the songs that we do like, well, all kind of agree like this part could use a little bit of extra work or this part could use a little extra work um and lately I've kind of I am a bit of a control freak with the deven hundred material, but lately, I've kind of been letting go of mohr and more of it just to get, like, an outside perspective from from another guy, and you've got it. The trick with that is giving it to someone that you really trust is going to do something really great with it. Do you think that I'm that say, um phrases? Yes, for people, I don't have a nen enormous backlog or something. I've been doing it that long, maybe, uh, knew what they could do instead of for along with is learning how to come up with the variations on the spot like think that way. So, you know, they can't go back chronologically that far at least they know that if they do, they do this in this to this riff it's going to be different enough to where maybe the light bulb will kick on or something. And I think that that's the point anyways of of keeping the backlog, I think, and of introducing ideas from another session, it's, just to see if something sparks you, teo, like against fire and keep going again are the direction that moves. You're so yes, sir, that writer's block from time to time, writer's block, but I see on that note let's try approaching melody on a different instrument, like I have a little midi keyboard that he used a lot, just like programming in little parts and songs and stuff like synth parts and whatnot. But it's really helpful sometimes, like just using the piano to actually try and write like find some cool pad or something and, like, find a cool cord and like like, we talked about this a little bit a couple days ago, but like when you look at the guitar neck because I'm a guitarist, I start to like it's easy to get stuck in, like a little groove of like, okay, well, it sounds good if I play this fred and all I can play on this, right? You kind of get familiar with certain areas of the neck to be like it almost hurts to limit your musical perspective a little bit because you get so used to looking at the guitar a certain way. So for me, like, I don't really know how to play the piano like I don't look at a piano key. I'm and I understand how it's laid out understand the concept and stuff, but I can't look at it and just be like here's, how you play this so I'll find a cool cord and then, like in my head maybe all here what I want to do next by like affleck tinker around to try and figure out how to get there you know but like just doing that it like it kind of takes all your own little predispositions like out of the equation and it's just you'd be surprised what you come up with if you get out of your comfort zone a little bit and just had arrived in the world and then the other thing I was going to say is even just tuning the guitar too like a different tuning than you're used to like if you're used to playing in like in seven horns we play and drop a but if you like like I have an acoustic guitar that I have sitting around that I play from time to time so sometimes I put that thing in like open see major which kind of devin townsend sort of tuning you know, I've never written a whole song and that tuning but it's also really crazy playing the guitar in a completely different tuning than you're used to because all of a sudden you're like whoa, if I play this than that's a sweet sounding cord and so even if you just end up reverting some chord progression you came up with in that tuning even if you just reverting back to your old tuning but you figure out the same chords on the tuning your used to writing in like you'll probably find yourself doing stuff in your normal tuning that you like so I've never played that cord before or like it's just just trying to get out of your own little narrow like perspective you know just anything to change tough one way that I get out of it on guitars by learning new music like like those kind of showing earlier with like the general reiner there whatever it's like being like I want to get better at something like it's different than our talking about lifting stuff like and re re contextualizing and it's like I want to actually get better at playing through minor changes just like the gypsy jazz guys doing sit down and actually learn it like a guitar player and then usually when I go back to right some blocks air gone that usually helps but playing a different instrument is kind of unbeatable seances pretty interesting this especially one that you're not like he's saying that you are fluent with that's um like for me I I mean okay guitar player I can play what I want to hear for the most part that isn't really technical but you know we'll probably jump into this and a little bit but we were talking about the same thing with writing vocal melodies is like you know what comes into your head immediately for a vocal melody uh if you're just you know winging it and using your voice uh it's going to be a lot different than if you did like he said grab a keyboard or grab a guitar for for the purpose of coming up with the vocal melody and that's that goes with any instrument like grabbing another instrument to figure out a new take on the instrument that you want to do it and I think it is always a good idea especially for writer's block it's basically you're you're dealing with a new set of limitations that you have no control over I mean you do you could get better at the instrument but I mean your limitations on the keyboard of cuba player are red then they're you can on lee do very simple things and so you've got good instincts you'll make the most out of a little which is you know, oftentimes the solution used more often than not yeah definitely whereas if you have all this skill on an instrument what he was saying like you can get trapped by that if you just you know you're used to certain positions in certain techniques and all that like start to develop habits that's actually why in my opinion why a lot of the best writers are not the best technicians is because they didn't practice their instrument enough to get trapped by it well it's ah there's another reason too is that obviously if you're a total shatter you I didn't spend as much time writing so you didn't get a good thinkit's both those things like if you spent all this time getting really, really awesome like olympic level and an instrument you're also trapped buy everything you created on I mean I might get two guitar players really good and he and I have kind of this ongoing joke because he loves kind of those guitar god master guys um the ones who do like there's the cellar records there just like, you know, sixty minutes of guitar so catholic and like, I can't stand that stuff even though you know, I understand that there's there's a lot of impressive stuff their craft isn't saying but it's just not my speed at all I think a completely different way, but that to me is at least in my taste is a perfect example of being totally trapped by your by your talent it's like those guys just walk all over everyone on a talent level and skill on a sound like on an actual like song writing level it's just like it just sounds like guitar center guys just like shredding unit shredding away and you know I don't know just has nothing to do with like with like a songwriting um I think you love only you know you've only got twenty four hours in a day and whether or not people like tio face up to that you can on ly work on so much you can work on whatever you choose to work on, but you can't work on everything you'd liketo work on, and if you make the choice to be a olympic athlete on guitar, you're going to sacrifice other things just like if you want to be a great writer, you're goingto spend your time working on analyzing musically, we've been talking about and how to reconstruct other people stuff in all these things that are very, very heavy and not very physical, and you're not going to be left with the kind of time tio develop your craft on the instrument like a guy that doesn't care about that stuff and that's not to say that there lesser or greater musicians it's just a completely different approach, and the guys who kenbrell jj, both worlds are really rare and then they're like superheroes. I don't get it it's like one in a million kind of thing. Drummer who's, super technical in place in perfect time and phrases great and play all the right parts is just like we're like the exist what's his name from the darkness when I saw them the first time I assumed that the other guitar player played on the guitar solo because justin hasn't just this insane vocal range, any nails it live and then I wait for time I went and saw him live like he's nailing it all the vocals and then here comes the guitar solo and he's playing all the guitar solos I was like what kind of a freak are you but exactly that a freak most people can't do that and we'll never be able to it's just one of those things that some people it's not that they don't work at it obviously they work at it you don't just get that good but they don't need to work at it as hard as everyone else are they wouldn't do that many things some people are I think of predisposed teo put in a third the amount of work and be three times is good and just how they're born and you know, obviously there focus but most people will never be that good no matter how much work they put in and they've got to make a choice what they're going to excel at it and usually they get really good at what they choose to be good at uh but it's probably pretty pretty bad for them to think that they'll be able to master at all uh unusually yield good results and I think it's unhealthy toe look at a do like justin or mike like any one of these freaks girl yeah dave girl that's a great example it's unhealthy tio I mean it's cool to dream, but I think for most people to like look at those guys and be like he did it so I can't as always pray delusional is probably better I'm not trying to be negative but it's just more realistic I think teo look att what the middle of the road musician is capable of accomplishing with a lot of hard work aiming for a little higher than that that's probably what most people could do with the right type of discipline will make anyone feel any better. I'm a very middle of the road musician I'm told, like I said, I kind of like sixteen I think most of my fair musicians would classify themselves that way and I've actually seen a lot of people go further in the music industry with its not going to say that they're not telling it's just with less talent than dudes who are brilliant but don't put in the work it's very, very few people that air superhero status who could just skirt through everything and just obliterate and yeah, when it doesn't doesn't really happen that often better um back to the writer's block thing this is kind of random but not really uh lottie you metal people know who brian you know is but uh this is something that you guys should check out it's uh it actually works just a a deck of cards, I think back when he made it, it was actually a deck of cards, but it was for mixers in the studio, and I got adopted by songwriters best one for when you hit block you're just supposed to pull one out and, uh, go with it, and sometimes they're cheesy, but often times, dave, you pull the app out and, uh, go to it, uh, it's right on, like, I mean, if, uh, I mean it's general don't stress one thing with another, but I mean that's usually right? Uh, if you've had a blocking, your song is usually if you go to the next, if that one's wrong ago next one, something will come up on why I think this works is the same reason that keeping a backlog of riffs works really well, it's just something to turn the light bulb on it doesn't really matter what it is. Uh, and I think that the sooner that a musician can figure out what it is that works for them that keeps, uh, attorney and switched back on, the better off they're going to be, and some is there kinda stick to things that are gonna kill them eventually that's usually pretty good.

Class Description

It’s easy for musicians to get so caught up in the latest gear, plugins, and presets, and forget that ultimately, it’s all about the music. Join Eyal Levi and special guests Ryan Clark (Demon Hunter), Todd Jones (Nails, Terror), and John Browne (Monuments) for an in-depth exploration of what it takes to craft great songs.

Eyal will share the tricks of the songwriting trade he’s learned over years of experience as a producer at Audiohammer Studios (The Black Dahlia Murder, August Burns Red, Whitechapel) and guitarist for Century Media/Roadrunner artists Daath. Throughout this two-day course, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the three core components of metal/rock songwriting. You’ll learn about basic song structure and riff-writing; melodies, leads, and vocals; and fine-tuning the arrangement to take your song from good to great. Eyal will be joined by special guests -- from musicians to producers and more -- who will empower you to take your songwriting to new heights.


Mike Lamb

This was a massively inspirational and incredibly helpful course. By the end of it I had a notebook full of incredibly useful tips and tricks, and I definitely plan a rewatch as soon as possible. I've been in bands writing songs for the better part of 15 years, but this has put a lot of focus on some of the corners I've cut or the areas where I've been lazy with the smaller details. No matter where you are in your songwriting you'll definitely benefit from this, and Eyal articulates everything in an engaging way and positive way. Even if you think you're a good songwriter, there's a tonne here you can benefit from. 10/10 - Thanks Eyal!