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Mastering Metal Songwriting

Lesson 13 of 28

Busting Writer's Block

Eyal Levi

Mastering Metal Songwriting

Eyal Levi

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Lesson Info

13. Busting Writer's Block

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 recorded in some fashion that if one thing is just not working, I could just move on to the next eso I think having like, kind of a little library of little ideas. And it could be, you know, just a kick pattern. It could be they 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 vocal melodies or cadence ideas. Um, any of those kind of things are gonna, uh, help you not hit that really kind of roadblock thing. The times that I get it arm or in the minutia 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 kind of, uh, the battles against that for sure. And do you think that it's because, um, 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. Ah, I think that the reason why these, like just kind of tapping into an idea, is 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. If 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 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 ideas from the bank and then start riffing on that one, like all of a sudden will 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 it. It's 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 maybe I can't tell if it's awesome or not. But I can at least tell if it that it doesn't suck all flesh out that idea of that song or whatever and maybe the verses. I feel like the verse guitars air a little bit like, uh, you know, their little se 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 a vacuum and I write by myself. And, um, I still like more and more as the band has progressed, too. I'll give those demos to my guitar player, Patrick, who's 10 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. Um, 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 would be some kind of technical, and then over this part, I could hear like a little lead. That's really kind of slow and moody and simple. That kind of repeats, you know, give him a little bit of direction. But it also allows, um, the part or the song, too, to go beyond like what I was kind of stuck in on. So 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're like, Okay, are there any toe? Just dump right off the bat and what kind of everyone 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 demon 100 material, but lately I've kind of been letting go of Mawr more of it just to get like, an outside perspective from from another guy and you 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 that se phrases Yes, for people who don't have a nen enormous backlog or something? I've been doing it that long. Maybe knew what they could do instead of or 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 if they do this in this to this riff, it's gonna be different enough to where maybe the light bulb kick on or something. Um, and I think that that's the point anyways, of of keeping the backlog, I think end of introducing ideas from another session is just to see if something sparks you Teoh like, uh, get inspired and get going again. Or, uh, the direction that moves your so yes, sir. That writer's block from time to time writer's block. But I see, on the end of the list, try approaching a melody on a different instrument, like I have a little midi keyboard that he used a lot just for, like, programming in little parts in 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 I find a cool chord and like like we talked about this a little bit a couple days ago. But like when you look at the guitar neck because 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 only complain this right, You kind of get familiar with certain areas of the naked like that. Almost 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 mean, 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 chord and then, like in my head, maybe all here what I want to do next by like after, like 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, um, 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 little rules. And then the other thing I was going to say is even just tuning the guitar to, like, a different tuning than you're used. Teoh, like if you're used to playing in like in Seven Horns, we play and drop a But if you like, like I haven't acoustic guitar that I have sitting around that I played from time to time. So sometimes I put that thing in lycopene. See, Major, which is kind of Devon towns and sort of tuning. You know, I've never written a whole song in that tuning, but it's also really crazy playing guitar in a completely different tuning than you're used to, because all of a sudden you're like, Whoa, if I play this, then that's a sweet sounding chord. And so even if you just end up reverting some chord progression you came up with in that tuning, even if you just end up reverting back to your old tuning. But you figure out the same chords on the tuning you're used to writing in like you'll probably find yourself doing stuff in your normal tuning that you like. Oh, I've never played that chord before or like it's just just trying to get out of your own little narrow like perspective. You know, just anything that tough one way that I get out of it on guitars by learning new music like Like I was kind of show earlier with, Like the General Reiner thing or whatever. It's like being like, I wanna get better at something like it's different than our talking about lifting stuff like and re re contextualizing it. It's like I want to actually get better at playing through minor changes, just like the Gypsy jazz guys do, and sit down and actually learn it like a guitar player. And then usually when I go back to write, some blocks are gone. That usually helps, but playing on a different instrument is kind of unbeatable. It's it's pretty interesting, especially one that you're not like he's saying that you have fluent with That's for me. I haven't Okay, Guitar player. I can play what I want to hear. For the most part, that isn't really technical. Um, but I 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, it's going to be a lot different than if you would like, he said. Grab a keyboard or grab a guitar before for the purpose of coming up with a vocal melody. And that goes with any instrument 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 writers blood. It's basically your you're dealing with a new set of limitations that you have no control over. I mean, you do you get better at the instrument, but I mean, your limitations on the keyboard of your Cuban player are red than there. You can only do very simple things, and so you've got good instincts you'll make the most out of a little, which is Yeah, oftentimes a solution used more often than not. Yeah, definitely. Whereas if you have all this skill on instrument, um, what he was saying, like, you can get trapped by that. You just, you know, you're used to certain positions and certain techniques and all that, like, start to develop habits. Uh, that's actually why, um, 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. Um, well, it's, uh there's another reason to Is that obviously, if your total shredder, you didn't spend as much time writing, so you didn't get it, But I think it's It's both those things. Like if you spent all this time getting really, really awesome, like Olympic level and an instrument, you're also also trapped by everything you created on. I mean, I might get a guitar players really good, and he and I have kind of this ongoing Joe because he loves kind of those guitar God mastering eyes, the ones who do like there's the seller records. They're just like you know 60 minutes of guitar. So Catholics and like I can't stand that stuff even though, you know, I understand that there's there's a lot of impressive stuff there, and if the craft isn't saying, but it's just not my speed at all, I think a completely different way. But that, to me is a 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, shredding away. And, you know, I don't know, just has nothing to do with, Like with, like a song writing. Um, I think you little you know, you've only got 24 hours in a day, and whether or not people like Teoh face up to that, you can only work on so much. You can work on whatever you choose to work on, but you can't work on everything you'd like to work on. And if you make the choice to be on an Olympic athlete on guitar. You're going to sacrifice other things, just like if you want to be a great writer, you're gonna spend your time working on analyzing musically we've been talking about and, uh, how to reconstruct other people stuff in all these things that are very, very heavy and very physical. And, uh, you're not going to be left with the kind of time Teoh 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 can bridge both worlds are really rare in there. Like superheroes I don't get. It's like one in a 1,000,000 kind of things drummer who's super technical in place, in perfect time and phrases great. And because 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 and he nails it live. And then I wait 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 I will never be able to. It's just one of those things that some people is not that they don't work it. 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. Or they wouldn't do that many things. Some people I think of predisposed Teoh put in 1/3 the amount of work and be three times as good and just how they're born. And, you know, obviously they're focused. But most people will never be that good, no matter how much work they put in. And they got to make a choice what they're gonna excel at and usually can get really good at what they choose to be good at. But it's probably pretty pretty bad for them to think that they'll be able to master it all. It, uh, then usually yield good results, and I think it's unhealthy toe. Look at a do like Justin or Mike Patton or like any one of these freaks. Girl. Yeah, Dave Girl, that's a great example. It's unhealthy. Teoh. Um, I mean, it's cool to dream, but I think for most people that, like, look at those guys and be like he did it, so I can is all is pretty delusional is probably better. I'm not trying to be negative, but it's just more realistic. Could think Teoh, look at 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 and get anyone feel any better. I'm a very middle of the road musician. I'm totally like I said. I kind of like 16. 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 I would say that they're not telling that 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. Uh, yeah, when it doesn't Didn't really happen that often better, um, back to the writer's block thing. This is kind of random, but not really. I don't know of Ah, a lot of you metal people know who Brian Eno is, But, uh, this is something that you guys should check out. It's, uh it actually works just a deck of cards. I think back when he made it was actually a deck of cards, but it was for mixers in the studio and I got adopted by songwriters Base. When for when you hit block, you're just supposed to pull one out and go with it. And sometimes they're cheesy. But often times if you pull the app out and go to it is right on like I mean, if you I mean it's General don't stress one thing more than other, but I mean, that's usually right. Uh, if you've had a block in your song is usually if you go to the neck. If that one's wrong ago next one, something will come up. And 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 turning and switch back on, the better off they're gonna be. And some things they kind of stick to things that are gonna kill them eventually. Um, 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.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Metal Songwriting Slides Session 1

Metal Songwriting Slides Session 2

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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user 6f3d0a

Eyal and all the guests are awesome here and really provide a solid education on Songwriting and writing within the Metal genre. One thing that Eyal said that really struck a chord with me, was how Songwriting was being taught at the music school he dropped out of and how it was uninspiring. I completely and thoroughly agree. I own many, many books and videos on Songwriting and I cannot get past the first few pages because it doesn't speak to me and my needs as a Songwriter who is focused on writing Metal. I've been playing Guitar for 25 years now and this is the very first course I've seen that takes Metal songwriting seriously and as a subject worth studying. I would like to commend CreativeLive on having the guts to feature heavy music so prominently in their courses and thank them for helping us establish Metal as a more serious genre. One that is worthy of awards, praise, distinction and honor. In Metal and Strength, R. Ross Strength Keeper Songwriting/Guitars/Vocals/Arranging

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!

Marco Ramírez

Great course, I have enjoyed it a lot and I'm sure I will come back to reinforce many of the concepts shown through the videos. Right now I'm good to go with ideas to apply to my songwriting skills and reinforce several concepts I already had developed prior to this course. This is a great lesson series... even for advanced musicians, anyone can get stuck in this wonderful world of writing and this course shows you tools to get out the best of this process.