By: Joshua Thompson
Hi. My name is Joshua Thompson, and I have been writing music since the age of 4. My life goes through cycles, and some years I am more productive than others. I have been reflecting on what things I do that keep me creative and productive, and I came up with these 11 practices that help to juice up my creative ability. My hope is that you might benefit from these tips as well.
1. Listen to a variety of music. When I make time to listen to others’ music, it gives my creativity a jump start. It’s kind of like eating – I try to digest a variety of music to give me a balanced diet of inspiration. When I listen, my subconscious picks up nuances and riffs and tone, and later when I am writing my own music, I find myself writing much more fluently. 2. Practice singing harmony. One of the best abilities that you can develop as a songwriter is to be able to sing harmony on the fly. As you drive in your car, practice singing harmony to the music you’re listening to. Singing harmony on the fly is really an act of composition, and as you become more fluent, it will help your composition ability. 3. Keep a digital recorder with you. I make a habit to keep a digital recorder with me at all times. You never know when a great new melody might come to you, and I even find that I am more likely to come up with a melody if I have a recorder with me. I especially recommend having one by your bed; I find that I will often wake up with a song running through my head, and having a recorder near enables me to get the melody down. 4. Practice your instrument while watching a movie. This is one of my favorite new tricks. I practice jazz chords and scales while watching DVD’s, and I find that multitasking in this way helps to make my playing more fluent. 5. Make time to jam with others. Even if you’re not in a group, make time to jam with musician friends. I find that looking forward to a jam session helps me to be a bit more creative – I want to have a song to share, and I tend to write more under a little pressure. 6. Find encourager's. It’s really important to find a few people who like your music and can encourage you. Writing music is a very personal act, and it’s hard to produce when you don’t get any positive feedback. Having friends who really enjoy my music and who can give me encouragement helps to keep me motivated. 7. Read poems and short stories. In the same what that I try to digest a variety of music, I also make an effort to read poetry and short stories. I find that tuning in to others’ imagination through reading helps me to be more imaginative, which helps my lyric writing ability 8. Challenge yourself to write one poem each day. I have disciplined myself to write one poem as I ride the bus to work each day, and I find that this helps me be able to produce lyrics for my songs when I need them. 9. Take existing poems or bible verses and write melodies for them. I keep my melody-writing ability fine tuned by taking existing poems and writing melodies for them. So far I have written melodies for the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the book of James, and the book of Ephesians. Once again, the discipline of producing melodies helps me to be more creative. 10. Improvise Melodies while alternating between two chords of accompaniment. I have found this exercise to be an impetus to writing good melodies: with my left hand, I alternate between two chords, and with my right hand I improvise melodies. Again, practicing writing music on the fly helps to keep me creative. 11. Develop your ability to think in multiple lines of instrumentation. When music is going through your head, try to stretch your composition ability by thinking in multiple lines of music. It takes effort, but the more lines of instrumentation you are able to hold in your mind, the better you will be able to compose when it comes time to write.
By taking time to practice these disciplines, I hope that you will find your song-writing ability increasing.