Today I want to talk about concrete methods and strategies you can use to come up with song ideas, some of which will be a little bit more familiar.
And then some that will be a bit off the beaten path and unusual.
And along the way, I’ll be providing examples of how I’ve used it in my own music.
So let’s start off fairly simply, but maybe not obvious for newer producers, by starting with a chord progression.
It’s easy to assume that if you hear a really catchy melody, that it just kind of came from someone.
But that is very often not the case.
It was often written over a preexisting chord progression.
And that’s frequently a great starting place, especially if you’re not used to it.
So spend some time coming up with chord progressions, whether you play them by clicking on notes, utilizing a list of chords, or even getting a chord progression from the internet, like I did in my song ideas generator video.
Essentially, it pulls up a random core progression from a list of common core progressions, a random instrument and a random tempo.
And I’ve used it to write music a few times as well.
It’s also worth noting that chord progressions aren’t really copyrightable, especially if you just kind of use the chords in order and don’t do anything that makes them identifiably stolen from somewhere.
So take chords from somewhere if you need them as inspiration. Just be sure to hide your influences and don’t rip anyone off.
In the same token,
Another thing I would recommend for coming up with new melodic and chord ideas is to use a new key or mode that you haven’t experimented with yet.
There’s a great Charles Cornell video that explains those modes if you’re unfamiliar with how or why they work.
But in general, picking a new scale to start with can be a really helpful way to force your brain to kind of think differently and go a little more instinctually.
So that’s also something I would recommend giving a go and maybe using a plugin like scaler.
To help facilitate that,
The next method for coming up with song ideas is to change your approach to sound design.
And I’ll explain what I mean by this the short way and then the long way.
If you’re used to presets, try creating some sounds from scratch.
When creating sounds from scratch, try using presets.
I typically receive music ideas by scrolling through synthesiser presets or instrument patches on a MIDI keyboard or groovebox.
And yes, having that sound just there may frequently spark an idea and force me to go with my instincts.
If you create a lot of tracks from scratch, I recommend browsing presets. They are a valid source of inspiration for many top-level producers, so I wouldn’t be snobby about it.
On the other hand, if you rely heavily on presets, I recommend spending some time experimenting with synthesisers.
In bass music such as dubstep and Drum and Bass, this is really true for me.
So here’s an example of something I came up with after just scrolling through presets.
And here are a couple examples of songs where I designed a song from scratch and that sparked the entire song idea.
Next up, flip a sample.
And this is, of course, most common in hip hop and house.
But this translates to every genre of electronic music.
And for that matter, a lot of music outside of electronic music and hip hop has incorporated sampling in some form.
So I would highly recommend playing around with this.
It’s definitely a creative art form, if done with care.
And you can start with stuff that’s royalty free, like stuff from loop packs from splice or loopmasters or places like that.
I would recommend going out of your way to chop them up as if you’re flipping a record.
But if you do that, you have a guarantee that that sample is cleared just by virtue of the fact that you bought it from a site like splice, or you can go to sites that charge for food.
You could even just chop up a sample and then remove it after the fact.
So it’s only inspiration.
There are a lot of different directions. This can take you.
If you haven’t messed around with chopping up and flipping samples, I would highly recommend giving it a go.
Continuing that thought process of taking something existing and recontextualizing it, try re mixing or even covering a song.
Obviously, remixing is a huge part of electronic music culture.
If you are lacking ideas, finding an acapella and building a new instrumental around it can be super inspiring.
Find your own sound and bring out your own style by taking something and going with it.
How would I do my version of this? Hip-hop producers will do this. They’ll get a rap acapella and then write an instrumental under it.
Then they’ll just remove the acapella and you’ve got your own original beat.
Make it a cover, get rid of all the original elements of the song, get a different vocalist to sing on it, maybe a friend of yours or someone on Fiverr.
Then it’s a cover song you can sell. I’d suggest using today’s sponsor distro. They make the licensing process for selling a cover song through them very simple.
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And here’s an example of a cover song I did with the same attitude as if it were a remix.
We said goodbye. That’s what you told me once, so many times. We may know each other.
But this is a low level, give you a low, come home to me. Next is a super underrated way to come up with some ideas is to use a melody generator.
And this might be a little bit controversial. Some people will see it as cheating, or will say that there’s no possible way that a piece of software can get a decent sounding melody that sounds remotely human.
And I would say both of those miss the point.
Using a melody generator plugin or piece of software is not necessarily meant to get you the end product, it’s meant to give you some inspiration to work with.
When you use a melody generator, it’ll probably spit out some MIDI.
Then from there, it’s up to you to take that and conform it to your own taste and music, tweak all the notes, maybe make it entirely unrecognizable from what the melody generator initially gave you.
Eventually, you will kind of work your way to something new that sounds like you, but was kick started by a machine.
I think there was absolutely nothing wrong with that.
It can be a great way to immediately get yourself moving on a production session.
A couple of plugins that I use for this are referred to as audio modern and melody sauce by either beat both companies or friends of the channel.
So here’s an example of a melody I made out of what the melody toss gave me.
And here’s an example of working with River.
Those are just the two companies and plugins I’ve worked with the most.
There are lots of others out there and they’re not sponsoring this video, but I do genuinely recommend those and giving melody generators ago in general.
My next tip is a personal favorite of mine and one that I also think is super underrated.
And that changes your location.
Get out of your main space, like your bedroom studio or whatever.
In this case, this is my bedroom studio.
Get out of that space and get somewhere else and use a portable music production device like a Novation circuit or Roland mc 101 and an iPad, iPhone or Android app.
There are lots of fantastic ones out there that are actually pretty powerful, or possibly your laptop right now at the time that I’m filming this in 2020.
It’s not possible to, like, set up inside a cafe, as I would have advised last year before we were in the middle of a global pandemic.
Don’t do that.
If you’re going to go out and about, make sure you’re doing it as safely as possible. You’re away from people and all that kind of stuff.
Maybe go to a park, sit in your backyard or something like that.
Just something to change your location.
I often find that that helps me feel much more inspired.
Whether it’s from being in the middle of a bustling city, or being out in nature, both transport my brain to a different place and make me feel much more creative.
And I’m much more likely to be focused as well.
There are actually some studies done and I’ll link one in the description that talks about how a change of location can actually improve focus on difficult tasks.
So there’s a lot to this. I would highly recommend giving this a go.
And for that matter, to extend this out further, try composing off of visual or kind of vibe cues.
If you want to produce anything sci-fi themed, watch a sci-fi movie or look at amazing sci-fi renders of architecture and futuristic cities.
Priming your brain with cues other than simple audio is an undervalued technique to feel more creative and come up with new ideas.
And finally, adopt some kind of constraint.
And there are a few forms that I want to shout out specifically.
The first one is talked about in an article on EDM, prod calm, so I’m not going to go super in depth on it here.
I’ll link it in the description.
But this is called the song palette strategy.
It basically suggests that if you want to compose a certain style of music, go to Beatport or Spotify and locate five songs that reflect that style.
Create a list of song traits, and then choose the ones you want to compel yourself to incorporate into that song.
There is no tearing off one thing; you are just taking bits and pieces, little ideas, and knocking them off.
And so you can kind of create something in the vein that you’re going for without actually copying anyone.
So this is something I’ve used a lot and find incredibly beneficial, especially when learning a new kind of music or following a new trend.
And there’s also the good old song challenge. Do something that is unnecessarily difficult, like making a song only out of household items.
Is this going to get dropped in a club or top the Beatport or Spotify charts?
But it was a lot of fun.
It got me thinking creatively.
And it made me a better sound designer.
Forcing me to identify surprising sources of sounds and then process them in a certain way made me a better producer.
And I’ve done this multiple times.
For this reason, you can also establish a constraint that you are only allowed to employ, such as a particular number of instrument tracks, or a certain scale, or you must have something intriguing, such as a tempo or genre shift in the middle of a song, or you blend two genres.
There are a ton of different challenges you can take on.
And I would recommend experimenting with this because it can often push you out of your comfort zone, push you to develop new skills, and push you to come up with new ideas.
And those are all of the tips that I wanted to discuss.
These are the things that I personally have found by far the most helpful for continuously coming up with new ideas and having a high musical output.
If you have any others that I failed to mention that you would like to contribute to, be sure to leave them in the comments below.
Let’s have this video and its comments be kind of a resource for people looking to come up with new musical ideas.
And of course, be sure to hit up the link in the description to get 7% off your first year of District kid once again.
Thank you so much to them for sponsoring this video.
Thank you so much for watching, and I’ll be back with a new video in a little bit.