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Subject: Gettin' to that point again: Or, I need help from the muscians in the 'ol Hivemind rss

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Kunnagh Scott
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Just reading this when I should be getting up and going to work, but a couple of quick thoughts...

Is trying a different instrument a possibility? My view of chords changes depending on what I play them on, and I find I write more creative structures on a piano then on my main instrument, the guitar. Maybe because I don't have the same 'muscle memory' for progressions that I do on the guitar...?

Try a different tuning for the guitar - the changing shapes might help.

Collaborate with a friend for a few?

Gotta run!
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kSwingrÜber
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Try writing in a foreign language. Preferably one you don't know.

May not help with the song writing, but at least you'll seem sophisticated.



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Brian Morris
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I don't know. I played the drums.
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Matt Kruczek
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IS it time to get used to a few more chords? Bm, Dm, Fmaj7 and B7 can be done without barring. And of course getting the basic barre shapes down opens up the whole fretboard and you can go pretty much where you want to.

Have you tried learning some basic scales? That really helped with my finger picking and confidence. I still remember learning my first blues scale and just noodling up and down without even changing key and it still sounding awesome.

Another thing that might help is getting the songbooks of bands you know and like. You will soon stop worrying about not deviating far from your favourite chords. D, A, E and G covers about 70% of Brian May's output.
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Thomas Eager
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goo I generally find it easier to trim lyrics than adjust the music. Strangely, I seem to compose from both directions i.e. sometimes I'll have the lyrics first, sometimes the riffs. In either case I seem to have a rough idea of the general mood, sound and genre going in. But maybe that's just me.
For your chords, my advice is twofold: First, buy a big-ass chord book (one with tons of variant fingerings). I've had a lot of fun just trying the crazy phrasings, and just rifling through the book and trying stuff is still deepening your knowledge of the instrument every time you do so. Practice practice practice etc.
The best advice is probably to learn scale theory (the positions of the scalar modes and how they interconnect in a given key). Fortunately, this is a lot easier on a string instrument than say, a woodwind, since you can see the patterns represented visually (via diagrams) on the fret board. Once you master that and realize that chords are merely fragments of scales (or modes) played together, you'll be able to "grab" chords within those scales almost without thinking about it. goo
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John O'Haver
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I play bass with a folk singer/songwriter. She's a pretty amazing strummer of open chords on acoustic guitar and a good lyricist but she often uses a capo to make the traditional folk/country chord intervals, 1, 4, 5 and the inversions, sound different in different songs with changing fingerings.
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If you are hitting walls, try branching out. Pick up a blues book and learn something new. Check out videos online and play along. Find someone you can jam with. Attend open mic nights and carefully watch other people play.

I've been on a plateau for about a decade, so I decided to take lessons. Their expensive but I now have the opportunity to jam with someone and learn new stuff. If you have the time to search for it, you could learn similar stuff off youtube for free.
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You should discuss it with your guitar teacher.
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Calavera Despierta
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I think you're stuck because you've arrived at the mistaken belief that in order to be unstuck, you must innovate beyond the standard chord progressions of, to quote, "G, C, D/A,F,C,Em".

But many of the best songs have these cords in them, and there really is no getting away from them unless you want to fundamentally start screwing around with weird tunings, half-tones, and stuff like that - which is so technical that it's unlikely you'll find either collaborators or fans.

My advice is: worry less about originality and worry more about simply enjoying yourself. Embrace what you have rather than trying to innovate beyond it. Play chord progressions that make you feel happy to play, write lyrics that express what you're feeling, and forget about the rest of it. If you aren't enjoying the playing, you're not doing it right.
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John O'Haver
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Quote:
I play both the bass (because bands always need bassists!) and acoustic guitar
Soooo true! The singer / songwriter friend I mentioned above is the rental coordinator at Blackacre Farm in JEFFERSON Co. KY. Every fall she hosts a gathering of her dozens of musician friends and non-musician friends.

The first year I went I was the only fella who showed up with a bass. Ever since I've been the designated bass player. The most recent one was last Saturday night.
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What about, instead of trying to come up with original stuff, just learning to play some of your favourite tunes for a while. Doing so might very well inspire your own creative work.
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John O'Haver
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Quote:
But many of the best songs have these cords in them, and there really is no getting away from them
+1. Almost all the songs I played last Saturday were some permutation of G C D A E, Em, Am and the dreaded B7. Usually just a 1 4 5. Sometimes the minor 2nd was thrown in. I think I played one song that had a key change leading into an uplifting ending.

Two years a ago some fella was gonna play a well known song - I can't remember which one - and he slapped a capo on this guitar half way up the neck. I asked what key he was gonna play it in. He said, "B Flat."

I said, "Man, that's a horn key. If I had known that I'd brought my trombone." So I slapped my left hand on my bass about half way up the neck and got on with it.

I can relate to the plateau effect you are experiencing. I don't play acoustic guitars but I've been a rhythm guitarist in a couple working electric bands. For couple years I've been working on my blues lead chops but I hit the wall and everything started sound the same. I was playing the same licks, mostly in A and E. It's an easy trap to fall into as a living room player. Then...

...I bought several jam along CDs from a couple different online blues classes. I think I have over a 100 variation of blues, blues rock and some light jazz tracks to play along with. Lotsa different tempos, keys (including horn keys), rhythms, instrumentations and variations. Having to create some thing that has to fit into someone elses pre-recorded framework gave me more new ideas than trying to create something from scratch. Hell, a soloing through a 4 or 5 minute blues tune and trying not to play the same combination of riffs over still stretches me.

So then I bought a recording interface and simple software, recorded 10 of Jackies originals and added bass and guitar parts. She LIKED IT!.

And so that's how I overcame my "stuck on the plateau" depression...

Quote:
Gettin' to that point again:

...for about a year. Now I need new inspiration. Can anyone help me?
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Thomas Lee
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I don't know if this works for bass guitar/voice, but I find that when I stop thinking vertically (chords + melody) and start thinking horizontally (multiple lines doing related but independent things) I get much more creative with my composition.
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Maybe try another instrument. Perhaps a uke or a mandolin. Write songs for those. Later, see if you can translate that back to your regular instrument. I wrote a lot of songs on my old 4-string tenor guitar, but later relearned my own songs on my 6-string.
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braveheart101 wrote:
There comes a time in every musicians life when you hit the wall, get to the point where your skill starts to really lag behind your creative ideas. In my case, I've been hitting walls and smashing through them (eventually!) ever since I started. But this time around, I just can't seem to do it. I play both the bass (because bands always need bassists!) and acoustic guitar, and I've gotten to the point where I feel like I've run out of new ways to get the results I want from my acoustic. Namely, I can't seem to escape from the same handful of chord progressions - G, C, D/A,F,C,Em, for example. I just keep using them over and over, and can't for the life of me come up with anything else. I've finally got the point where my strumming is not half bad, but at the expense of my fingerpicking. To be frank, I'm horrible.

And my last problem is: I can't seem to fit the words I write to music. This is the main wall I'm struggling with, since lyrics really are useless without good instrumentation.

So, what wisdom would the musicians of Chit Chat care to share with a newbie singer-songwriter? Anything you can share would be totally appreciated.

Thanks,

~Euen

Move the chord shapes around the neck and/or use a capo to try different octaves - also different tunings (open tunings are fun) - just changing the sound if not the chords per se can get the creativity flowing.

Another thing I've done a lot just as a hack amateur musician is to find the tab for a song I like - sort of but not really learn it, maybe figure out the chords used and sort of get the general idea, but make no attempt to actually figure out the time, then sort of make up my own ideas on top of that which often end up rather different from where I started.

Re: writing lyrics - generally for me, what works is to find the flow of the song you are working on - just hum the tune and often ideas will start to suggest themselves.
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Dane Peacock
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cabalzero wrote:
goo I generally find it easier to trim lyrics than adjust the music. Strangely, I seem to compose from both directions i.e. sometimes I'll have the lyrics first, sometimes the riffs. In either case I seem to have a rough idea of the general mood, sound and genre going in. But maybe that's just me.
For your chords, my advice is twofold: First, buy a big-ass chord book (one with tons of variant fingerings). I've had a lot of fun just trying the crazy phrasings, and just rifling through the book and trying stuff is still deepening your knowledge of the instrument every time you do so. Practice practice practice etc.
The best advice is probably to learn scale theory (the positions of the scalar modes and how they interconnect in a given key). Fortunately, this is a lot easier on a string instrument than say, a woodwind, since you can see the patterns represented visually (via diagrams) on the fret board. Once you master that and realize that chords are merely fragments of scales (or modes) played together, you'll be able to "grab" chords within those scales almost without thinking about it. goo
A wealth of good advice here.
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Jeff Jones
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cabalzero wrote:
goo I generally find it easier to trim lyrics than adjust the music. Strangely, I seem to compose from both directions i.e. sometimes I'll have the lyrics first, sometimes the riffs. In either case I seem to have a rough idea of the general mood, sound and genre going in. But maybe that's just me.
For your chords, my advice is twofold: First, buy a big-ass chord book (one with tons of variant fingerings). I've had a lot of fun just trying the crazy phrasings, and just rifling through the book and trying stuff is still deepening your knowledge of the instrument every time you do so. Practice practice practice etc.
The best advice is probably to learn scale theory (the positions of the scalar modes and how they interconnect in a given key). Fortunately, this is a lot easier on a string instrument than say, a woodwind, since you can see the patterns represented visually (via diagrams) on the fret board. Once you master that and realize that chords are merely fragments of scales (or modes) played together, you'll be able to "grab" chords within those scales almost without thinking about it. goo
I would add to this by including chord theory. Understanding how chords are formed will lead to all kinds of interesting ways to utilize them. Learning to build chords allows you to find a way to play almost any chord anywhere on the fretboard and also to play with triads and the like.

Here is a great guide:

http://www.freewebs.com/jk_/tabs/chords.html

Also... look into jazz chords. Lot of funky going on with those.



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John O'Haver
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It kind of amuses and annoys me that a couple of my self-taught guitar buddies who can play rings around me in some genres - not that that's that* hard - couldn't find a C# or any named note on a fret board to to save their lives. I aced my entry level music theory classes years ago.

I've tried to give them some help learning to play bass at their request. When I talk about the basics, the root and the fifth, they haven't a clue.

My friend Jackie is a singer/song writer and an exciting acoustic strummer. She creates alot of melodic movement and fills with hammer ons and such. When I gave her her first bass lesson, I asked her to play an open C chord on her six string and tell me which note was the C note. She guessed and guessed wrong.

Good advice on chord structure. Chord substitions can make same old sound fresh.


Also one of the things I try as a last resort to break the plateau effect is buy a new guitar. I'll post a picture here later.



*will this alert the grammar police or a speech therapist?
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Jeff Jones
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scribidinus wrote:


Also one of the things I try as a last resort to break the plateau effect is buy a new guitar.
I have learned that this is the answer to almost every problem I have. If it doesn't outright solve it it certainly helps me forget it.

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John O'Haver
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I'm 2% better as a guitar player and my creativity jumped 7% since I brought this home yesterday.



This is what I just bought. It was a trade-in at Guitar Center. Found it by accident. It's gonna replace something else that I own.

Yeah, it's the import but it has same electronics as the US made except it has a Paul Gagon HB at the neck instead of the Seth Lover design. I do like maple fret boards on Fender style guitars.

Mine is almost exactly like the picture. The clear orange finish is lot glossier than it appears in the photo and in bright lighting it is clear ORANGE! Got a white pearlescent pickguard. I have 29 more days on the 30 return policy to decide if I want to keep it.
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Jeff Jones
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scribidinus wrote:
I'm 2% better as a guitar player and my creativity jumped 7% since I brought this home yesterday.



This is what I just bought. It was a trade-in at Guitar Center. Found it by accident. It's gonna replace something else that I own.

Yeah, it's the import but it has same electronics as the US made except it has a Paul Gagon HB at the neck instead of the Seth Lover design. I do like maple fret boards on Fender style guitars.

Mine is almost exactly like the picture. The clear orange finish is lot glossier than it appears in the photo and in bright lighting it is clear ORANGE! Got a white pearlescent pickguard. I have 29 more days on the 30 return policy to decide if I want to keep it.
Welcome to the Telecaster family. Nothing like a Tele. I really need to acquire a thinline. I have a 52 AVRI and a Baja.



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