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tommorichards

Mental block problem

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I'm trying to write new material for my bands upcoming album, and i've hit a block whereby i can't think of anything to play, like, i'll literally have my bass in my lap, fingers at the ready, and the guitarist is playing something, and i've no idea what to play so i sit there like a melon. It's infuriatingly frustrating, and i can't seem to get past it. I've been on my own all afternoon, with a bass at the ready, and even now i can't seem to play anything with enthusiasm.

Whats going on. It's almost a physical block, and to be honest, it's quite worrying. I can't see myself carrying on in the band like this. The guitarist does enough in the band without the entire duty of writing falling upon his shoulders as the drummer is a lazy layabout who can't remember what he played to what bit the last time, and the singer just does his own thing, and doesn't have much of a vision song wise.

If any of you have faced a similar problem before, i'd like to hear how your experience was, what happened in the long term, with regards to the band/ bass playing in general. I've even tried going back to songs i used to love to play, but there's not as much as a connection as there used to be.

Help.

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I don't think pressuring yourself will work.

If I sit down and consciously try to write something, I rarely get anywhere, most of my musical ideas come from noodling around on a guitar or bass.

Most of my lyrical ideas come straight out of the blue, normally when I'm nowhere near an instrument.

If you're not under any time pressure your best bet may be to step back from the writing thing for a few days

Edited by Cato

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Most of my songs are composed by accident. For example when I'm tweaking the guitar tone or messing with effects.
I then guick record them on my phone. Often when I go to sleep I've got ideas going through my head. I even dreamt about a song but when I woke up I couldn't remember the tune.
I'm crap with lyrics....
Maybe taking a break coukd help you to clear your mind.

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[quote name='tommorichards' timestamp='1499975903' post='3334968']

If any of you have faced a similar problem before, i'd like to hear how your experience was, what happened in the long term, with regards to the band/ bass playing in general. I've even tried going back to songs i used to love to play, but there's not as much as a connection as there used to be.

Help.
[/quote]

Are you gigging?

I've been playing bass guitar in rock bands for 50 years. Not uncommon for baby boomers.

Playing bass is still as fun and exciting to me as it was when I was 12 years old. However, I have gigs booked to look forward to. Live gigs is why bass playing has stayed fun for me.

Blue

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Put the instrument down , stand up and stretch like a cat , have a cup of tea / short walk . Then when you pick the instrument up again let your hands do what they want without any criticism or self-judgement or expectation . Just witness the sound without evaluating it . Pretty soon something interesting or new will surface . It is the self-doubt and criticism that smothers creativity .

Goal obsession discourages the Muse , an attitude of play encourages it .

10:45 onwards :
[media]http://youtu.be/CBnYgcmSJG8[/media]

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Thanks guys, but i think it might be a memory thing. I can play random creative stuff like nothing, but its recreating it, and making a song/structure around it thats my main issue

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A lot of good advice so far. Other things I would try is listen to some of your favourite music. Also if you are being creative when noodling try recording your practice sessions then you can listen back to what you played and find the gems.

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[quote name='tommorichards' timestamp='1499981423' post='3335011']
Thanks guys, but i think it might be a memory thing. I can play random creative stuff like nothing, but its recreating it, and making a song/structure around it thats my main issue
[/quote]

Record yourself. In your own time, go back over the recording and pick out the stuff you really like, and learn it.

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It's not the right time. It's as simple as that. Come back to it another time and it will be good. Try writing something that sounds like something else or is in the style of a band or an album or reminds you of a movie. Think of something sad or happy. Avoid angry thoughts. If it aint fun then stop.

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I use a line 6 backtrack which captures all the nonsense I sit and noodle. Every now and again, I just sit down, listen to all the stuff on there and find a few gems that I can work with. For example, I picked up an odd guitar noodle that I messed about with using far too many effects back in early 2016 (i think i had drunk a few jagers) and it sparked a really nifty chorus for a song I have been working on for a while.

My inspiration tends to come when I am out running early in the morning, it's shame its too much to carry a bass while I run!

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If I'm consciously trying to write something, I just record everything into logic pro. Each thing I record I just drag across the arrange window, so i end up with maybe 7, 8, 9 or more snippets. These are invariably different versions of the original idea, or they may be different parts. I just sit back and listen to each one over and over, delete the ones I don't like, and keep the ones I do like. re-arranging them back at the beginning of the arrange window. I then let the piece grow and develop like that.

Other things that often work well, are to choose unfamiliar chords or keys. These will sound different to your ears, often giving up good results.

I sometimes take the indeterminacy route too, which can be fun. Write a bunch of keys on pieces of paper, pick one out of a hat at random, that's the key you're working in. That kind of thing, it's something Eno used to use.

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Can't help you as I am a creative desert.....but I find I'm quite good at working on other's material with them to improve it. You could try taking some of your existing material, or just songs you like and creating new arrangements, tempos, keys etc...that might help?

I've heard lots of writers, songwriters, etc say they are never far from a recording device so they can hum a tune that's just popped into their head and come back to it later....hope that helps.

The song I wish I'd written is 'Beautiful' sung by Christina Aguilera, written by Linda Perry......gorgeous song...and gorgeous singer :)

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[quote name='tommorichards' timestamp='1499981423' post='3335011']
Thanks guys, but i think it might be a memory thing. I can play random creative stuff like nothing, but its recreating it, and making a song/structure around it thats my main issue
[/quote]

It may sound tedious, but it appears you may need to learn some theory. Being "creative", i.e. noodling, is good fun, but you need to understand what you're doing, otherwise it all goes up the chimney and you start every day from square one.

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Tommo, are you trying to come up with your bass lines on your own, or do you get together with the guitarist when putting a song together?

I find that working with the guitarist helps coming up with ideas for bass lines. He'll have something recorded already, he then goes through the song, showing chords and changes, I'll work through it and come up with something, then it's recorded on top of the guitar.

Maybe it's the band situation that's also getting you down, especially the drummer & singer situation. Maybe you should get together with the guitarist & have a discussion about things, see what he thinks of the situation, and whether he wants to look for new members, or carry on with the drummer & singer. Maybe after the discussion, you can make a decision whether to carry on with the band. If it's not working for you, it's not working.

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How's your theory? I didn't learn any for years and wish I had done much earlier. Makes it so much easier to get a decent basic line down which you can then tweak depending on what the rest of the band is doing or what you think the song needs at any point.

Other than that I'd say talk to the guitarist and explain things. He might already have a line in mind for certain parts which should give you something to springboard off rather than jumping in blind.

Edited by GarethFlatlands

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On my own, i can write easier as i know myself and i can flow. In the band, its hard to make myself heard, so i tend to just play generic crap. HAd a talk with the guitarist, and i think we're going to work on the issue.

Theory used to be okay, on violin, about 15 years ago. Not much exists these days.

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that's why good songwriters are so sought after, not everyone can do it.

I can learn any complicated bassline you throw at me, given time and resources, but coming up with original basslines takes me ages. I'm not even talking writing a song, just coming up with interesting basslines.

Try listening to music you don't normally listen to for new ideas on phrasing and rhythms

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An old friend of mine is a long time successful songwriter in London. He also does theme tunes for sitcoms and adverts - no names, but one of his TV themes has been on UK telly for over 10 years now.
I've discussed songwriting with him many times, and he always suggests to me:
1) Thinking of a band you know that doesn't play the type of music you are currently playing, but that you respect.
2) Try and write a song in their style - visualise them playing it, or the singer singing it, in your head as you write it.
3) Repeat exercise with another band in a different genre
4) Now try doing the same with your favourite band
5) If successful, now get your band to play a 'cover' of this.

It all sounds so easy, but I've never cracked it!
Good luck.

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A bit of theory helps definitely. I like to get my students to take a characteristic from two different songs or pieces and then form a hypothesis. What happens if they combine a element from one song with an element of the other? It might be the descending bassline of Feeling Good with the chord sequence from Despacito, it really doesn't matter. They just have to make it work. It's surprising how many constructive tangents can happen as a result, even if they don't meet the hypothesis.

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[quote name='SubsonicSimpleton' timestamp='1500034587' post='3335258']
Try deliberately breaking your daily routine habits across all activities - even if it makes life less convenient.
[/quote]

This...take your bass and a headphone amp/ phone device somewhere you don't normally go..different surroundings, different mindset...you have to consciously need to change your routine.

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