3 Ways Musicians Can Get Creative With Old Songs

One of the biggest problems for songwriters is the unpredictable struggle that is writer’s block. You never know when it’s going to strike. We dread waking up one morning and feeling like we don’t have anything to say. But that’s when you gotta look back to old work and find ways to reinvigorate it. Look back at your track lists, or even those of other musicians, and see what you can do. Here are three suggestions to get you going when you’re feeling stuck.

Rewrite a Favorite Song

Pick a song you know well, get the music for it and a copy of the lyrics, and then just start slashing at the words. Maybe you always thought a certain line should go differently. Or maybe you think the bridge from another song would sound cool in this song. Rewrite it in an inventive way that you’ve never heard of before.

Write a Response to a Song

Pretend you’re on the other side of the telephone conversation in Adele’s “Hello.” Do you want to meet her after all these years? Or pretend that you are “Jessie’s Girl.” How do you feel about the fact that Rick Springfield got famous by singing about being jealous of your relationship? Are you flattered? Or are you annoyed because he needs to mind his own business?

Write a Sequel to One of Your Original Songs

We’ve all written at least one love song for someone we can’t stand now. Follow up on that. It doesn’t have to be super emotional or angry; it can be funny or ironic. Or maybe instead you wrote a song hating on someone, but since then, you’ve changed your mind about them. Matt Nathanson talks about his experience in a situation like this in the intro for the live version of “Princess.”

Next time you’re staring blankly at your paper, give one of these exercises a try. You might not get your next hit, immediately, but you’ll definitely have fun. And what’s most important is you’ll be getting a head start!

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Kathleen Herald is a writer, literature enthusiast, and classically trained pianist. She prefers hanging out at music festivals; but, for now, writing about music in between classes will do.

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