- Try Another Key – Many of us pick up our instrument and immediately hit a familiar chord. Try writing in a key that you don’t normally play in … maybe a key where the tonic lies at the middle of the range, rather than at the bottom. Writing in new keys will most often force you out of a rut by keeping your fingers from falling into their usual places where chord progressions can be routine, and where melodies often begin on the same note.
- Write Without Your Instrument – Again, we develop habits with our instruments and our fingers often try to go to the same old places. Taking the instrument out of the process and writing a song a cappella can free us to discover new melodies. Experiment by singing your lyric ideas. What comes natural to you? What feels right? Then build harmony around your new melody later.
- Research Chord Changes – Study songs written by others – radio songs, church songs, favorite songs – to discover new and/or unusual chord changes. Try some of these as they may get the creative juices flowing. Use a change or progression in your new song that you many not have come up with on your own. This can stimulate new ideas, fresh melodies and hooks. Adjust your chord changes later if necessary.
- Match Chords To Your Lyrics – Is your lyric a celebration? Is it sad? Is it peaceful? What is the feel you want to communicate? Place appropriate chords under certain key words or phrases to help you communicate the emotion of the song … add a major 7th for peaceful ideas, a 9 or 6-9 for a beautiful scene, a ringing triad for a triumphant line, a triad with no 3rd for an anthemic feel, etc.
- Use A Different Rhythm Pattern – I have a free drum loop app on my iPhone. There are many modern tools like this that can give you fresh rhythmic patterns over which you can sing your melodies or play your chords. This again, helps keep you out of the same old habits.
These are just a few ways that may help you break old habits and stir up new creativity in your songwriting.