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Deadly_Slaughter
Metal newbie

Joined: Mon May 12, 2008 7:12 pm
Posts: 114
Location: United States
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:00 am 
 

Hello everyone. Just thought I would give a quick post to see what everyone comes up with.

I've been writing music for well over 5 years, played in bands, played shows, all the standard stuff.

But recently, I can't seem to get any really good ideas (lyrics, riffs) from my head to paper. I've been suffering from writer's block and can't seem to finish the songs that I have been working on for some time now; as you can imagine, it frustrates me when I want to get a certain sound, but can't achieve it. But everyone comes to that problem so I don't worry about it as much.

Then when I finally DO get a riff in that I like, I get aggravated with it because it sounds generic or I know I've heard it somewhere else before, and I know no one wants to steal anyone's riff; no matter how good they are.

I'm a one man band, and naturally it's a bit tougher to come up with everything just yourself. I would love to play in a band, but I get a greater sense of accomplishment by myself...eh

So how do you all get past writer's block, trying to write good riffs, good lyrics, and all that good stuff? Any feed back is welcome.
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infinitenexus
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:35 am
Posts: 1939
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:25 am 
 

Personally I drink a lot of wine and try to write music in different sub-genres of metal that I'm not used to. I write melodic death metal. So if I suddenly listen to a bunch of deathgrind, then I'll start writing more chaotic riffs, and I won't do the verse chorus verse song pattern. Or if I start listening to some black metal, then I'll use a lot of dissonant chords and go for a darker atmosphere. Or mostly I'll just make sure to listen to the bands that I want most to sound like and mostly importantly learn how to play their songs, and their influence will come out in my music.

Basically it's all in expanding your musical horizons. If you write music in one genre, let's say death metal, then go find a goregrind band you like, or a black metal band, or a '70s hard rock band. Anything different. Stay away from monotony. Inject some new influences into your music. I listen to different music depending on what genre of music I'm trying to write. I'll listen to early spiritual beggars, grand magus, and alice in chains if I'm working on one music project, then I'll switch to fleshgod apocalypse, aborted, and cattle decapitation for a different music project. Learn what you truly want to write, find a band similar to that, and get their music in your head.
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Goran
Metal newbie

Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 8:32 pm
Posts: 136
Location: Belgium
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:31 am 
 

Yeah, just go and do some different stuff. Don't pick up your guitar just to try and force new riffs.

Give it some time, keep your focus away from the issue and before you know it, you'll get to exploring awesome tunes just by fooling around.
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Deadly_Slaughter
Metal newbie

Joined: Mon May 12, 2008 7:12 pm
Posts: 114
Location: United States
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:12 am 
 

Thank you both for the quick responses.

As far as listening to different bands, I have found that to work quite well. For example, one day after listening to Severe Torture, inspiration hit me and I had a new track essentially over night. So I'll have to continue to try that in order to get some inspiration.

I've been playing mostly Progressive Death Metal with Thrash and Black influences in the mix as well. A little hard to explain, but it's mostly Death Metal with hints of Black. But I've been wanting to incorporate more technicality in the music to keep it interesting. I've listened to stuff like Dying Fetus, Cryptopsy, Origin, etc. to learn a few basics and also checked the writing tech death thread to get some tips. So that is kind of my new current obsession.

Has there been any bands you have listened to that inspired you to write music or lyrics on the spot?
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infinitenexus
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:35 am
Posts: 1939
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:34 am 
 

Check out the album "oracles" by "fleshgod apocalypse". I'ts about as awesome as technical death metal can get. Seriously, once you hear "in honour of reason", you're going to find the nearest baby and punch it.
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Deadly_Slaughter
Metal newbie

Joined: Mon May 12, 2008 7:12 pm
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Location: United States
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:27 am 
 

I absolutely love Fleshgod and when I first heard Oracles, I went apeshit. I had the pleasure of seeing them when they came to Vegas, and I was completely blown away. Got their first two albums and a t-shirt shortly after. They have an amazing combination of brutality and symphony that I would love to incorporate into my music.
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infinitenexus
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:35 am
Posts: 1939
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:33 am 
 

Then all I can say is learn to play their songs and try to incorporate those patterns into your own songwriting.
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xThe__Wizard
Metalhead

Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 2:59 pm
Posts: 845
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 12:41 pm 
 

Well don't tell him to rip them off. That's kind of lame. I tend to listen to music I am not trying to sound like and don't write music when I have a problem. Of course I don't care if someone else has used a certain riff, I just go with what sounds good.
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infinitenexus
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:35 am
Posts: 1939
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:23 pm 
 

I don't mean rip anyone off at all. For example, in later Death albums, Chuck uses a lot of add9 chords. So after listening and learning, I started incorporating that, just that chord shape into some of my songwriting. It was still 100% but you could hear the Death influence.
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guitartheist
Metal newbie

Joined: Thu Jan 13, 2011 2:11 pm
Posts: 83
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:38 pm 
 

Whenever I get stuck or in a rut of not finishing songs, I set a goal for myself:

Write three terrible songs as fast as I can.

I've never succeeded, and I don't think you will, either. If you don't force the expectation of a song you're working on to be amazing, it has a much better chance of actually being amazing. Most people won't be able to write three terrible songs - you'll find that if you try to write badly you'll end up with something decent, and if you like you can polish something decent into something good.

Even if you don't come up with anything good, songwriting is like anything else - the more you practice, the better you'll become. I've written (and deleted) hundreds of complete songs, and I don't release even half of what I write, but I write so much that improvement is very rapid and I manage to put out a lot of stuff I'm proud of.

Three completed shitty songs will teach you far more than getting stuck trying to write one perfect riff or line of lyrics.
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infinitenexus
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:35 am
Posts: 1939
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:07 pm 
 

There's a book out there for songwriting technique and what it recommends doing is locking yourself in a room for 12 hours and writing 20 songs in one sitting (I mean you can use the bathroom and eat, but otherwise you can't stop for 12 hours). If you write more, good. Less? No bueno, slap something together. It even emphasizes that you can record yourself banging on a trash can with 1 guitar chord repeated over it and that counts as a song. The point isn't to write good music, just to write music. Even funny music. And after banging out 20 often purposely shitty songs, you're going to get some good riffs in there. I've always been meaning to do it. I should do that this weekend.
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Deadly_Slaughter
Metal newbie

Joined: Mon May 12, 2008 7:12 pm
Posts: 114
Location: United States
PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 6:34 pm 
 

Thank you all for the great ideas with everything.

On the Death comment, I have also noticed that; Chuck did use a lot of the same chords, he just had enough variation to make 6 albums worth of music all in the same tuning. Hell even Iron Maiden manage to use the same rhythms and still pull it off.

Very good idea on the 12 hour music session and writing 3 bad songs. I honestly would've never thought of that! I'll have to try that on my next days off.

Now one question I do have, is that even if you write something that sounds good, but you know you've heard it before, do you still keep that part in the song? For example, everyone knows Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath" uses the tritone, but the same thing can be heard in Gojira's "Love", etc. Granted Gojira are not doing a full on rip, but in essence it is the same. And I realize that is a very common chord and everyone has their own stamp on how to play it.

On a side note, there was a video I saw somewhere that said we will never run out of music to be made, but certain music still manages to sound the same (majority of pop songs utilize the same pattern, but who gives a shit about that). Would it be better to create something in uncharted territory, or rather that which you have never tried before, or stick to what is tried and true and bust out a kick ass track? Of course each has its pros and cons, just want to see what everyone thinks.
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infinitenexus
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:35 am
Posts: 1939
PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2013 3:10 am 
 

Pretty much yes to all your questions. If you're doing the exercise of writing twenty songs in a day, even if it sounds like something familiar, write it and record it. That's a song. Because somewhere else in that song you might have a golden riff you can use later. And you're breaking mental boundaries, not worrying so much about writing the perfect riff, and just writing and being productive. And on song structure, sometimes it's good to write something in a "standard" format, verse chorus verse, to keep the flow going, and sometimes you may have a different song that just "needs" to go somewhere else. Like verse chorus interlude total song change verse under a different riff and tempo, another interlude and then finish with a verse again. For example. Aborted's "Global Flatline" is an incredible album and there's basically no standard song structure in there whatsoever other than a few songs repeating their respective choruses a few times. Sometimes it's good to throw the listener off, if the riffs are good enough. Have a great riff? Instead of playing it twice or four times and then moving on, try playing it three times. Or play it two/four and the one extra time but halfway through you go into a big drum fill and change into a totally new riff.
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Deadly_Slaughter
Metal newbie

Joined: Mon May 12, 2008 7:12 pm
Posts: 114
Location: United States
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 3:38 am 
 

Nexus, you do have really good ideas and I do appreciate all the input. I recently listened to your material in the 12 hour song thread, and I gotta say, you are great.
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infinitenexus
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:35 am
Posts: 1939
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 5:56 pm 
 

Thanks man, I really appreciate that. I wrote some really shitty ones then also hahahaha. But that was the point. And one of those shitty songs, I trimmed away all the shitty riffs and suddenly I had half of a good song. I've found that the best thing I can do for my songwriting skills is to always push myself in new directions. I really enjoy the songwriting challenges here. So when they're like write some black metal, write some grindcore, etc, and it's a genre I've never written before, I get to experiment a lot. And I'll tell you my secret to writing in a new genre: I don't listen to that genre at all before I start writing. Let's take grindcore for example. I go to the Wikipedia (don't laugh) page for grindcore and read it. It'll say something like short chaotic songs with no standard song structure, plenty of dissonant chords, etc. Then I'll sit down and write as much as I can, and THEN I'll finally go and check out that genre. Often my mind went in a totally different direction, so when I actually hear that genre and mix it in with my own idea, I get a lot more ideas that are different yet still mine.
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xThe__Wizard
Metalhead

Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 2:59 pm
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:14 am 
 

Challenge yourself with riffs. As Infinite said, change it up and make it a bit different. A great example of this is Pentagram by Possessed. The riffs change a lot and they aren't in a typical 4/4 rhythm. The riffs are altered a bit as well when played over again. If something sounds weird about a riff, play it a few times. Figure out what is good about it, and what isn't. Tweak it and play it a few more times.
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soul_schizm
Metalhead

Joined: Wed Jun 01, 2011 8:55 am
Posts: 643
Location: United States
PostPosted: Thu Jul 11, 2013 5:56 pm 
 

I think the thread title sums it up: The Challenge of Writing (good) Music.

It's not easy. Not supposed to be. It's supposed to be hard. Most of the time, stuff you'll write is derived from somewhere else. You've got to push yourself to create those few gems that really stick out. Go in a different direction somehow.

In your original post - I go through pretty much all the same issues. I definitely relate to your struggles. Most of my material doesn't sound all that great to my ears. But, sometimes I will play something for someone and they really like it. Then I hear it with a different perspective, and I can progress with it a little bit.

Or, someone else will add a completely new direction -- a riff I would have never thought of. And then it starts to sound more like a "song" to me.

Or, sometimes I'll tuck a few riffs away for months because they aren't sounding like I want. Then, much later, I'll pull them out with fresh ears and I'm able to progress on them.

Or, sometimes the process of putting riffs to drums and trying to arrange them will spark another idea that I like. So I'm able to make something sound better that way.


It's pretty frustrating :). But it's fun, too.

Also fun: hearing that I'm not the only person who goes through this stuff, trying to write something cool.

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Deadly_Slaughter
Metal newbie

Joined: Mon May 12, 2008 7:12 pm
Posts: 114
Location: United States
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:28 pm 
 

What I've found is that (recently especially) I'll have a good track for a while and each time I go back to it, I can't think of anything to put in place. Should I just leave it be until I get a spark of inspiration? I've been looking to get some new gear and I find once I get a good tone, I get a sudden burst of ideas. Anyone ever experience any tone related bursts of inspiration?
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doktersatan
Metal newbie

Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2010 12:42 pm
Posts: 198
Location: Amsterdam
PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:32 am 
 

You should go to an art gallery, read (not pulp like lords of chaos mind you :P), maybe watch a good movie, start travelling, maybe start thinking about what drew you to metal in the first place... maybe listen to some non metal music. Basically, get inspired! Expanding your horizons is probably the best thing you can do for yourself, be it for your art or just for your soul.

I actually think a lot of musicians are too preoccupied with listening to their own subgenre, and then trying to sound like "band X meets band Y" rather than writing something from the heart. The emotions you're trying to convey will always in my mind be more important than what chord progressions or shapes you use, especially if they came from a Death album or something :P


I disagree with the 12 hour thing, it seems like a way too long a time to be working on something, and a high risk the music you create will sound uninspired as hell. I like to go the complete opposite, and just try to capture 1 moment of inspiration, rather than go for 12 hours and hope something good will come out of it. The only merit to that technique IMO would be that you would have tomake sure that you don't get too distracted whilst working on your art, which is most of the time a creativity killer.

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thrashinbatman
Metal newbie

Joined: Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:31 pm
Posts: 352
PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:10 am 
 

doktersatan wrote:
You should go to an art gallery, read (not pulp like lords of chaos mind you :P), maybe watch a good movie, start travelling, maybe start thinking about what drew you to metal in the first place... maybe listen to some non metal music. Basically, get inspired! Expanding your horizons is probably the best thing you can do for yourself, be it for your art or just for your soul.

I actually think a lot of musicians are too preoccupied with listening to their own subgenre, and then trying to sound like "band X meets band Y" rather than writing something from the heart. The emotions you're trying to convey will always in my mind be more important than what chord progressions or shapes you use, especially if they came from a Death album or something :P


I disagree with the 12 hour thing, it seems like a way too long a time to be working on something, and a high risk the music you create will sound uninspired as hell. I like to go the complete opposite, and just try to capture 1 moment of inspiration, rather than go for 12 hours and hope something good will come out of it. The only merit to that technique IMO would be that you would have tomake sure that you don't get too distracted whilst working on your art, which is most of the time a creativity killer.


I agree. I always say that I want my music to be something specific, but what always comes out is an idea completely removed from my desires. I suddenly come up with a song idea in my head, I write it down. This is the only time I'll write. I don't force it. When I listen to specific artists, it's only to figure out how they conveyed a particular emotion in their song, what note intervals were used to convey an emotion I want to present in a song.

As for the 12 hours thing, no thanks. It's hard enough for me to create one song, even a short simple one. I couldn't do that.

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mike584
Metal newbie

Joined: Thu Oct 16, 2003 12:16 pm
Posts: 326
Location: United States of America
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:21 pm 
 

Whenever I cannot finish a song I stop and take a breather. I do not force anything and I get back to it whenever I feel ready and the song would sound fresh to me. I started writing one song in January and I could not come up with an ending to it. I let it go and didn't thing about it. Then one night in June - 6 months later - it came to me out of nowhere. I tried it out by playing the song in it's entirety and just like that it all made sense. I hope this helps.
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iamntbatman
Chaos Breed

Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:55 am
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Location: Innsmouth
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:37 am 
 

Recently, I've been getting the most out of my creativity by attacking projects with a goal in mind for how it should sound. I have vague riff ideas, song structures and album-spanning themes in mind before I even commit riffs to paper sometimes. Then, I try to write down what's in my head, and if it doesn't end up sounding right for whatever reason, I then grab a guitar and start playing out the riffs I remember them and then try to translate that to tabs.
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PhilosophicalFrog
The Hypercube

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Location: United States
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 12:25 am 
 

^ this is, absolutely, the best way to go about it. I release two or three different drone/piano/ambient/post-whatever albums a month and the greatest way to do that is by starting with a musical concept/motif/theme. It flows organically fro the picture in your head when you lay everything out.
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Foulchrist
Metal newbie

Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:25 pm
Posts: 318
Location: Scotland
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:17 am 
 

iamntbatman wrote:
Recently, I've been getting the most out of my creativity by attacking projects with a goal in mind for how it should sound.


This is the way I naturally compose music, but it often doesn't work so well for me. It starts out fine and feels quite satisfying to get started on recreating the music that's already in my head. Then I start over-thinking things, getting far too specific with my ideas and eventually the perfectionist in me realizes that the final product will not be 100% the same as I'm imagining it. The result is that I leave it unfinished to come back to with a more relaxed attitude, and often, abandon it entirely.

I've started trying to just let things flow from nowhere, focusing less on crafting specific ideas internally then trying to recreate them, and more on just enjoying the writing phase and seeing where it takes me. I'm always going to have an idea of what I want the song to be like, but over-thinking it is definitely my downfall.

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iamntbatman
Chaos Breed

Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:55 am
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Location: Innsmouth
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:04 pm 
 

I'm a sloppy, simple bastard, so despite having the same sorts of hang-ups I do manage to eventually get what's in my mind written out. Where I lose steam is typically in the mechanical processes that come after, like finding the right tones, mixing, etc.
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Foulchrist
Metal newbie

Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:25 pm
Posts: 318
Location: Scotland
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 6:41 pm 
 

That's the problem hah, I'm also a "sloppy, simple bastard"; that's generally the attitude I approach music with, and I wouldn't have it any other way. So once the over-thinking starts, the steam is more or less lost immediately. Can't help it, just how my brain works.

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Porman
Sweek Souvlaki Muncher

Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2005 5:00 pm
Posts: 1505
Location: Sweden
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 6:46 pm 
 

I've been telling myself that I have writers block since 2008. But the truth is, I don't have a hard time to come up with good stuff, it's that I have a lot more to compare myself with than I did back in 1998.

I think it's more a state of mind, rather than an actual state where you can't come up with good ideas. If that was the case, I wouldn't have all these songs ready to be assembled and unleashed this fall. I can't wait to play them with my band.

I think all the positive reviews and positive feedback online and at gigs have helped me not to think, that what I do isn't good enough.
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Ilwhyan
Metel fraek

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Location: Finland
PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:55 am 
 

Jamming always helps with coming up with new riffs.

Surprisingly, it might seem, learning other riffs by ear can be a great source of inspiration. When you play something wrong/not the way it was intended, but notice that it sounded good, that's where you can start developing a riff. Put on some music, and just grab the guitar and attempt to imitate the general style. Especially, if I do this based on something I've somewhat memorised, but that isn't playing at the moment, I can get inspiration for my own riffs. Remove the things that make it sound excessively like the stuff you were imitating and add your own flair to it.
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Deadly_Slaughter
Metal newbie

Joined: Mon May 12, 2008 7:12 pm
Posts: 114
Location: United States
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 4:14 am 
 

Now another question;

My wife says she loves my music and it sounds great when I'm not even really trying to write anything. But once I do start to focus to write, the quality goes down and things become monotonous. Even though I'm trying to structure the ideas, maybe I have a problem with transitions and flow?
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ShaolinLambKiller
King Asshole

Joined: Fri Dec 07, 2007 6:10 pm
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 8:37 am 
 

Sounds like you are trying too hard. Too focused on trying to achieve some idea of perfection while writing. Maybe what you should do is record yourself during those sessions you aren't trying to write anything cause you are naturally coming up with good transitions and flow which is why your wife picks up on how well it is. You can take those recordings and re-teach yourself what you were doing and better structure a song based on that instead.
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InThyKingdom
Metal newbie

Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2013 4:25 am
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Location: Bulgaria
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:44 pm 
 

Try with some side (construction) work. Skip listening to music for a while and focus on listening white noise and all the surrounding sounds. Helped me a lot! For 12 days recorded 9 songs entirely. When our fellow MA member is ready with the vocal lines I'll post some samples :)
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CrustyMusty
Mallcore Kid

Joined: Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:38 pm
Posts: 16
Location: United States
PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 9:26 am 
 

Whenever dimebag was in a rut, he'd get his tape recorder and play silly songs, such as "Stinky Fridge", Vinny Paul still listens to that tape to this day

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p4vl
Mallcore Kid

Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:39 am
Posts: 12
PostPosted: Mon Sep 23, 2013 11:57 am 
 

Here's an exercise that is less stupid than it sounds: play some scales and 'sing' or hum along with the individual notes. No, you don't have to pull a King Diamond falsetto when you're on the upper strings, but if you're playing a high B, sing a B in whatever your range is.

You should definitely do this slowly, as this isn't an etude for your hands. I've found that it helps with the whole mind-hand connection.

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