Try Using Loops in Your Songwriting Process
Growing numbers of songwriters put aside the guitar altogether and write from a rhythm, at least in the early stages. Erin McKeown, for instance, often kicks off her songwriting with stock beats in Apple’s GarageBand (which she describes as being “like Pro Tools with mittens”). She sets up a loop—sometimes stacking two rhythms on top of each other—and improvises over it with a bass, keyboard, or just her voice. “I’m looking for unexpected ways that things rub against each other that might be inspiring,” she said. “The guitar comes in later when I have a clearer idea of what I want to add or say.”
With any kind of hand drum, tambourine, shaker, or noise-making household object, play a rhythm and improvise melodies and words over it. If you find it hard or distracting to play percussion and sing at the same time, create a rhythm loop with recording software or record three or four minutes of percussion you can play around with. I’ve written many songs starting with percussion grooves that I recorded, put on my iPod, and then sang over while walking my dog or driving.
Excerpted from Songwriting Basics for Guitarists