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    by Will Landrum

    – Having trouble writing new songs?

    – Having trouble writing your first song?

    – Having trouble being happy with what you just composed?

    These are challenges that most of us face when we break away
    from imitating our heroes and begin the next phase of musical
    maturity by writing and playing all original music

    The more you go your own way, the more you will recognize
    your own individual style of playing. That IS the next
    step. After all that’s precisely what our heroes have done.
    That is what separates the good players from the great players.

    Writing your own material can be intimidating
    and downright frightening for some. When you seriously
    write your first tune, no doubt you have poured your
    whole soul into it and you’re wondering “is this any good?”.
    Or you may write your first tune and have absolute
    confidence that this is the next number 1 hit.

    In any case, there are times when you just can’t seem
    to come up with something you like. I want to share with
    you some of the ways I have come up with riffs and melodies
    that I’m very proud of. One of the things that I remembered
    the most from the studying I did with Michael Fath, is that
    when you write a song, whether it’s vocal or instrumental,
    make sure it has a hook. A hook is a catchy melody or riff
    that stands out in the listeners mind even after the song
    is over. If they can whistle your tune from memory after
    the song has ended, you’ve done you’re job!

    My debut CD is loaded with this kind of composition.
    You can listen to some clips at

    Inspiration and ideas come to me in various ways.

    1) Just goofing around and discovering a cool riff by accident.
    Always…Always…ALWAYS record your guitar playing! You’ll
    be surprised at what gets recorded! When you review the tape
    after playing for a hour, listen carefully in two ways. Listen
    for obviously cool riffs and melodic patterns, and also listen
    for some bits and pieces that will sound great with some adjustment.

    2) Driving down the road (Radio off!) and experimenting with
    musical sequences in my head. This is where you may need to
    quit listening to other people’s music for a while to clear your
    thoughts. This is actually a very powerful and effective way
    to compose. Your mind is totally free to explore any musical
    direction you want without being limited to “what you know on
    guitar”. The only difficulty for me has been remembering what
    I like. Once you get it right in your head, repeat it over
    and over so when you get back to your guitar, you can release it.

    3) Learning a new technique and applying it to a song.
    This has played a big role in my compositions. Learning a
    new technique will inspire you immediately. Once you get
    down the mechanics, you can build a song around it or just
    fit it into a song that needs that “extra something”. For
    those of you who have my CD, (Thank you very much! :^) )
    you can hear cool techniques throughout the disc. The first
    track “Change Your Mind”, begins with a right hand tapping
    technique that utilizes what I call “Piano Tapping”.
    In “Mainstay”, I use “5th arpeggios” before the solo section.
    Instead of playing the 1st, 3rd and 5th of the arp,
    I omit the 3rd and just play 1’s and 5’s. “Fill In The _____”
    is written entirely around the “Piano Tapping” technique
    that enables large and fluent interval stretching.

    4) Learning a new scale or scale pattern.
    This always gives you new ideas especially when you need
    to enhance your soloing. Understanding what scales go with
    what chords is vital.

    5) Learning a new arpeggio.
    After mastering sweep picking, you can employ endless
    “twists” to your standard arpeggios. Playing 7th, 9th, 11th
    and 13th arpeggios will “open your sound up and give it a
    whole new flavor that is pleasantly surprising. Also alternating
    and mixing up the notes of the arps will give you great melodic
    ideas. “Fullness Of Time” is a good example of this concept.

    6) Learning music theory and applying it when you really get stuck.
    Once you understand music theory in general, you have the ability
    to solve any musical problem that you may have. If you need a
    new part to a song, but nothing comes to you by inspiration,
    (I seem to have this problem frequently!) you can solve it like
    a math problem using techniques such as modulation. (Changing
    from one key to another in a pleasant sounding way).

    7) Recording my ideas, sleeping on it and reviewing it fresh
    the next day. Get a 4 track recorder and track your parts. When
    you get it the way you want for the day, forget it and listen
    to it fresh the next day. You will have a different perspective
    and you may find that some parts need more work. If it
    sounds good to you, go with it!

    These are just a few of the composition methods that I use and
    I think will give you something to chew on for a while. True
    inspiration comes from deep inside you, and it’s ok to let it
    come out a little piece at a time. When you put the pieces together,
    your final composition will be larger than life!

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