Take a catchy rhythm that you already love, from a song that you already love, and put it in an entirely new context. By reusing the rhythm with different instruments, or just in this new context, you can start to spur on more creativity (and I promise it’s not stealing!).
I did this recently for a song I’m still writing. I was heavily inspired by the song “Impossible Soul” by Sufjan Stevens. I love the rhythm showcased in a jazz-jam halfway through the song at 12:55 (video starts at 12:50).
In the below audio file, you can hear that I’ve repurposed the rhythm with different instruments to create something quite different. This file is actually part of a much longer song (this file is just the middle section).
It’s a Reason 7 export, so the sounds are quite cheesy and it’s unmixed (I typically export songs to Logic Pro and then mix them from there), but it’s good enough to use as a sample to show how this creativity exercise works.
You can hear that the rhythm caries this intermission section for quite a while. The ending few minutes of the song don’t really include the rhythm that I’m showing you here, so why have I left it in for this example?
I never would have written this last section if I hadn’t first borrowed from Sufjan’s Impossible Soul. This goes to show that a little bit of “copying” can actually spur on a whole lot of creative and original thought!
We’re all copying from someone anyways. If you’re playing rock, there’s an evolution of thought that has been created through the decades of rock music being played. Each generation listens to the music that’s current and the music that preceded it; they take from the old and build new things on top of it.
The rock you write would be much different if The Beatles never existed. The jazz we hear today wouldn’t be the same if Miles Davis had never come along. Every generation borrows and copies and creates new things based on what we’ve heard, and the fact that we’re influenced by these great musicians proves that we’re all copiers (at least a little bit).
And it’s totally okay, because we’re just taking that inspiration we receive, and those songs we love, and we’re warping them and expressing our own personal perspectives on them.
That’s why it’s so important to build of a library of music that inspires you and influences you - so your subconscious mind has something to draw from when you go to write! That’s the recipe for creating something original.
So don’t worry about copying a rhythm or two, you’re going to put your own twist on it eventually anyways, and by the time you’re done with the creative and editing process, no one will be the wiser.
My name is Andrew Muller. I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story.
If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O'neils home cooking eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham.
Among my friends, it's a "Muller Classic Move" to eat Mcdonald's at 2am because it's cheap and open 24/7. The joke here is that I'm an idiot.
I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for My Goal Is Telepathy. Take a listen to the latest sound here.