I have several different approaches I use, just depends on the style of music I am writting. A trick I use is day-dreaming a tune, sounds weird but it's a great inspirational concept. Depending on the song, and say it's sad acoustical tune. I try to imagine what people would want to hear if something really sad had happened. Whatever comes to mind, I write. Of course you arrange so what you imagine matches what you write. Say you want to write a heavy rock song, imagine yourself at a awesome concert and try to think of what would be the coolest tune you would want to hear, then write it. This is great for me when it comes to riff-based tunes cause I imagine myself coming out and just ripping through the sickest riff, once it's in my head I write it down. It's true but "if you don't have a dream, you don't have a future". Give yourself some dreams.
When it comes to structural elements like rhythm, melody and chord progression. I try to write either the melody or rhythm first, for my reasons. When trying to pitch a melody over a chord progression, the melody has already became limited. You can tell when a melody becomes a series of arpeggios and/or very symetric, or just roams within a certain scale. If the chord progression comes first, I always treat it seperately and listen to how it sounds and then try to pitch a similar melody without any accompanying chords. The chord progression and melody then become seperate hooks within the song, but linked and easy to put in a single song because the melody sounds similar to the C.P.
I think rhythm is one of the funniest things to do first. When you start with rhythm, you don't have to worry about what notes to play and you can do anything with the time signature. A good way to get out of the 4/4 mix and really add variety to a song. Get yourself a software drum sequencer (MIDI), think up some off time sig., write a drum beat, then play something over it. This one is good for riff type stuff too. Especially if the drum beat is more rhythmic rather than just a simple rock "boom-ta-boom-boom-ta".
I forgot to make a note of this, whatever you start with will ultimately limit everything else. Say you start with the melody, then the chord progression and rhythm are already limited to how the melody is structured. A good thing to do is write in many different ways. Start some songs with a melody, some with a chord progression, and some with a rhythm. This will not only add variety but also make your more proficent in other areas of a song. It even goes beyond this, start a song by trying to write a bass line or a lyric first. Get away from your guitar, you tend to follow familiar patterns if you write from a familair instrument. I think it also adds alittle freshness and fun to writing music. I don't play keys (wish I did) but I love just sitting down and messing around, some ideas come that way.
[Edited by noticingthemistake on 01-07-2004 at 03:31 PM]
"My whole life is a dark room...ONE BIG DARK ROOM" - a.f.i.