Change Your Instrument, Change Your Tuning; Write A New Song

Change Your Instrument, Change Your Tuning; Write A New Song

By Les Stroud

Writer’s block. It’s not reserved for novelists only. Song writers face it too. And we go through the same feelings. Will I ever write again? Have I lost it? Perhaps I just took too long of a break away from writing? Oh god, I’ll just have to go find a job!

There is a long list of ways to deal with writer’s block. Or, if you want to feel a little more militant about it; to combat writer’s block.

Calm down. Relax. Meditate. Take a walk in the forest. Go pet the dog for a while or for a long time. Get some exercise. Go see a movie. Read a book. Listen to a dozen albums. All great suggestions but the one that I find that just seems to work damn near every single time, is changing up my instrument or the tuning on my guitars.

I’ll start with the guitar tunings. If you’re fortunate enough to own several or even a couple guitars, then what I do is, I will leave them all out and around the house, all of the time, on their stands, with several of them in different tunings. Open D. Open G. Open E. DADGAD. Standard tuning. And what I call my random or “Joni Mitchell” tuning which is an out of tune guitar I fiddle with until it sounds cool, without checking what notes I am tuning the strings to. (My coolest sounding songs have come from this method actually). Add to that the ol’ stand by; the capo. And I mean, by using it on all the different tunings. You would be surprised at how many alternate tunings are responsible for a lot of hits you know already. Just ask Keith Richards.

 Failing this, jump on another instrument. Now that means you need to own other instruments but I highly recommend this. Getting a dulcimer for Christmas gave me several songs. It’s like the tunes are just hiding in these alternate tunings and different instruments waiting for you to set them free. Free that is, to hop into your catalogue. One thing you will notice is how differently you write with a different instrument. Even if you can’t really play that other instrument as well as your main. I can’t play the piano worth crap, but have written some of my best songs on it. Same goes for my Dobro. You simply can not write on a different instrument the same way you write on your main. It’s just not possible. So you find yourself in new musical territory and it feels refreshing and inspiring. And even if this new tune you write is simplistic and not that good, it doesn’t matter, you set it free and you are no longer in a writer’s block now are you!?

Les Stroud continues to forge new pathways with his artistry and as such has three new albums and a major concert announcement releasing soon. You can follow Les Stroud’s musical endeavours and sign up for his newsletter at