Wednesday, September 16, 2009

10♠ Roll the dice

10♠ Ten of Spades in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

Write by dice. For every artistic choice, list six possible options, and let a random roll of a die decide which option you choose.

Dice are the embodiment of randomness, and randomness is a great tool for creativity. Random choices create artistic challenges that are more interesting and rewarding than any that you could purposefully invent for yourself.

It's not that randomness per se is good. Randomness by itself is just noise. Randomly-generated computer music, for example, is not very interesting.

The value of randomness comes from its interaction with your artistic process. Your creative mind can't help but organize things into meaningful structures, even when some of your input is random. So if you work with random materials, you can bet that the song as a whole will make artistic sense by the time you're finished, whether your even trying.

Using random elements is a good way to interrupt your creative habits so that your artistry can find interesting, surprising new shapes.

A single 6-sided die is all you really need for this exercise, but you can have a lot more fun if you get yourself a whole set of dice with different numbers of sides. I have a beautiful set of dice designed for use with role-playing games. In addition to the standard 6-sided die, my set includes 4-, 8-, 10-, 12-, 20-, 30- and 100-sided dice. You can buy your own set at any well-stocked game store or comic book shop.

With more dice, you're better equipped for more kinds of random choices. For example, since there are 12 different keys, you can use a 12-sided die to decide what key to write in.

I recommend getting a set of dice for your songwriting toolbox. You say you don't have a songwriting toolbox? Well then — it's time to get started! Just pick a nice-looking small box and start to collect fun and inspiring tools (or toys) that you can use during your songwriting sessions. Then get yourself some dice, and let them help you write a song.

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