If there’s one thing that all metal guitarists and musicians face, it’s writer’s block. Or what I like to call ‘songwriter’s block.’
You’ve got some cool riffs. But you’re having trouble expanding on those riffs to write a full metal song.
Or you may be in a phase where you just can’t come up with any new riffs that sounds like a keeper. Everything sounds like the same ‘stock’ metal riffs (kind of like in Metallica’s ‘Some Kind of Monster’ where James tells Lars that his drum beat was stock!).
In either case, I’m going to show you a simple way to get out of that riff writing rut using a drum program called EZdrummer. It’s important to note that this post isn’t about programming drums. It’s how to quickly use what’s already there to write your song.
In fact, after reading this post you’l be able to quickly compose an entire metal song. And this will take you through every step of the process.
***You can use this method for metal songwriting with any drum program; you don’t necessarily need EZdrummer. Just apply everything below to your drum program of choice.
What You Need to Get Started
First, let’s cover the preliminary recording studio setup you need. You more than likely have most of these.
- DAW (digital audio workstation)
- Audio interface
- Toontrack EZdrummer software
- Toontrack expansion pack for metal (in this case, I’m using their Death Metal pack)
If you need to learn the basics of setting up your home studio, read out post: Beginner’s Home Studio Setup for Recording
Like most drum programs, EZdrummer does not come equipped with desirable drum sounds and loops for metal music. So it’s best to get one of the expansion packs for metal. This is going to make the songwriting process more inspiration and help you workflow go smoother.
First Steps In Writing Riffs Using EZdrummer Loops
As mentioned, we’re not programming drums here. Rather, we’re using the loops within EZdrummer. This is where the metal expansion packs come in. And there are plenty of expansion packs for specific sub genres of metal. You’ll get several loops to choose from.
Here are first steps you’ll take:
- Open your DAW and pull up a new session
- Add a track for your guitar
- Add an virtual instrument track for EZdrummer
- Start going through different drum loops within the expansion pack
- Find a BPM that matches your riff or close to what you’re wanting to write
- Adjust your DAW to that BPM
Steps 4-6 are to be performed simultaneously. And this is part of the creative process. You’ll see the loops in your expansion pack by tempos. Don’t rush this part as it will set the tone for the riff and overall song.
You’re going to be looking for one of two things. A loop (and BPM) that best fits your existing riff. Or a drum loop that’s going to inspire you to write a new riff. And you’ll continue jamming along with these loops until you find something that fits.
Next Steps to Expanding Your Metal Riffs and Loops Into a Full Song
Now it’s time to move on to making your riff into a complete song. This is where the real fun begins and you’re going to be surprised how quickly you come up with new riffs for each part of your song using this method.
- Drag the first loop you started working with into your track with EZdrummer
- If this will be extended you can duplicate that loop
- Record your guitar riff to that loop
- Repeat the process of finding a loop to fit the next part of your song
Now, you could use the same loop. But using a different loop may give you more creative riffs ideas for that next part of your song. Part of the goal in songwriting is to make sure that each section has it’s own vibe (ex: verse to chorus, chorus to bridge, etc).
This is where EZdrummer, or any drum program, can make things easy. There are typically multiple loops for the verse, chorus, bridge, intro, fills, and so forth within each named segment of loops.
As the example in the video shows, you could make things even easier by picking the first loop in each segment to build out your song. Either way, having the parts of your song segregated by the different loops will help you write different riffs. The last thing you want is for your entire song to sound the same.
***One thing to remember is that nothing is ‘set-in-stone’ here. You can always make changes to your riffs, the loop patterns, and the song throughout this process. So don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed if you find a part that you want to change.
Metal Song Structure Ideas
First, there’s no right or wrong answer for your song structure. It’s okay to stray from the norm. However, you do want your song to make sense.
Here are the potential parts of your song:
- bridge (sometimes can be the pre-chorus)
Now, let’s compile these parts for some examples of song structure:
- intro > verse > chorus > verse > chorus > bridge > solo > chorus
- verse > verse > chorus > bridge > verse > chorus
- chorus > verse > chorus > bridge > solo > verse > chorus
- verse > bridge > verse > bridge > solo > verse > bridge > chorus
- intro > verse > verse > chorus > solo > verse > chorus > solo
These are just a few of may examples of song structure. Again, you don’t have to decide on the entire structure in the beginning. This may change as you write new sections of your song. So leave room for that.
But if you already have an idea of how you want your song structured, you could build out your track with a loop for each section of your song. For example, you could drag a loop from one of the intros in your metal expansion pack in first. Then take one for the verse, then chorus, and so forth. Using that method may make your workflow smoother so that you can focus on writing our riffs and the song.
Or you could piece your song together one section at a time. Drag a loop for your first verse into the drum track, write and record a riff for that part, repeat for the chorus, and so forth.
Drum Programming VS Using Loops for Metal Songwriting
There are more sophisticated ways to use EZdrummer (as with any drum program). Some programs like EZdrummer allow you to build out the drums within the program before placing the into your track.
The most advanced method is programming your own drums. You can start with loops and modify them to your liking. Or you can start from scratch programming the drums as you wish.
If you have a drummer or plan to have a drummer record real drums for your song or album, it may not make sense to spend much time programming drums. Use that time and energy to focus on writing things like the guitar riffs and lyrics instead. A real drummer is going to be able to compliment the song better than you can program.
No matter how advanced modern technology becomes, tools like EZdrummer are intended to serve as a writing guide or to get your initial ideas recorded. They may be used on some professional album and releases. But for metal, a real drummer is always going to be the better route to go.
And tools like EZdrummer can be a great method to giving your drummer an idea of how you want the song to flow. But I’d recommend giving the drummer the freedom to do what they do best; play drums that compliment your song.
Your Next Step for Writing Original and Creative Metal Music
I hope this method helps you have a breakthrough in your metal songwriting. Try it out and see how it works for you.
If you want to dive deeper into the songwriting process or need help getting out of those creative ruts, check out our online course Metal Songwriter’s Forge.
Keep it Metal,