My "bag of tricks" isn't too big. So when I'm trying to write a song it usually just starts as a whole bunch on goofy messy improvisation. Sometimes I'll stumble across something that starts to sound musical. The toughest part is trying to make it sound like a "song" and not a jam fest. When I have nothing good to play, I resort to playing a bunch of fast stuff, which I seldom like to listen to. There is a place for pedal to the metal scales, but I think it should be very reserved. I don't sing, and I don't have a great ear for melody. I find the stuff I'm most pleased with happens by accident. But on occasion I have a glimmer of an idea in my head. I have to FORCE myself to just take it easy and try to find something resembling a melody, or "groove" that can be set-up and returned to as the foundation of the song. The other thing I am finding very helpful is, playing different guitars. When I'm struggling to come up with something different, I grab another guitar, and I almost instantly stop playing the same thing I just spent an hour repeating, and not liking. I try to record everything and listing back to each take. Since you're thinking about what to play next, you miss what you played, and it might have been good. If I listen to everything, I find little jems that are worth keeping. But in the end, I find it VERY VERY difficult to come up with enough materiel to make an actual song. I can pick a key and jam along as long as I need to, which is fine for demo'ing guitars at GC. But when it comes to making "music", it's another, and tough matter. I think another thing that makes it more difficult to write music is that I don't really get an opportunity to write with someone else like I used to.
This 1/2 a tune is coming along. I broke the solo up in to pieces, 5 actually on this one. It's starting to sound like something usable after hours of struggling with it. The last few days I was stuck playing the same thing over and over again. I muted the rhythm track and suddenly just playing along with the bass helped a lot. I'd like to put together a whole CD one day, before I get "old" hopefully. I've talked about it for years.
What's your approach to writing? Do you struggle with melodies?