Writing Psychedelic Rock: The Dos and Don’ts

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Want to know how to write a hit song in the psychedelic rock genre? Check out our latest blog post for a few tips and tricks.


Psychedelic rock is a genre of music that emerged in the mid-1960s. It is characterized by a distorted, trance-like sound, often produced by extended use of feedback, and is often associated with drug use, particularly LSD.

The term “psychedelic” is derived from the Greek words ψυχή (psyche, “soul”) and δηλείν (delein, “to manifest”), and was first used to describe the experience of altered states of consciousness induced by LSD. The term was popularized by writer Aldous Huxley with his book The Doors of Perception (1954), which documented his experiences after taking LSD.

The term “rock” refers to the music’s heavy use of electric guitars, bass guitars, drums, and sometimes keyboards.Psychedelic rock is typically used to refer to music that attempts to replicate or enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs. It often employs heavily distorted guitars, playingstyles rooted in garage rock and blues rock, as well as extended soloing, feedback effects, and use of non-Western scales.

While psychedelics such as LSD are not required to enjoy psychedelic rock music, they can certainly help create the experience. If you’re interested in writing your own psychedelic rock song, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here are some dos and don’ts to writing psychedelic rock.

What is Psychedelic Rock?

Psychedelic rock is a music genre that emerged in the mid-1960s. Musicians blended elements of garage rock, blues, and acid rock to create a style that was both experimental and mind-expanding. The term “psychedelic” refers to the changes in perception and awareness that can happen when people use drugs like LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and mescaline. Psychedelic music often tries to replicate these drug-induced states of consciousness.

The Beatles’ 1966 album Revolver is often cited as the first psychedelic rock record. The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (1966) and The Doors’ self-titled debut album (1967) are also considered groundbreaking works in the genre. Psychedelic rock reached its commercial peak in the late 1960s with the release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) and The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet (1968).

The Dos of Writing Psychedelic Rock

If you want to write psychedelic rock, the most important thing is to stay true to the genre. This means that your music should evoke the feeling of being on a psychedelic trip. Your lyrics should be trippy and your melodies should be catchy. You should also make sure that your music is interesting and unique.

Do your research

Before you start writing, it’s important to do your research on the genre. Psychedelic rock is a subgenre of rock that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As the name suggests, the music is characterized by its psychedelic (mind-altering) effects.

To create this effect, psychedelic rock bands used various techniques, such as:

-Extended improvisation
-Fuzz bass

In addition to these musical elements, psychedelic bands also often used LSD and other drugs to achieve their desired sound. As a result, it’s important to be familiar with the history of the genre before you start writing your own psychedelic rock songs.

Do create a foundation

Before you start writing your song, you need to create a foundation. This means having a chord progression and/or a melody that you can build off of. Without this foundation, your song will likely sound disjointed and all over the place.

If you’re not sure where to start, try looking up some chord progressions online or listening to other psychedelic rock songs for inspiration. Once you have your foundation, you can start adding in the different elements of psychedelic rock.

Do experiment

Psychedelic music is all about experimenting with sound, so don’t be afraid to try new things. You might want to explore different time signatures, musical keys, or even instruments that you don’t usually play. The vast majority of psychedelic rock is based on electric guitars, but you could also try using a sitar, Mellotron, or any other strange and wonderful noises you can think of.

Another important aspect of psychedelic music is the use of extended jams. This is where the band gets to show off their improvisational skills and see where the music takes them. If you’re not used to improvising, then this can be a bit daunting, but it’s well worth the effort. Just take your time and let the music flow through you.

The Don’ts of Writing Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock can be a tricky genre to write. It’s easy to get caught up in the quirkiness and forget the basics of good songwriting. Here are a few things to avoid if you want to write psychedelic rock that’s actually good.

Don’t overdo it

Psychedelic drugs like LSD and mushrooms have been used for centuries for their ability to alter consciousness and produce powerful visual and auditory hallucinations. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in these substances, with some people using them to explore the creative potential of the human mind.

One area where this exploration has been taking place is in the realm of music, with a new generation of musicians create psychedelic-inspired songs. If you’re interested in writing your own psychedelic rock song, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

First and foremost, don’t overdo it. Psychedelics are powerful drugs that can easily overwhelm someone who is not prepared for them. If you only have a limited experience with psychedelics, it’s best to start with small doses and work your way up. You should also be aware of the potential risks involved with taking these drugs, which include bad trips, anxiety, and paranoia.

Second, be careful not to get too lost in the drug-induced hallucinations. It’s easy to get caught up in the visuals and lose track of what’s real and what’s not. Remember that you are still in control of your own mind, and try to focus on the here and now as much as possible.

Third, don’t forget about the music itself. Just because you’re on psychedelics doesn’t mean that you can neglect the songwriting process. Take some time to brainstorm ideas, write lyrics, and come up with interesting musical arrangements. The more effort you put into the songwriting process, the better your final product will be.

Psychedelic drugs can be a great tool for exploring the creative potential of music. However, it’s important to use them responsibly and be mindful of the potential risks involved. If you take care while writing your psychedelic rock song, you’ll be able to create something truly special that will last long after the effects of the drugs have worn off.

Don’t lose your focus

The main problem with writing Psychedelic Rock is that it’s very easy to lose your focus. This is because the music is so complex and there are so many elements to it. You need to make sure that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve before you start writing. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself going off on tangents and not really achieving anything.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Psychedelic Rock is not about showiness or virtuosity. It’s about creating a mood and an atmosphere. So, don’t get too caught up in showing off your technical skills. Focus on creating something that sounds good and feels right.

And finally, don’t forget the importance of songcraft. Just because the music is complex doesn’t mean that the song can be sloppy or poorly constructed. Take the time to craft interesting and catchy melodies, and make sure your lyrics say something meaningful.


Now that you know the dos and don’ts of writing psychedelic rock, you’re ready to create your own masterpiece. Remember to keep your song structure simple, your lyrics concise, and your instrumentation tight. With these tips in mind, you can write a psychedelic rock song that will stand the test of time.

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