The Art and Skill of Writing a Song
8. Starter Ideas and Summary
Sometimes placing an arbitrary rule upon yourself can bring out latent creativity and get you out of some ruts. Here are some ideas:
Today I will...
- ...write a one chord song.
- Taking away the need for a ‘chord sequence’ can let you do some stream-of consciousness” (right brain) writing, like a raga or a talking blues. There are many examples of successful one chord songs: My Sharona (the Knack), Hollywood (Chaka Kahn/Ry Cooder), MLK (U2), Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles), North Country Blues (Bob Dylan), Friends (Led Zeppelin).
- ...not play a G chord-shape.
- What is the first thing you always do when you pick up your guitar or sit down to your keyboard? Don’t do that for a change.
- ...finish that one I started 2 years ago then gave up on.
- If you’re like me, you’ll have some great lines or riffs that extended to half a verse of the greatest song ever. Force yourself to finish it.
- ...write new words to a tune I like.
- Write new words using the same phrasing to a song you like and then go back and change the tune for your new words and voila! New song!
All these things are designed to trip up the left brain and let the right brain kick in with some lateral thinking. The trick is to work fast, make decisions quickly, move on and finish it. Remember: First thought, best thought.
- Decide you are going to practise songwiting, put time aside and do it regularly.
- Place a time limit to complete a song.
- Stop looking for inspiration and trust your first thought.
- Engage the right brain to encourage a flow of ideas.
- Capture them (writing or recording – don’t trust your memory)
- Engage the left brain to arrange and tidy up your fragments.
- Make decisions quickly, move on.
- Finish it. Record it. Archive it. Come back to it another day.
Stop thinking about writing a song, and start writing songs. Unless you’re exceptionally talented or just plain lucky, you’re going to write a lot of average songs before you write a winner. It’s something you develop and get better at with practice. It’s a discipline. Start today.
Next: Start over...
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