Songwriting For Beginners: Coming Up With Song IdeasBy Jeff Oxenford • Category: How To Write Songs, Songwriting Articles
(This is an article in the series “Songwriting For Beginners”. We are filing the series under the Songwriting Basics category.)
There are many approaches to getting ideas for songs. Below are some that I use and recommend. The basic idea, in almost all of these approaches, is the free capture of ideas rather than starting by writing verses. Figure out what you’re going to say first, then use the structure of a song to express it.
What I look for are ideas that trigger an emotional response in me. That could explain why there are so many love songs out there. If you’re not moved by your songs, how can you expect anyone else to be?
Find something that stirs you and your soul.
Carry a note pad or small recorder with you at all times. In the movie Michael, one character carries around a notebook and throughout the movie jots down lines. Eventually she writes a great song. Other folks I know carry a little recorder to capture a tune or idea when ever it occurs.
Any process where you routinely write down your thoughts. It’s best if you have a set frequency.
Morning or evening pages.
A large number of people are sold on Julie Cameron’s ideas that are expressed in her book, The Artist’s Way. The basic concept is that you write exactly three pages right after you wake up every day. You don’t critique or worry about form, just get it down. Often ideas emerge during your writing.
Mediation or other activities that clear your mind.
For me physical activity is mediation. I come up with lot of ideas while swimming or hiking.
When I first wake up in the morning, I pick up the guitar and try a new melody. I get a lot of good melodies before that first cup of coffee.
Just in time practices
Pick an object and then write for a time period (i.e. 5 minutes) about that object. Capture memories, smells, actions, etc. Read what you’ve written and circle lines or phrases for use in a song.
Same concept, just write fast and furious about a topic, idea or line.
Find a melody or chord changes and just sing whatever comes into your mind. Go for as long as you can and don’t worry if it makes sense. Don’t worry if the melody changes. Later on, judge which melody you like best. I often record my session (when I’m not self conscious) and go back later to mine for words.
- For me typically something will stir me (an event, a good line, a TV show…).
- Then I sit down and write furiously. If a verse emerges, I put it on the side of the paper and keep going.
- When I feel I have exhausted the subject, then I pick up my guitar.
- When I get stuck, I stop playing and write again.
Try it yourself and let us know what works for you.
(Editor’s Note: Thanks to Jeff Oxenford for a great article. For some writers all that is needed is a great title. Find out How to come up with a great song title in 15 minutes with Microsoft Excel.
Republished with permission by Jeff’s Songwriting