Songwriting is truly an art form. Capturing a story using words and music and portraying that to an audience can be difficult, especially those beginning moments when you are faced with that blank page staring back at you! But there are a few things to think of that may make it a little easier…
Think about it a little less literally
For example, a song is like a conversation. There are certain elements that dictate how this conversation is played out and perceived. You know the words you want to say but the way you say it can change how it is perceived:
- You may have lyrics written down and can’t decide what melody to go for: If you’re in a conversation and saying something upsetting, you wouldn’t laugh about it… If you’ve written sad lyrics it may not make sense to sing in a minor key if you want to get that feeling across!
- You may have a melody but can’t think of lyrics: if you’re in a happy environment such as a celebration for a friend, you wouldn’t want to bring that down by starting an argument with someone. The melody is like the environment… how does the melody make you feel? Channel that into words to figure out what topic suits the melody.
Songwriting is a form of storytelling
If you are telling a family member about something that happened to you at work, for example, that story might become more refined the next time to you tell it to someone. And over time, the more you talk about it, you find the parts of the story you don’t particularly need to be able to get to the point so you cut those out. Or you find that certain parts aren’t making sense so you add more detail. You can do this when songwriting by performing your song again and again. You’ll find parts of it that don’t quite sound or feel right and then you can change this. You won’t fully understand what direction the song is taking or needs to take until you sit and just belt it out! Nothing is final until it is recorded, so use the time to your advantage.
To get your ideas flowing you need to get out of your head
Try not to worry about what you think others want from you or what you think is right to do… what do you want to write about?! What is important to you? What is going on in your life that you can draw on? Also, don’t get bogged down in writing for particular genres, it’s okay to be diverse in your songwriting if that’s how you feel at the time. If you write for other people’s pleasure, not your own, then you may never be happy with what you’re doing. It’s important to be genuine in this industry… again, like a conversation, people value honesty and can spot when you’re not being genuine with them. So don’t take that negative energy into your songs.
Always be songwriting
Don’t restrict your songwriting time for when you decide one day that you’re going to sit down and write a song. Carry a small notepad with you everywhere you go! Some of your best ideas will probably come when you’re not actively thinking of song ideas e.g. in your sleep, when you’re inspired by other music, when you see something while walking in the street or driving around. Anywhere! If you have nowhere to note these ideas down then you could forget them as quickly as you’ve thought of them. It doesn’t have to be a full verse or chorus or full topic for a song, it could be a word or sentence or even an image. Just something that later you will look at and think “thank god I wrote that down! I know what to write about now…”
There is no one way to write a song. Some people prefer to write melody first, some people prefer to write lyrics first. Some people do both at the same time! Find what works for you but remember that it’s okay to take your time and be selfish! Do what is right for you, not everyone else. Obviously there is the small exception of when you are writing a song to a brief, but songwriters that do this still have their own personality that they bring to the song. So it still stands… find your own voice or interpretation of a brief and bring that to any work you are doing!