Songwriting is a creative endeavor. As such creativity techniques need to be applied when you develop your songs. These techniques will help you find new and innovative ideas. We are going to go through the process in a step by step fashion.
It is important in the creative songwriting process to have plenty of ideas. What are some of the ways to go about getting ideas for songs? Let’s take a look at three methods of getting ideas.
DAYDREAM, INSPIRATION, OBSERVATION
One way is to just daydream. Just sit around and think about life, events, things that happen to you in your life. Maybe you can daydream about some of your hopes and dreams. Or trying thing about something that is really bothering you. Just let your mind wander though and think about things.
Other ways you can come up with ideas is through inspiration. Maybe you watch somebody do something great in the Olympics. Or maybe there is baby that gets saved by a firefighter. These kinds of events are very inspirational. Or perhaps you can come up with some ideas on how your faith inspires you. It could also be a special event that occurred in your life. These are great ways to come up with inspirational ideas.
Another way to get ideas is to listen and observe the world around you. Listen to what people say in their conversations. Understand what they are saying. At some point a phrase will appear that will spark a song idea.
These are just three ways that you can get some really great ideas. Ideas come from daydreaming, just thinking about things. Or ideas come from situations where you have inspiration from some event. And ideas simply come from observing the world around you. It could be a line in a movie, or something said on the radio, or your spouse says something that sparks an idea. Now that you have an idea, what do you do with it?
DOCUMENT OR RECORD YOUR IDEAS
My first suggestion is to write each idea down. It is important to write them down. As an alternative you can also record them on a portable recorder. The vital thing is to get these ideas down so you don’t lose them. When you write is does not matter whether you do it with pen and paper, or on the computer, record on a digital recorder or even leave yourself a voice message. All these different ways will help you document your ideas. As you document you start to build a library of ideas for which you can pull from when you start a songwriting session.
Another thing, in addition to capturing your ideas is to keep a journal. This is basic creative writing 101. Keep a journal. Daily write about events in your life. Perhaps you days are fairly mundane and you start to wonder; why am I writing these things down? But all it takes it that “one” day where something spectacular happens. It is at that time where you will get inspiration. Getting it into the journal will help you remember. One day you may look back six months later and realize that it really was an interesting time. That could be the spark to start developing a song. The story could be built around what is in your journal.
Now that you have a library of ideas, the next thing is to select a topic and start brainstorming. I once heard someone call brainstorming “blue sky thinking“. That is where the sky is the limit.
You have an idea, you done some daydreaming, got some inspiration or heard something interesting. You’ve written the idea in your journal or recorded it. You look back and realize that an idea is worth developing. Brainstorming is the activity where you begin to develop your song idea.
NOW IS THE TIME TO BRAINSTORM
Brainstorming starts by writing the idea down on a piece of paper. Then start the process of word association. Write down whatever word is inspired by the original idea, building on the idea that relates to the previous thought. This may solidify your idea. It may even head you into a totally different path. Try using opposite words to spark more ideas. This may jar the creative juices. It is a good idea to set a time limit. Otherwise you could go for hours. As you write down words, do not edit or filter the words. If you are writing with a partner you will find even more concepts for your idea.
Another concept similar to brainstorming is a process called mind mapping. As with brainstorming a mind map uses the word association to develop ideas. To mind map place the original idea in the middle of the page. Then you circle it. Then you “spider” out with different ideas. Then you “spider” out from those ideas. The mind map is a powerful way to get down your ideas in an organized fashion.
At this point in the creative process we have a lot of words to work with. Once you finished the exhaustive process of brainstorming, take a moment to let these ideas percolate. Let the ideas settle down for a brief period.
SELECT YOUR BEST IDEAS
Now that you have all these ideas and as a group does not make any sense, it is now time to trim it down to manageable pieces. It is now you start editing all this information. Start to pick and choose the best concepts. Edit out ideas that don’t work or are to obscure. Continue to fish for the best words, ideas and concepts. By this time you will have many ideas to choose from, take your time and pick the best. Narrow down to few relevant words and ideas.
START YOUR FIRST ROUGH DRAFT
By this time you should have a general story of the song. You will need to take the verses and chorus and build the song that makes sense. Using the selected ideas write out the first draft of your song. Don’t concern yourself with getting the song “perfect”. This is your opportunity to build the song’s story. It’s important to get the first draft down in writing. Once you have the first draft down, set it aside for a while. Then come back to the idea at a latter time. Let it rest. When you come back you will have a fresh perspective.
You’ve done a lot of activities to this point, gathering ideas, brainstorming, and writing a first draft. Don’t get discouraged if your song does not look like a song. The important part is that you are walking though this creative process. Going step by step intentionally building and developing your song.
YOU MUST RE-WRITE
Once you have the first draft written, you now have to evaluate what you have. Then you are going to re-write your song. You will further edit the content. You will refine and polish it. Great songs are not written, they are RE-WRITTEN. Start narrowing down to the best of the best ideas.
This is no different that an artist doing a sculpture. They start out with a block of material. Chip away at the material to get the basic shape. Then they work on the details using finer more delicate tools. Then the artist may finish it off by polishing the material to a gloss.
Writing a song is no different. You can start out with the roughest song and keep refining it until it does shine. That is what you want to accomplish, writing great, awesome songs.
SETTING YOUR ENVIRONMENT
One of the important aspects of this creative process is creating a good working environment. Make your workspace conducive to writing songs. The wife and kids yelling in the background, babies crying, or fire engine sirens will hinder your creativity. You need to set aside a place dedicated to creativity. Find a place where you won’t get interrupted or disturbed. Get rid of distractions. The environment needs to be fairly comfortable and relatively quiet. Setting the mood and environment is vital to your creativity.
Another thing concerning creativity is to have the mindset that there is no such thing as a bad idea. Ideas come out of the universe. You get inspired by events. Idea can be spontaneous. They can just happen any time any place. Work your ideas. Where does creativity come from? It comes from a lot of places.
WRITE YOUR BEST SONG
Use this creative process when writing your song. Build a library of ideas that come from day dreaming, inspiration or observation. Document and record your ideas so you have idea resources to bring into your songwriting sessions. Ideas are volatile and can easily vanish, unless your write them down. Have a journal and use it daily. Have regular brainstorming session to help develop your ideas even further by exhausting all possible avenues. Let these ideas percolate for a while. Then take your brainstorming ideas and “dig for gold”. Looking and editing for gems of ideas. Once you have your precious ideas, write your first rough draft. Once written, evaluate it and re-write the song. Keep re-writing until you have a well written, polished and refined song.