There have been many successful songs written about places: New York, Paris, San Francisco, Chicago, and foggy London town. In these songs, the big city often provides a backdrop for a love affair or nostalgic memories.
But small towns and rural locales can also be inspiring. Jason Aldean’s “Tattoos on This Town” is a great example of a vivid lyric about growing up in a small town. Classics like “Blue Bayou” and “Rocky Mountain High” evoke the feeling of a place.
LYRIC STARTER: Think of a place that holds emotions or memories for you and write a song about it. Paint a picture so your listener can see and feel the place as you do. What is it you remember? What stands out? Why do you feel the way you do?
- Make a list of images and descriptive phrases that evoke the town.
- Make a list of things you miss most when you aren’t there.
- Write down a type of event that happens there and describe it.
- Describe the town during your favorite season of the year
- Describe a personal memory using images and your senses.
MELODY STARTER: Is there a style of music you associate with the town? Country? Folk? Rock? Pop? Or maybe you just want to write a Singer-Songwriter style song that connects with the listener. Listen to songs in the style and notice how they use melody to create an emotional feel. Try using similar techniques in your own song.
Or… Use the melody of speech: Choose the strongest lyric line in your list and speak it out loud with plenty of emotion. Listen for the melody in the spoken phrase and exaggerate it to start your melody.
CHORD STARTER: You can start with a simple chord progression in your verse:
| G | D | Emin | C |
Try changing up the progression a little in the chorus. Start on C instead of G.
| C | D | Emin | G |
If you have a pre-chorus, use | C | G | D |.
There are many hit songs that use generic chord progressions – common chord progressions that appear in many songs. Look up the chord progression of a hit song online and try using that as a place to start. Feel free to change the chords or the order in which they’re used. Just be sure you don’t use any of the melody or lyric – those are protected by copyright.
by Robin Frederick
This post is based on my songwriting books: Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting, Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV, Study the Hits, and The 30-Minute Songwriter. Find out more about all of my print and eBooks on my Author page at Amazon. In each book you’ll find dozens of useful, real-world shortcuts that will show you how to craft songs that work for today’s music market, plus dozens of hands-on exercises to get your creative ideas flowing.