Problem: You don’t have big chunks of time to spend on your songwriting. (Not many of us do.) So when you finally do get an afternoon to work on your songs – or at least a couple of uninterrupted hours – you need to get the most from it. You don’t need to be spending the first hour or two just trying to find an idea you want to work on.
Here’s a songwriting tip that can help you avoid wasting hours!
BE A SONGWRITER ALL THE TIME
Most of us don’t think of ourselves as songwriters first and everything else second. Try it for a day. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing – at work, hanging out with family or friends, or watching TV – keep your songwriting ears open. Listen for ideas, themes, and lyric lines you can use. Sometimes a simple statement by a friend can become an idea for a song. Dialogue lines in an emotional TV drama can become a verse lyric. A headline on a news show can become a song title.
KEEP A “MEMO TO SELF”
Don’t trust your memory to hang on to the phrases, titles, and ideas you run across. If you’re able to keep your songwriter “ears” open for an hour or two every day, you’ll quickly build up A LOT of material. Some of it will be useful at your next songwriting session and some you might keep for later. And of course you’ll end up throwing out some lines – just think of it this way: If you’re not throwing stuff out, you’re not being creative enough! 😀
Keep a notepad handy to write down lyric phrases. You can record your melody ideas on a cell phone with Voice Memo. Then when you have a chunk of time to work on songwriting, go through your notes and select the best ones to get you started.
And remember this… once you’ve started a song, part of your mind keeps working on it, even when you’re busy doing other things. Don’t be surprised if you start noticing ideas, images, and lines that would work in your song while you’re working or playing. Be SURE to record these or write them down! You don’t want to lose them. Next time you have a couple of uninterrupted hours to work on songwriting, these lines will be there to add to your song and spark new material.
SPEND YOUR TIME WISELY
Time is a resource just as much as other songwriting resources: money for demos, songwriting books and courses, demo musicians, collaborators, recording gear, And if you’ve got a job or you’re going to school, then time is in limited supply. So get the most from what you have.
Put together the raw material for your lyrics or ideas for melodies while you’re on a break between classes or commuting to and from work. Keep your songwriter ears open while relaxing with a TV show or with friends. In other words, use those small chunks of time that would otherwise be lost. Just because you’re not sitting with your guitar or keyboard, doesn’t mean you’re not songwriting. Turn this time into a valuable resource that helps you get your songs written!
by Robin Frederick
This post is based on my books Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting and Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV. Each book includes over one hundred useful, real-world shortcuts that will show you how to write songs that work for today’s music market, plus dozens of hands-on exercises to get your creative ideas flowing.
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Reprints by permission.