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Songwriting Guides
Writing a song
Ideas

Where do great songwriters find their ideas? How is it that they can move us to tears with the simplest of lines? The best writers do this by writing about common subjects such as love, but take a new and fresh angle on the subject matter. This interests and entertains the listener, shedding new light on a familiar subject. It also includes the listener, talking about familiar things that they can relate to. For example:

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There's a truth in your eyes saying you'll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you'll catch me whenever I fall
You say it best... when you say nothing at all


When You Say Nothing At All (Schlitz/Overstreet)

Don't censor yourself. If you have a strange or unusual idea for a song, use it.
Steve Hillier

This is a simple love song concerning two people devoted to each other. There's nothing remarkable in that, but the interesting angle is that words cannot communicate the depth of their love, which is best done by the things they do for each other. This is a sentiment we can all relate to but we rarely talk about it: a perfect idea for a song.

Gary OsborneGary Osborne
Likes a walk on the beach when he needs to supply words to a song, "I just walk with the cans on until I get an idea."
Listen to the interview Audio help
Richard HawleyRichard Hawley
Recalls an inspiring dream about John Lee Hooker and a raven and wonders, "Why can one person write a song and another make an omelette?"
Listen to the interview Audio help
Here are some tips to guide towards fresh ideas for your songs:

  • Keep a notebook on you at all times. It's impossible to predict when inspiration will strike, and sometimes just as difficult to remember what you thought. Jot down simple notes as you go about your day for you to refer to when you next write a song.
  • Keep a diary - sometimes your most difficult times will be your greatest source of inspiration.
  • Don't censor yourself. If you have a strange or unusual idea for a song, use it. If you still feel that your song is too unusual when you've finished writing it you can change it at that point. Most times you won't want to.
  • Many writers have been inspired by great works of fiction or art: 'Mona Lisa' by Nat King Cole, 'Romeo and Juliet' by Dire Straits and 'Wuthering Heights' by Kate Bush are three examples. Idea creation starts with inspiration so get some culture!
  • If you want to write excellent songs, try immersing yourself in great music
  • Some writers are inspired by the titles used in magazine articles. These are often snappy, and can make great starting points for songs.
Send us your views or read other peoples'
Send us your comments on: Ideas








Rachel Blackheath
I really love writing songs, and figuring out tunes, and it's one of the things that calms me, i really find writing songs alot easier than i did.

Adam, Leeds
In Reply to Dave Drugge's comment: "...And like any real songwriter will tell you...Music comes first and always..." This isn't true at all. Songwriting, like with anything creative, can be approached in any number of ways. Just do what works for you...

cneaux frederick,md
hey whats up i always find that when your upset about something dont wait to write about it because real emotions are what get to peoples hearts. i mean how can you write about something that happened 2 weekends ago. when your crying grab that pen and paper your words will flow more. i may be only only 16 but trust me on this i want to become a music producer when i get older. and soon i will be posting some of my mixes on the web, so look out for cneaux. ps if you after you write the song and your anger or sadness has been drained, whatever u do dont throw that paper away keep writing you'll be suprised what u come out with. love yall keep on writing you feel me holla back yall.

Andrew, Edinburgh
I have written good songs a few ways. I disagree with Damien Rice, some of my best stuff came from sitting thinking for ages, trying to come up with a song. I have also came up with lyrics first then music, and vice versa. Only one has come completely in my head, melody, chords, lyrics, the whole thing. It happens to be my best song...

alex payne maidstone
i find that it is easier to write the music first and then fit the lyrics over the music as the lyrics are easier to adapt rather than changing the melody

Jessi
I really enjoy singing and dancing. I normaly start with the title first then go from there. I like slow kind of relaxing music but then some times feel for pop or funk i am not sure what to do. These aaresome of the people I look up to... Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne and Beyance. I'm wondering what kind of music that would be if I combinded all those types together?

kelly doncaster
these tips have really inspired me i have copied them and pasted them into word so i will remember at all times also i really need good tips so please write down some more please thanx for the tips

Clare
I was just wondering if people start by writing the lyrics for a song, and then fiting the melody around that, or if they start with the melody and then write the words?

Jennifer Steadman. Harlow Essex.
I like to write down funny things that people say, especially some of the things children say. I think about the sad and the happy things that have happened in my life and try and find a way of making them interesting to the listener. I've been writing poetry for about 30years now and so a lot of my ideas have come from my poems. I often wake up in the night and scrabble around for a pen and piece of paper to jot down a line or two and sometimes an entire song or poem. I cant write music so usually read the words out to myself with a little tune going on in my head and hope I can remember it. This site is amazing, so much information and so much inspiration. Thank you.

Alli omaha/ne
What i do is i take a little note book woth me where ever i go and when i see something funny, sad, bad, intresting exc. i write it down then sometimes a toon comes to me head and i have to go home and write a song about some times it turns out bad but you just have to keep trying and getbetter on the way.

Steph, Newcastle
This is a great site to give advice to wannabe songwriters, especially young songwriters. I am a lyricist at 14 and have been given a lot of inspiration and theme for my stuff through these ideas, it's nice to see a site that says that there are no strict guidelines in songwriting - after all, some of the best songs need no guidelines!! So, thanks for your help. Steph.

Ben, Exeter
"Never try to write" - Damien Rice. I think this is the best way, or the way that's worked best for me anyway. If I think to myself 'right, I'm going to sit down and write a song now' it rarely comes how I want it, and is certainly not as good as the songs which have simply come to me out of nowhere.

Dave Drugge (Edmonton)
"This is a simple love song concerning two people devoted to each other. There's nothing remarkable in that, but the interesting angle is that words cannot communicate the depth of their love, which is best done by the things they do for each other." - That song was written for Keith Whitley and Lorrie Morgan. And like any real songwriter will tell you...Music comes first and always...ask Bobby Dylan. I never write out a song with lyrics then "add" music to it. I always compose then wrap lyrics around it like a blanket.

Dave Drugge (Edmonton)
"This is a simple love song concerning two people devoted to each other. There's nothing remarkable in that, but the interesting angle is that words cannot communicate the depth of their love, which is best done by the things they do for each other." - That song was written for Keith Whitley and Lorrie Morgan. And like any real songwriter will tell you...Music comes first and always...ask Bobby Dylan. I never write out a song with lyrics then "add" music to it. I always compose then wrap lyrics around it like a blanket.

Earl Birmingham
I keep a dictaphone handy - when words pop into my head I can get them down more quickly than writing so I'm less likely to forget them. If I'm playing through a chord structure and looking for words I turn the dictaphone on and don't have to stop playing to write any ideas down. Its also useful for messing around - any nice musical ideas that come to mind can be called out then written down later.

Eve, Manchester
I've always been a sort of "misfit", which gives me a great starting point - how I've been treated in my life. Thinking back to the people at my secondary school makes ideas for a song come into my head and I struggle to write them down, because of the emotions, especially anger, that fill me up as well. Thats what I've found - that the songs which turn out best are the ones with ideas that you feel strongly about.

george, dundee in scotland
When i play my piano I find words just come to me from nowhere,But it it doesnt last for long. I have written a chorus for a song but I find its a bit more difficult to get the rest of it.

Rich, West Sussex
Song ideas & lyrics can hit you anywhere. It's usually in a place where you can't write anything down - like driving the car! My favourite song ideas are the ones which are essentially a part of me and come straight from the heart. If you can take something straight from the heart and get some one else to understand the emotion you were trying to convey - then I think you have succeeded.

jennifer wetherby leeds
For me, when writing a song, i find myself going into depth and thinking about things at a different angle. This sometimes can be confusing though, because even though you know what your talking about other people may not. However, these days were all looking for something NEW. Something that captures the imagination. Some of my friends have managed to sit in a room trying to write a song for hours on end. Its just not possible. I find it like cooking "too many cooks spoil the broth" well I find this the same in writing songs, only you can have an idea and elaborate it. The other people can't read your mind or add to it, as this may cause the song to change structure all over the place, and make no sense. I find its better to let yourself shine. Just go for it, yes on the way you will find some people who dislike your lyrics, but many will relate to them and interprete them into real life situations. Dont be scared of the music world. Just make sure you have that boost of confidence and passion to help you along.

Songwriting Guides Writing a Song Genre Structure Verse Chorus Melody Tempo / Rhythm Harmony Lyrics Beginnings Endings Ideas Rhyme Middle 8 Hooks Performing Working with Other Writers In the Studio Publishers Record Companies Management Staying on Track
 The Songwriting Game
Songwriting Game Pick a chord
Play with chords and find out what kind of songwriter you are with the Songwriting Game.


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