This will be a continuation of a previous post on the source of inspiration and creative ideas. In this post I would like to further analyze the process that will take those initial ideas to a completed song.
I have been doing a lot of writing since the release of my album in March. As one would expect, I am trying to improve on this and grow as a songwriter.
A lot of what I regularly come up with as an initial idea could be called a “hooky” chorus. This is a catchy melody with some lyrics and could serve well as the chorus to a pop song.
In this case, I will get it recorded into my phone usually playing guitar to accompany it. I will then start a long process of trying to come up with the other parts: verses, a bridge, and lyrics that make some sense. This usually takes weeks or months. Some of the strategies I have employed during this phase are:
- I will try to play what I have in my head already and hear where the song will go. I usually try to do this at the moment that I wake up in the morning.
- I try not to listen to a lot of other music in general, just so that I can keep my own music playing in my head, thereby increasing the opportunity of hearing more of it. Makes sense, right?
- I try to wake up in the morning and just start writing lyrics even if I am not confident in them. This feels like a good exercise. You are basically saying, “it’s fine if these lyrics are not the final version, but I am getting closer to the final version by writing something.” In addition, some of these “scratch” lyrics will end up being better than expected and therefore usable.
A new strategy that I want to employ is working with a co-writer. I have not spent enough time on this yet. Ideally, I would find someone who’s songwriter strengths complimented my own. For example, if I am good at strong melodies and catchy choruses, the other person would be good at turning it into a story and writing other lyrics that bring it together. This would also serve as a way to get feedback and hopefully lead to better songs.
This has been noted in regards to the songwriting relationship between John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Perhaps the most important role each played for the other was that of unbiased critic. John was pretty much the only person in the world who could turn to Paul and say, “That song is shit”—and Paul would take it. Conversely, Paul was the only person who could look John in the eye and say, “You’ve gone too far.” – Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording With The Beatles, Geoff Emerick
Another songwriting dilemma that I find interesting is the question of genre. What type of song should I write? If I have an idea for a song in a different genre, should I pursue it, toss it, or try to move it into the familiar genre?
This can quickly become a marketing decision. If you are trying to make an album you probably have a rough idea of what genre that album will fall into. Most would agree that you should keep the music on a single album roughly within the same genre.
This has been an issue for me and it was certainly an issue on the album that I just released. When it came time to define what genre it was in on the digital outlets, the answer was not clear. Since I am virtually unknown, I don’t think this was the end of the world. It is not going to have severe consequences.
On the other hand, if we agree that the album is becoming obsolete in the age of downloads and streaming, then does it matter? I am not sure.
I close this post with an example of something that I am working on that breaks with convention for me. This melody came as a result of simply noodling on this small keyboard with a Wurlitzer piano sound.