Starting the Songwriting Process With The Title

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The Beatles - Penny LaneIf you’re going through a bit of writer’s block these days, and you’re finding it hard to get anything started let alone finished, here’s an idea that’s bound to help: start with the creation of a song title, and then work frontwards and backwards from there to begin filling in the rest of the song. Starting with the title gives you a few distinct advantages. It makes it more likely that you’ll be able to develop a catchy hook which will help with the development of the rest of the song. It also helps lyric development by having a key line you can focus on.

  1. Create a song title. Make a list of short phrases that speak to the heart in some way. Remember that chorus lyrics will usually need to be emotive. So what you’re looking for are lines like “You’re everything to me”, “hold me and don’t let go…” – that sort of thing.
  2. Develop a melody and chord progression. Try to develop a melodic shape that places key emotion-laden words high in the range. This is essentially an improvisation exercise, and don’t worry if a lot of what you come up with doesn’t appeal. You’ll eventually stumble on something that does. You’ll be happy to know that the simpler you make this, the better. Remember, you want to create something that people easily remember and relate to.
  3. Create a preceding or following line. You’ll notice that the title words you created will sound either like a leading line, the beginning of a sentence, (such as the chorus of the Beatles’ “Penny Lane”), or will sound like a following line, the end of a sentence (such as the chorus of “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars). It might also serve as either, such as happens in a song like Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much”. So try some experimenting here, and improvise a companion line that partners well with your title.
You’ll be surprised how the creative juices will start flowing once you get even just that much done! In fact, some songs’ choruses are really just two lines repeated, with only slight modifications, such as the Bee Gees’ “Night Fever”.

Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website
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One Comment

  1. This is my favorite way to write. I keep a running list of song titles/ideas in Evernote on my phone and when I get a little free time (almost never anymore, sigh), I open the list on my phone or computer and transfer it to my master list in Google Docs, then scan, grab a guitar and do a bit of writing. Then a kid cries.

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