“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle covers every aspect of songwriting, from creating chord progressions, to writing melodies and lyrics, and much more. Now with an 11th FREE eBook.
There is no one best way to write music, as anyone who has been doing it for a while knows. Most seasoned songwriters will tell you that no two songs are ever approached in the same way. Sometimes it’s a bit of lyric first, then a chord progression with a fragment of melody. Other times… who knows.
That applies, you may find it interesting to know, to writers of any music, including famous composers. It’s hard to know firsthand how Classical composers created their works, only because regardless of how the ideas came to them, they were just as likely to tell you in the end that they were guided by the mind and hand of God.
Any possible way you can think of that results in a finished song is good and valid. So on the “what should I write first?” question, I would give a resounding “Stop worrying. It doesn’t really matter.”
But there is something to be said for writing quickly. Getting something down on paper, or into your digital recorder, or however else you document the your creative outbursts, and doing it as quickly has you can, has two major advantages over the slow approach: 1) it kicks your songwriting instincts into gear; and 2) it gives you something to fix.
You can’t edit a blank page of paper. And if you typically work by getting a lyric sheet with chords down as a first step, you’ve got nothing to fix if you’re staring at a blank page.
But if you want to be sure that your brain is actually going to produce something worth editing, and not just mindless stream-of-consciousness drivel, try the following two steps as a precursor to the actual songwriting process. It gives you a starting point from which to do some quick work. The process listed below should take you 2 minutes or less; work quickly.
- Create a short chorus hook. Think quickly of a topic/title that rolls off the tongue, and that has potential for lyric ideas. Find a rhythmic way to say it. Strum a quick 3- or 4-chord progression that allows you to keep saying your hook. Move your voice up and down, searching for melodic ideas.
- Create a short verse idea. Keep your voice low in pitch, and try to find something that focuses on moving back and forth between two or three notes. Add a few chords that seem to work.
That may seem vague, but now you’re ready to start writing. You’ve brought a few musical ideas to the table, and your instincts should be gearing up.
To get the process started, it’s best to think of this as a songwriting improvisation. You can start with either the verse or the chorus, but I might recommend starting with developing your chorus. That’s because anything you do in the verse needs to use the chorus as an emotion-based reaction, and it’s hard to react to something you haven’t written yet.
But no matter what you start with, work quickly. Getting the creative process off and running has the positive attribute of kicking your songwriting instincts into gear. It’s important to note here that praising the value of speedwriting is not to say that working slowly is bad. But writing slowly has one potentially negative side-effect: the blank page.
And additionally, slow writing often means over-thinking, and the tendency to mistrust our instincts. As in many things in life, you will often find that your first thoughts are good ones. Writing quickly gives you the opportunity to closely scrutinize your first ideas before moving on to your second ones.
Written by Gary Ewer, the author of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle.