Creating a Short Musical Idea: Best Way to Start a New Song

Starting a song by focusing on creating a short hook can keep you from feeling daunted by the prospect of writing an entire song.


Gary Ewer’s “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle packages cover every aspect of how to write great music. Includes “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro” Read more..


Guitar songwritingDo you find that the notion of starting a new song fills you with every bit as much dread as it does joy? Songwriting, of course, is supposed to be fun, but what do you do if you experience feelings of frustration and anxiety, fearing that you won’t be able to get past the first step?

Climbing a mountain can fill you with dread if all you do is fixate on how high it is. And writing a song will similarly fill you with dread if you fixate on how to create something 3 to 4 minutes long that captivates the listener.

The best way to approach the starting of a new song is to simply focus on an initial idea. Don’t worry yet about what you’ll eventually do with the idea, and in fact, don’t even worry about where this idea might wind up in a song. Just get something short and interesting working for you.

It might only be a bar or two of something hook-like. If you can get a small musical hook working, you’ve got more than you think. Remember: repetition plays a big role in how songs are structured. So getting that first musical idea is a crucial step.

And then, if you can’t think of how to expand on your hook, simply put it away, and wait for another day. Meanwhile, start working on a new hook. Eventually you’ll have an entire catalogue of hooks that can all serve as starting points for new songs.

There’s nothing like the passage of time to help you expand on a musical idea. Setting a short musical idea aside may make you feel as though you’ve abandoned it, but that’s simply not true. Your musical, artistic mind sometimes needs time to process that idea. Letting it sit in the nether-regions of your mind is a great way to allow that idea to grow.

And you’ll find that the next time you play through the idea, new ideas will pop into your mind, and you’ll find yourself creating full song sections which will more easily expand into full songs.

Do you already work this way? Do most of your songs come from fragments that you’ve had in the back of your mind for weeks or months? Feel free to leave a comment below and describe your songwriting process.


Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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  2. Just found your blog.. Really enjoying it so far..

    This is exactly how I write songs… Patience helps..i am no music theorist so trial and error is also involved but my best songs were almost all written from snippets…

    I record them in Logic…every couple of weeks i go back and listen… many times i’ve found two or even three “different” ideas become one good song..

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