Songwriting frustration

When Songwriting Ideas Don’t Result in a Finished Song

Most songwriters are well acquainted with the frustration of having a great song idea, but having it fizzle out. You had such high hopes, but now your idea seems to have gone nowhere.

To properly address this frustration, we need to look at two aspects of it:

  1. Why the idea went nowhere; and
  2. What to do with it now that it’s “a dud.”

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Why Songwriting Ideas Die

Is it where it belongs?

So why does a songwriting idea seem to start off with such promise, but doesn’t result in a finished song? There are any number of reasons, but the main one is often this: you’re trying to force it into the wrong part of a song. For example, you might be thinking that it’s got the makings of a good chorus hook. But in fact, perhaps it’s pitched too low for it to be an effective chorus.

Is it stimulating your mind to create new ideas?

A good songwriting idea usually spawns related ideas, in the sense that it stimulates your imagination and gets you creating new musical fragments that partner well with it. If your idea isn’t generating that kind of creative response in you, that may be telling you something.

Have you experimented enough with it?

Another reason for a songwriting idea to fizzle is that you aren’t considering all the potential possibilities. Have you tried playing it in different time signatures? Have you tried moving the key upward or downward? Have you experimented with switching it from major to minor, or vice versa?

The more you experiment in this way, the more your creative mind generates new ideas that can partner well with it.

What To Do With a Dead Idea

So now what do you do with what you thought was a great songwriting idea?

  1. Try something simple at first, like putting it aside and come back to it another day. This kind of distance is the easiest and often most effective way of seeing if there’s any chance for it. Getting your mind away from it for a while gives you opportunities at a later date to look at it more objectively.
  2. Partner with another songwriter. You may not have any great ideas for it, but someone else might. For many, songwriting partnerships are great for solving exactly this kind of problem.
  3. Try adding it to another songwriting fragment, and create a 2-part song. Lennon & McCartney did this in “A Day In the Life” from their Sergeant Pepper album.

In any case, don’t toss it. You’d be surprised what wonderful things can happen to something you thought would never see the light of day, if only you give it a chance in a new song down the road sometime.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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