Of the many ways you can start the songwriting process, brainstorming titles is one of the best. There are several reasons:
- A title is the first thing a listener encounters when they’re about to click to listen.
- Titles provide an important point of focus for your song’s lyric.
- Titles imply a storyline.
Titles can be fun to create. Starting with the title allows you to come up with wordplay and strong imagery without needing the lyric to support it. Supporting lyrics will come afterward in the title-first method.
The title-first process is the first one I describe in my new eBook, “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process.” (That eBook is FREE to purchasers of my 10-eBook songwriter’s bundle, available at the online store.)
If you want to try a version of that process, this is all you need to do to get the creative juices flowing:
- Start conjuring up and writing down song titles. You don’t need a story at this point, just titles that sound full of potential. Aim for 15 or 20 titles, perhaps like these ones:
- Open Hands, Open Heart
- Come Along With Me
- Be My Love, My Life
- What Did I Do To Make You Cry?
- Show the World You Care
- Narrow down the list. Circle the titles that really seem to have some potential for generating a story or captivating lyrics.
- Write a paragraph that includes (either begins with or ends with) the proposed title.
- Generate word lists. There are lots of ways to do this. One way is to create two lists, the first one with verse-like words (narrative and descriptive), and the second list with chorus-like words (emotional). From these lists, you should start to see a story — or at least a situation or circumstance — emerging.
- Start to put your lyric together. You’ll know when it’s time to start this step: once you feel that your song has a subject, or at least a direction… once you can say, “This is what my song is about.”
There can be more to it than that. In my eBook, I describe 9 steps that take you through this process in more detail.
This process will work just fine with verse-only songs as well. Use the steps as a guide, and think about how to modify them to create a captivating song lyric.
And here’s something else to try: reverse the process with an already-existing song. Let’s say you like Lukas Graham’s excellent “7 Years” (Lukas Forchammer, Stefan Forrest, Morten Ristorp, Morten Pilegaard).
Imagine that they put the lyric together using the title-first process. How might they have done it? What words would they have put in their list? Try creating a word list based on what they came up with as the final lyric.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
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