Finding Your Best Starting Point

If you’re new to the world of songwriting, you may find yourself wondering if there’s a best way to start. If you ask a dozen songwriters that question, you’ll likely get at least half a dozen different answers.

And I’d probably say that those answers all have the potential to be correct — if they work for you. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that there’s no exclusive answer, not one that needs to necessarily apply to you.

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The best we can say about songwriting is that all songs typically start with a fragment, and then the good songwriters know how to take that fragment and expand it into a complete song.

The fragment could be any of the following:

  1. A chord progression played using a catchy rhythm.
  2. A bit of song lyric that popped into your head and seems to have possibilities.
  3. A song title that implies a great topic with lyric possibilities.
  4. A few beats of a melody with supporting chords.

Each possible fragment implies a potential songwriting process and a way to proceed. For example, if you have chords with a rhythmic motif, you’ll probably next want to create bits of melody to partner up with that idea.

As you gain experience with songwriting, you’ll notice that you’ll start to favour one possible process over others, and that’s not unusual. It may be your thing to always start by working out lyrics, for example, even before you think of what the melody might be that conveys those lyrics to an audience.

In my experience, the best songwriters try to gain expertise in as many different processes as possible. That’s because there’s a danger in always resorting to the same songwriting process: all your songs start to sound the same.

So if you feel plagued by the question, “What’s the best way to start a song?”, you can relax. There is no one best way. The initial job of every songwriter is to conjure up a catchy fragment of music that grabs your interest.

That fragment will indicate the best way forward. And as long as you try to do it a bit differently each time, you’re on the right track!

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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