Chord Progression Formulas

Rethinking Your First Songwriting Ideas

In the songwriting world — and I wonder if this is the same in all of the creative arts? — we place more value on songs that pop spontaneously into our minds than we do on songs that we had to work for weeks to get right.

In other words, if you compare two of your songs, one that took you a couple of months to write, and another one of equal quality that took you fifteen minutes to write, we’re more likely to be more impressed with the song that happened in fifteen minutes.

And there’s no particular reason for this to be the case. When your fan base hears a new song, they assess the quality of that song without knowing how long it took you to write it.

When songs take a long time to write, it usually means that you’ve tried some initial ideas, and then tossed those ideas in search of other ones. The moment of tossing out something you thought was going to be good for your song can be a bit of a downer, so we tend to have a negative view of songs that take a lot of work and re-working.

But if there is one thing I’ve learned in my own writing that I’ve always believed to be true, it’s this: second ideas are almost always better than first ideas.

If you’ve written a song that’s come together quickly and sounds pretty impressive, you may be inclined to feel that you mustn’t touch that song… there was something magical in the air that caused you to come up with something so quickly, and it’s best celebrated as is.

But my advice with all songs would be this: always rethink your first ideas, because rethinking doesn’t require you to change a thing. Rethinking just means that you’re looking to see if there’s something else to consider that might make your song even better.

And who knows, maybe the song you created in fifteen minutes is a gem as is, and that’s wonderful.

But my experience is that in most cases, once you’ve written a song, you should set it aside for a day or two, and then go back into the song with a measure of artistic inquisitiveness, and ask yourself, “Is this song the best it can be?”

And you may find, as I have often found, that rethinking your first songwriting ideas can give you something even better, where your second idea turns out to be better than your first one.

Gary Ewer

Written by Gary Ewer. For tips and blog updates, follow Gary on Twitter

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