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12 Songwriting Tips

Sometimes sitting down to write a song can be hard. Where should you begin? How can you find inspiration? Here are 12 tips to get those ideas flowing.

1. Look for inspiration: If you’re sitting around and can’t think of anything to write about then do something to get your brain working! Open a newspaper or magazine. Inside you’ll find plenty of stories. Look for phrases that stand out to you or ideas they’ve used. Look at blogs. Anything that might grab you. Go out and experience things and step out of your comfort zone. The more interesting experiences you have the more you’ll have to write about.

2. Carry a notebook: Start an idea book and carry it around with you. You’ll never know when a good idea will hit you so make sure you always have something with you to keep track of your ideas.

3. Keep a diary: this may sound similar to the one before and you can combine these into one if you’d like. But keep a journal. Write down your every day experiences. Even if you think your day was completely boring, write about it anyways. You can even stream of conscious it. Don’t hold back when you write, no one has to read it except you. Write whatever comes to your mind then you can go back later and look for bits that you like for a song.

4. Write every day: Even if you’re tired and don’t think you can come up with anything good just try anyways. Even if its just one melody line, or a line of lyrics or a couple chords. That way you get into the habit and eventually you’ll have a pile of lots of writing at least some of it has to be good!

5. Channel your emotions: anytime you are feeling the least bit emotional, even if it’s negative, write about it. Whether you’re happy, sad, angry, jealous, frustrated; just let it all out onto paper. Later you might be able to look back at it and find inspiration.

6. Co-write: maybe you already have a friend or two who are into music. Maybe you’ll have to go out and find somebody. Either way, it always helps to get another musician to come in and help you. When there’s another person around you, you get two different perspectives and have someone there to bounce ideas off and keep the work flowing.

7. Set goals and make a schedule: this way you can push yourself and keep on track. Maybe its to finish a song a week, or every two weeks, whatever. Get your friends in on it too. If you play music with friends, get them on a schedule too and you can push each other to come up with a certain amount of content. Then you can meet up and compare ideas.

8. Get feedback: play for an audience and see how they react. Did they laugh at the part you meant to be funny? Did they look bored when you did a long intro?

9. Make a list of some of your favorite songs: Dissect them. Write down the chords they use, the melody, harmonies, how the instruments interact. What makes you love this song? What are the lyrics about? what story do they tell? Observe what makes the song you love sound so good and use this as advice on your next song.

10. Musical tarot cards: Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt developed a tarot deck designed to offer ways of getting un-stuck when composing which they called “oblique strategies”. Make your own set! Even if it’s something silly. Write questions on them and get your friends together and ask them to each other. See what stories people tell and maybe you can draw inspiration from that for lyrics.

Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Tarot Deck

11. If you play guitar, tune it to open D. That way just bar your finger up and down the strings and you’ll have different chords. Write down the combinations you like. Then figure out the chord progression and try it in different keys.

12. Don’t be afraid to rewrite: Maybe you haven’t looked at a song in years or haven’t gone through your old notes for awhile. Always look back at your old stuff and see if you can make it better or take something you wrote awhile ago and turn it into something new and better.

Good luck! and remember don’t be afraid to try anything! The only person judging you is yourself so just write whatever comes to mind and play how you feel.

Leigh Ann

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