This article is very much a “personal wandering & pondering” blog entry. It’ll probably be full of stream of consciousness stuff. Still, I hope it’s going to be helpful for other people, too. So, here I go:
Writing a new song is almost always a miracle. The core of it sometimes comes from “nowhere”, unless it is a carbon copy of a stupid hit song you just heard on the radio. And it’s all yours. (Here’s a philosophical question: do songs really belong to anyone? But that’s a different story…)
What makes the song-writing challenging is that there is no universally perfect way to write a song. Some people start with the lyrics, some people like to write together with other people, some people prefer writing songs alone at night in the moonlight, or the candlelight.
Starting to write a new song is easy if you have inspiration. The moments of inspiration come and go and they are very unpredictable. So, you cannot always wait for it to come. Just pick your guitar, your keyboard or whatever instrument you prefer when writing a song. Choose a chord or a short melody that comes to your mind. Or a guitar riff. Or just pick a scale and try improvising with it (for instance, pentatonic scale is quite interesting).
Don’t get mad if nothing interesting pops up. Sometimes you can try anything for days and still: nothing. And then, a perfect idea can come into view and suddenly you’ve got a brand new perspective to the new song. What’s interesting is that you can have an interesting and fascinating idea even if you are not inspired. Yeah, well, this is more than obvious but it’s the reason you can and should try composing a song any-time you want to. Or even when you don’t want to.
But naturally, one riff or melody or chord isn’t enough. The next thing is having at least one or two more ideas and starting to think about the song structure. (Let’s just assume we don’t care about the genre of the song, it’s just whatever comes naturally…) A very short song? An epic song? I think the answer is: whatever you feel like. Sometimes the thirty-two-bar form is nice, sometimes trying to do something new is very fruitful.
Let’s just say you’ve written a three-minute song with a melody. Then, what should the lyrics be like? Should the song tell a story? Or describe a feeling or a moment? (Or, in some cases: should the song just be an instrumental?)
This year, I’ve been fascinated about the idea of writing very personal lyrics. (Then again, I’m also keen on writing interesting stories that have nothing to do with my life.) How personal can you get without sounding too cheesy and not being embarrassed about the lyrics? Moreover, can you write an imaginative story that would still feel very personal to you? I suppose you can but it’s very difficult.
So, I suppose I’ll write at least a couple of personal songs by the end of this summer. I don’t know about the genre yet, though. Something related to prog rock, maybe.. Something different, that is. And very personal lyrics, I wonder what that would be like. Something revealing, something I feel.
Choosing the language is also a difficult question. For those who speak English as their mother tongue, the choice is very easy. But for a Finn, it’s harder. It is very easy to write a song full of clichés when writing in English. In Finnish, the lyrics inevitably become much more personal because the mother tongue is always the “language of your heart and emotions”. This is why writing in English is so much safer.
So yeah, there’s a lot to think. But perhaps the best way to do this is not to think at all? “Just do it”, as the slogan goes. Yep. That’s how I’ll do it. Interesting.
- Song Structure – I Can Explain (anestmusic.com)
- Writing songs for your voice (gearslutz.com)
- Educated Songwriter Blog (tonyromano36.wordpress.com)
- How do I write a song? (plus 4 do’s & don’ts for writing songs link via BMI.COM) (jdngerz.wordpress.com)