Songwriting Ideas

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There are hundreds, if not thousands of songs about cars, money, alcohol, expensive clothes and of course, girls. Many of these songs have been mega hits and have their place in the music world, but there’s nothing like a memorable song with lyrics that go deeper. The songs we remember are the songs with stories we identify with. Songwriting at its finest is storytelling on a small scale. Music superstars such as Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Akon, and Beyonce are known for the stories they tell in the majority of their songs. Here are some ideas to get your creative songwriting juices flowing.

History is full of colorful events that make great fare for songwriters. Find a historic event, whether it’s something tragic or triumphant, and turn it into a song. Think of the event as a story. Learn as much as you can about the event, then encapsulate it into three or four verses, a couple of choruses and a bridge. Grab an acoustic guitar and strum some chords behind the lyrics as you write them, choosing a musical tone that fits the mood of whatever historic event you’re writing about.

Romantic ballads never go out of style. Go back to your first crush and think about those feelings. Although we’ve grown older and wiser since that time, those emotions are no less valid and will help you write lyrics that anybody who has ever had a crush or been in love can identify with. Within the scope of the romantic ballad, consider writing about the downside of love as well. Look for universal themes that music lovers will latch onto. Almost everyone has had a broken heart. Romantic ballads don’t always need to have happy endings.

Famed German composer Ludwig von Beethoven once said, “Music is a higher revelation than philosophy.” Beethoven composed choral and orchestral music, which could communicate deep emotions and transport his audience to a different time and place. Songs also have the power to impact people. Through their lyrics, songwriters can make people laugh and cry. If you believe you have something to say which is best expressed by song, consider becoming a songwriter.

Write down what comes to you. You might not realize it, but inspiration for songs surrounds you. Keep a small notebook with you at all times to capture that great idea the moment it strikes you. Read the notebook every so often. Sometimes, an idea may not seem like much at the time, but it may germinate into something interesting.

Formulate a title for your song. Robin Frederick, professional songwriter and former director of the artists and repertoire department at Rhino records, recommends starting the songwriting process by coming up with the title. According to Frederick, even reading the paper can yield title ideas. Ask yourself questions about the title. For example, if you come up with the title, “She’s Going Downtown,” question who she is, and why she is going downtown.

The Beatles wrote seven of the top 50 songs on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time List. John Lennon and Paul McCartney top many greatest songwriters of the 20th century lists. The Beatles are known for countless hit singles and albums, which span a variety of styles and genres. There is no one way to write a song like the Beatles. To do so, you need to think and act like a Beatle. Collaborate, borrow and experiment. Open your mind to the world around you, learn the forms of popular song and break free from them.

Find a songwriting partner. Almost all of the Beatles’ songs are credited to Lennon/McCartney, and a good deal of their early work was co-written. Either Paul or John would come up with most of the song, say the verse and chorus, and the other would write the bridge or help with a lyric. Find someone with a similar musical vision, especially someone who appreciates the Beatles. Show each other your songs, offer criticism and fill in each other’s missing parts.

  

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