Writing a new song

For my first post, I thought it appropriate to discuss how one goes about starting to write a new song. The top methods I hear at networking events or when talking with other people are:

  • I write music first then I (or someone else) writes the lyrics.

and less commonly:

  • I wrote the lyrics and then I (or someone else) set it to music.

It all sounds very linear, and sometimes it does work that way, but more often then not it’s an oversimplification.

A great song (IMO) is a jigsaw puzzle of great ideas that come together to make something special. But it really starts with an idea, be it:

  1. Lyrics.
  2. Instrumental idea.
  3. Vocal idea.
  4. Concept / Story
  5. Vibe

If you don’t have an idea you are passionate about to start, then you’re really not anywhere. So you have to experiment using your strengths (guitar playing, synthesizer programming, lyric writing, etc.) to come up with ideas. Or a nice traumatic experience (good or bad) can help as well.

And this leads quite nicely to why this blog is called ‘Writing Garbage’: the vast majority of ideas you come up with will be garbage.

No one on planet earth “sh*ts gold”. And many songwriters fall in love with their work easily and so will claim most, if not all, of what they write is great (there will be a separate post on this). This is a trap.

Starting a song is about writing lots and lots of garbage, until you find that one idea that electrifies you enough to start developing it. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s difficult, because it could be a dead end and you’re back to the start of the process.

A childhood friend had this saying whenever he wanted to indicate how difficult and painful something was….he’d say “it’s like masturbating with a cheese grater”.

So keep writing, even when it hurts. Because eventually you’ll find something that moves you. And by the end of the process you’ll feel relieved, because you have something that moves you  and hopefully a few other people as well.

Happy writing.