Once someone gave me some great advice about songwriting ideas. They said that once you get an idea for a song, you need to be able to decide if the idea is worth writing about, is worth spending the time it will take to turn the idea into a song. This is very important because even though you may enjoy it, songwriting is a business and in business, time is money. So unless you just want to write for the enjoyment of writing and you don’t care about making money from it, think about your ideas before you begin writing.
So how do you decide if an idea is worth writing or not? Remember when I talked about other people’s lives and their experiences and that they like to hear songs about what they know? That’s how you decide. Is the idea about something many people can relate to? Is there a story there that you can tell in lyric form? If you are going to struggle to tell the story, to get the idea across to the listener, if it is something you have never experienced or cannot relate to then there is probably a better idea waiting for you somewhere down the songwriting road.
So sit back and think about all the people you know, what their lives are like, what they go through, grab a pencil and paper and start writing these things down and once you’ve learned the mechanics of writing a song you will be ready to start cranking them out.
Maybe you know someone who works on cars all the time, restores them or fixes the cars of his friends. You might write a song called “The Fix It Man” or “Fast Engine Freddie”. Perhaps your Dad or Uncle was in the Army and served in a war. You could write a song about how much they missed their family while they were gone. Maybe you would title it “I’ll Be Home Soon”, or “Kiss The Kids For Me”. Remember that man you met at the fair who won the blue ribbons showing his prize pigs. You could write a song and call it “The Pig Man”, or “Arnold Would Be Proud”.
Sometimes a great song idea is something you have been through, but it’s also something many other people have gone through also. Randy Travis’
“Forever and Ever Amen” is written in first person stating “I’m gonna love you for forever and ever Amen”. The writer obviously wrote something he felt himself, probably something he had experienced but he also recognized that millions of other people had felt that same sentiment at sometime in their lives.
Another thing to consider is that not everyone is good at expressing what they want to say to someone who is important to them. They will look for a song that says what they cannot say and either call a radio station and have it dedicated to that person or just go buy them the CD that contains that song.
So remember, when you get the urge to write a song, resist the feeling of wanting to write about that bad breakup you went through last year or the dreams you have for your life. Yes, those things are very important to you, but anyone who would hear the song wouldn’t give you 2 cents for it.
One more point before I go. Most songs in Nashville are co-written, written by 2 or more writers. This gets a writer into an environment where ideas can be bounced around and offers a structure for critiquing the song as it evolves and eventually letting it become a much stronger finished product. For writers who are married to a creative spouse or are in a relationship with one, writing together can be a great plus. As you offer each other suggestions for the developing song, you might not like everything they say, but maybe one word might trigger another idea or phrase. That’s how great songs are written.
And remember, one lesson at a time, you can learn to write songs.
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