How To Write A Song, 5 Unconventional Tips
April 18, 2019
Shaun Letang in Songwriting, how to write a song, songwriting

Today we’re going to look at how to write a song. This won’t be your typical guide on songwriting though, there are already plenty of those floating around the internet.

Instead, I’m going to give you some unconventional songwriting tips that will help get you out of that beginner stage. Some of these ideas might sound bizarre initially, but give them a chance and I promise you your songwriting will benefit.

1. Go To Extremes In Life

Guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani has an album titled The Extremist.

One of the reasons it’s called The Extremist is because Satriani was often known to go to extremes to find inspiration.

Now, you don’t necessarily need to go bungee jumping or skydiving to uncover worthy ideas (though it probably wouldn’t hurt).

But whether it’s going for a run, doing an intense workout, trying a new dish at a restaurant you’ve never been to, playing an instrument you’ve never played before, or otherwise, be intentional about stimulating your creativity. Try things you’ve never tried before.

If you’re in a rut, it could mean you haven’t experienced anything new in a while, and now it’s time to go live a little. Life is full of people, events and circumstances that can inspire music.

2. Bring Your Loose Ends Together

Do you have a lot of riffs, lyrical snippets and song ideas scattered across your practice room? I know I do.

They’re worthy ideas, but I have yet to develop each of them into complete songs.

This might sound counterintuitive, but what if you squashed several of these ideas together? This may be difficult to do when you’re still a beginner, but remember, you’ve written these down because they sound good. So don’t give up on them.

When I listen to albums like Michael Jackson’s Thriller or Def Leppard’s Hysteria, I can’t help but feel that’s exactly how some of those songs came together. And, we are talking about some massive albums here.

Now, songs on these albums were polished to the nth degree. Of that I have no doubt.

But it also appears that, if there was an opportunity to bring disparate ideas together under one umbrella, the artist, band and/or producer didn’t hesitate to give it a try.

Have a listen to Def Leppard’s “Animal”. Do you honestly think all those riffs were written for the same song?

If you’re stuck, maybe try combining two or more ideas to create a fully fleshed out song. It doesn’t matter if it sounds a little polar or schizophrenic – it might just work.

3. Pick & Choose Words, Phrases, Themes Or Ideas From A Conversation

Go and have a 30-minute conversation with a friend. Ask if they’d be okay with you recording the chat (indicating that it will be strictly for personal use).

Once you have the recording, bring it home and take some time to listen to it.

What words, phrases, themes or ideas jump out at you? Inevitably, some will stick out over others, so write them all down.

By the time you’ve listened to the full 30-minute conversation and taken notes on it, you should have plenty of ideas ready to exploit.

If you’re used to writing the music before the lyrics, then this will also stretch you, because you’re putting words together before you’re adding the music (though you can write them simultaneously).

If you can’t be bothered to go and record a conversation with a friend right now, you can also find a random interview on YouTube and do the same thing.

Just remember to paraphrase, reorganize and summarize the ideas being shared, as you don’t want to end up with a copyright suit.

4. Take An Existing Song Of Yours & Write It Backwards

Do you have a song you’ve written and released that ends on a happy note? What if you told the story in reverse? The song could start happy, and then go onto tell all the challenges, obstacles and difficulties leading up to that point.

Maybe you could take the chord progression, play it backwards, and see how that sounds.

Perhaps you could reverse engineer how the song was written in the first place, turn that into a commentary, and then transform than narrative into a cohesive song.

No matter how you choose to go about this process, begin by playing an existing song of yours backwards (on your instrument).

Then, take the lyrical themes, riffs and chord progressions and keep editing them until you’ve converted it into an entirely new song.

By doing this, you could get double the mileage out of one song without too much added effort. You might even create a new sound in the process.

5. Have Someone Pick A Few Random Numbers Between One & Seven

If you’re familiar with music theory, you know that there are seven chords in any key.

After a while, you get used to writing songs using the same chords. The I, IV, V and vii chords, specifically, tend to get a lot of love and most artists are quite comfortable using them.

So, get a friend or sibling to pick out a few random numbers between one and seven and see what they come up with.

They might give you something like seven, one, three and four. Now, you don’t need to stick with the order they’ve given you, in case you’re worried about starting with the vii chord, for instance.

But now you’ve got yourself a creative challenge, especially if the person you’re asking happens to say “seven”.

As you’re likely aware, the vii chord is the diminished chord in any key, and it can be a little tough to figure out how to use it effectively.

But hey, now you’re out of your comfort zone doing things you wouldn’t normally do, which can help you stretch your writing muscle.

If you need more chord progressions, you could ask someone else to give you a more numbers between one and seven.

Wrapping It Up, How To Write A Song For Intermediate Songwriters

As a songwriter, as your tastes develop, you can easily end up relying on a lot of familiar chord progressions, riffs or themes.

But if there are no rules, and everyone’s process for writing is a little different, then you should leave some room for experimentation.

Give a few of the ideas mentioned here a try. You could end up writing some of your favorite songs, but you won’t know unless you give it a try.

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.