Developing Song Ideas

The Creative Process

Developing Song Ideas

Now, we need to engage the scientific part of your brain. Later on in this course, we’ll take a look at some different kinds of music, and what musical and lyrical elements signal those genres. In the meantime, open your mind as much as you can and listen to everything! If people have a genuine emotional reaction to a piece of music then it must have some kind of artistic worth. Ask your friends and family why they like a certain song or a certain musical style, and try to make them dig deeper than “it reminds me of being on holiday” or a similar nostalgia-based explanation. Is it the ‘hook’ (a repeated melodic or lyrical phrase that sticks in the mind) that’s memorable? Is it the sounds or the rhythm of the piece? Is it the attitude of the performers? Is it that they relate to the lyrics? Remember, you don’t have to like a song or musical style to be curious about how it works!

Probably the hardest thing when you start to write songs is being able to judge whether something is working or not. Often, the discovery of your songwriting ‘voice’ coincides with your learning to trust your instincts on whether or not an idea is strong enough for inclusion. Until that starts to happen naturally, look to your peers and tutors on the course for advice. Play things to friends and family and ask them what works and doesn’t. Remember, as Austin Kleon says, “Do good work and share it with people.” Professionals do this every day, and the most successful individuals are often the ones who are least likely to interpret constructive criticism as threatening, knowing - as they do, instinctively - that creative openness gets the best results.

Don’t judge too early! Give an idea time. Work on it. Shape it. Explore as many different possibilities as you can before you discard it. This is often where the aforementioned work comes in ! There might be a better or more effective way to achieve something that means the listener can connect with it more directly, so when inspiration is is short supply, maybe just try some alternatives to an established idea. Again, this comes back to creative openness.

Finally, if you’re truly engaged with your art, there is no such thing as mistakes! Playing a wrong chord or misreading a new lyric might be an opportunity for an adjustment or an improvement, or indeed a whole new section or even song! Tune your radar in to be able to recognise these moments as possibilities, rather than getting pointlessly frustrated with yourself.