Wednesday, June 30, 2010

8♠ Start with an idea

8♠ Eight of Spades in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

The Eight of Spades has an idea: start your songwriting process with an idea! This idea doesn't have to be a profound "eureka" insight; it could be an observation, a bit of advice, or a fantasy of how things might be different that they are. Whatever it is, create a song that clearly expresses the idea, almost as though the song is a sales pitch to sell the idea, to get everyone to see what you see.

Here's how to do it, step by step.
  1. Decide on an idea.
  2. Think of a title for the song, and also a lyrical hook. The title and hook are often the same, but they don't have to be. The hook could be a direct expression of your idea, but it doesn't have to be; it just has to be memorable and to connect to the idea in some rhetorically convincing way.
  3. Build a chorus that supports the hook. Pick tempo, mood, and chords that provide the best possible backdrop for the idea.
  4. Then build the rest of the song, usually verses and a bridge, to support the chorus. From beginning to end, everything in the song supports and aligns with the song's central idea.
This song-building method is so simple and straightforward that generations of songwriting hacks have used it to churn out truckloads of empty, soul-numbing songs. But don't blame the technique; it's all in how you use it. Your song will be meaningful if it means something to you. Start with an idea that you personally care about, something that touches your life or inspires you in some way.

Looking for the right idea? Maybe one of these questions will help get you started:

What are you secretly hoping for?
What's one bit of parental advice that you will never forget?
What does it take for love to survive?
What happened recently that you keep thinking about, again and again?
What did you dream about last night?
What is the secret of your success?

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