Where Do You Get Your Inspiration To Write A Song?

Apr 17, 2004

The Bottom Line You can find inspiration in many places. It is likely to come when you least expect it. Always try to be prepared to jot down or record ideas.

How do you write a song? The answer to this question is really quite complex, and what works for one songwriter may not necessarily work for another. For this reason, I will explore a couple of different methods that have worked for different songwriters.

For some of us, the easiest and best way is to play with words. I may have ideas going through my mind that are somewhat like poetry. I will often play with these words until I get them to sound like I want, never thinking of the music that will accompany these words until the lyrics are pretty much in place.

Others may start out by playing with a tune. They may not even consider what the lyrical content might be, or even the subject matter of the song. The outcome of the melody may guide them, but the lyrics may not come until the musical arrangement is complete.

In either case, one or both may need to be tweaked for a proper fit. The resulting outcome will hopefully be pleasing to both songwriter and listeners.

In my case, a dramatic event, or experience often inspires a song. It could be anything from relationship issues, to a tragedy. It could also be inspired by something as simple as a beautiful countryside. Or it could be something as complex as a feeling brought on by watching others around me. Usually though, the song is inspired by some sort of emotion, whether it be love, sorrow, pain, elation, or any other emotion. The stronger the emotion, the more likely it is to inspire a song within me.

Personally, I don’t usually sit down at my desk and say, “OK, I think I’ll write a song today.” For me, this would be one of the quickest ways to get a bad case of writer’s block. In fact, sitting at my desk is probably the last place where any sort of creative inspiration would come to me when it comes to songwriting.

In order for my creative juices to flow, I do much better if I can focus on the subject matter. The best songs convey strong emotions. For instance, the best time to write about heartbreak is probably when you are hurting, rather than while you are blissfully enjoying the company of your lover. It only makes sense when writing a song about feelings, that the more emotion you can put into your songs, the more the listener will get out of them.

In much the same way as poetry, storytelling, or any other art form, let your emotions guide you. This will give you a good basis for your songs. Let it flow from your heart. You have got to feel it if you want others to feel it. In many ways, songwriting can be a big part of the healing process as well. It is a great way to express the hurt, pain or anger that you are feeling. Additionally, it is a healthy outlet, rather than a destructive one.

I’m not saying that you have to be in a constant state of emotional turmoil to write a good song, but you should at least be able to feel the mood of the songs you are trying to write. If you can’t feel it, how can you expect listeners to? If you have never had an emotional experience worthy of a song, perhaps you can use the experiences of someone close to you. The feelings are not likely to be as powerful and thus not likely to come through into your song as strongly as something you feel strongly about though.

Also, don’t expect it to all come to you at once. Many songwriters can churn out one excellent song after another with no problem. Others do not produce their songs so rapidly. I may toy around with an idea for a month before anything actually comes of it, and there is nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, an entire song may formulate in my mind all at once. Usually I still toy with it for quite a while until I am happy with it. However it comes to you, be patient and just enjoy what you are doing. If you have the talent, and the patience, the songs will come.

Life events make great material for your songs. I once had a friend tell me I would make a great songwriter because of many of the events that have gone on in my life. At that time, I had written a lot of poetry, but never tried my hand at songwriting. My poetry was kept to myself, because I felt it was too personal to share many parts of my life with others. Since that time, several of my poems have been put to music.

Sharing these was perhaps the hardest part, even harder than creating them. Now my life is an open book, and listeners are welcome to share in it. It is amazing how many people can identify with my feelings. I guess you have just got to realize that you are not the only one who has ever gone through a situation. No matter what the circumstances, there is someone out there that can identify with or at least sympathize with your situation.

Another misconception is that a good song has to rhyme. This is wrong! There are a lot of songs out there, and although a lot of them rhyme, not all of them do. Sometimes the words rhyme when I think of them, and sometimes not. Usually thoughts and ideas come to mind rather than rhymes. I then take these thoughts and ideas and often end up switching them around and adjusting them to fit the situation. The feelings your songs invoke are much more important than whether or not the words rhyme.

The most important thing to realize is that the music has to come from within, but the inspiration can come from anywhere. Don’t expect inspiration to hit you at a particular place or time. Inspiration is all around us. It could come at work, or at play. It could come in your dreams, or as you are driving down the road. Just be ready when the inspiration strikes. I have lost too many great ideas because I didn’t write them down or record them when the idea struck. Now I carry a small recorder in my car, and keep a pad and paper by my bedside. If an idea comes, I am now prepared.

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