Songwriting Resources 3 – Daily Inspiration

We’re chefs, right? Taking ingredients, even complete dishes, and combining them or adding a twist to produce something fresh and inspiring. As chefs we can’t go back to Freddy’s for the ribs every day. Or to Campagnola for the pasta. We need to be experimenting – yes, but we risk experimenting with the same old stuff if we don’t feed ourselves with the new stuff. 

If we’re open-minded, read lots of things, talk to people, practice and experiment then eventually we’ll have new ideas. Maybe. But we can jumpstart the process of finding new ways – our own ways. Travelling the world – yes we need to do that; but can’t always do it daily. Checking out the work of other chefs – yes, and if we can get recommendations and reviews all the better. 

Here are a few SongExpresso resources for having an idea that you didn’t wake up with:

1. Reddit

Just to lurk or to converse. SongExpresso doens’t really go for the posters who put up songs saying “please critique my work”. But good luck to them – actually it’s pretty brave (especially on Reddit where critiques tend to range from scathing to mildly abrasive). But check out the following. If you follow these subReddits you are sure to see something that you hadn’t thought of before:

http://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/ (personal favorite – nothing directly to do with songwriting)

http://www.reddit.com/r/writingprompt/ (not sure why we need two of these but this one is more down to earth and less mind boggling) (or not)

http://www.reddit.com/r/SongwritingPrompts/ (if really stuck why not? Also good for free writing or object wriing)

http://www.reddit.com/r/WriteDaily/ (a bit like object writing but with more accessible themes)

http://www.reddit.com/r/POETRYPrompts/ (kind of the same but with a tendency to more obscure themes).

2. Juxtaposing stuff

http://www.Poets.org/poetsorg/poem-day great selection of emotive modern poems – you can read one a day right?  SongExpresso thinks you should – and will return to this.

http://literaryjukebox.brainpickings.org/ a bold venture – the great brainpickings.org will never run out of thought-provoking material. SongExpresso finds the songs generally on the soft and folky side – but that’s a taste thing. In common they have quality and emotion (perhaps inevitably in order to be selected to be part of a literary project). No matter. Come here and see two things that didn’t together before and think about each element and their combined effect.

3. New Music

We used to have to wait for a particular new music DJ on the radio; now we can create our own station. 

http://www.stereogum.com/ There are a million music websites and blogs out there. This one is perhaps a bit edgier than most – SongExpresso guarantees you won’t have already heard everything on here.

https://www.kexp.org/live/ There are a million music stations and podcasts out there. But SongExpresso has never been bored by these short live performances.

http://www.soundopinions.org/ There are a m… you know. This one’s a keeper (a few too many sponsorship messages for SongExpresso’s liking, but someone needs to pay the royalties).

http://grantland.com/contributors/brian-koppelman/ Not just about music. And sometimes a teeny bit mutually self-congratulatory? But BK does like to ask probing questions about motivation and what it’s really like to be the artist.
 

Do you use any of these or any other ones? Recommendations (but not spam) always welcome and SongExpresso will review the worthwhile ones here.

See also other sections on:

Advertisements

3 pillars of fantastic – part 1: BYOF – Bring Your Own Feeling

Why do we like songs? What attracts us and what keeps us there? What’s important? 

SongExpresso would of course like to say “everything”, but that may not be realistic (or even always true).

SongExpresso believes that there are three pillars of fantastic. If you don’t have at least one of these that is fantastic, then your song will not be fantastic. But, predictably, SongExpresso just has to ask – is one enough? Why not strive for two? And why be happy until we have all three?

The first is what SongExpresso calls “feeling”. We could call it “soul”, “swing”, “vibe” or anything else: it’s the non-verbal thing that gets you going inside. It’s probably the most important of all and probably the hardest to find. On the other hand, if you get this element right, then people can often happily forget the others. Some artists bring it and add this to whatever good or bad material they’re given. If you’re the songwriter and the artist then you have to bring it yourself (“BYOF”). But even if not, songwriters of course can and should sow the seeds of feeling and design it into the fabric of the song. It’s the performance, the style, the energy that we hear in our minds when writing.

It comes from many places. SongExpresso doesn’t have the secret recipe. But SongExpresso is convinced that, while some are born with more or less natural feeling, is not just about talent. If we know how to experiment and keep learning then we can find the right feeling for any song. Here are just a few SongExpresso techniques. The object here is not to write a text book but to get your imagination flowing. As Tom Waits said – “your hands are like dogs” – they always like to go back to the same familiar places. So here are a few ideas of some different places to go to find the one where your half-written song feels at home.

Let’s kick off with time signature. Take a progression in straight eighth notes 4/4 time (here’s one for free: G-Bm-C-D7) – we might have rock, country, maybe pop. But without changing anything, now play the same in triplets – you now have a different driving, dramatic mood, straddling waltz-time and common time (check out “Home” by Lisa Hannigan). Think also about strumming patterns (or equivalent if not on guitar): down-up-down-up is a really different (jolly?) feel from down-down-down-down (more rocky already). What about double time? Classic example: “All My Loving” by The Beatles. Something of a physical challenge (at least to SongExpresso) but a great weapon to have. Not really about time signatures, but now play “All My Loving” in shuffle feel. Now bossa-nova (great!). Now… you get the picture. 

And now for something completely different (jazz lovers please look away now). Try taking our same major key progression (G-Bm-C-D7) and build the 7th onto each chord so we get GM7-Bm7-CM7-D7 (D7 stays a 7 – or does it? Let’s go crazy and make it a 9 – and the next time round a 13! Jazzers may reenter the room). Instant jazz. Or maybe folk. Try this new progression with some of the timing techniques we just mentioned – probably suits the tripleted/shuffle feel, or just some chunk-chunking. Your melody might not work the same now – but mix and match – try going back to the straight major progression and using the m7 – different more complex feeling already for the same melody?

Obviously, we have to talk about tempo. Most songs have a natural beat, but they need to find it (that means YOU need to find it). Remember what you start as a rock song might be a ballad or a dance number, or whatever. Check out “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” by Oasis – sounds like it’s deliberately been held back a bit, which matches the theme and lyrics. If speeded up it could sound like a happy ditty – totally not appropriate. Leona Lewis’s version is even more deliberate. Now try this – play “New Year’s Day” as an accoustic slow ballad using arpeggios – still sounds good? Admittedly we are listening with familiar ears. Could be a winner at weddings. But would it have been a hit? Probably not.

We haven’t even started on different instrumentation yet – most of us have just one that we know well and habitually compose on – but we all have a whole orchestra in our heads and maybe even bandmembers or friends to experiment with (if your friends happen to be a string quartet or horn section then hang onto them, and never let them go).

The trick is to match the feeling with the theme. The more of these techniques you have, the more likely you are to steer the song towards its correct destiny. Get the music theory you need. Listen to all styles of music with a critical ear. Steal widely and imitate often. Play with others. Ask around. You’ll know the feeling when you feel it. Send us your own favorites. Or your experiences with the ones above.

A few different “feeling” examples to get us going:

  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “You get me High” 
  • Barry Ryan (or The Damned) – “Eloise”
  • Badly Drawn Boy – “Something to talk about”

These aren’t that interesting lyrically (“Eloise” is even on SongExpresso’s Rhyme Crime wanted list) or, with the possible exception of “Something to Talk About”, musically. And of course styles and tastes are very personal. But doesn’t each of them have something of that indefinable feeling that really suits the song and that we’re all looking for as composers and listeners? As always, send in your favorites – we’re particularly interested in songs that have “the feeling” but not much else to recommend them…

But don’t forget the other two pillars and to strive for all three together…

Part 2: Melody (coming soon)
Part 3: Lyrics: Always Be Diving For Pearls

“Cornerstone” – Benjamin Clementine – don’t try this at home (home, home, home, home)

SongExpresso challenges you to listen to Benjamin Clementine and not to have an opinion. Or remember something from what you just heard. No-one else we know does anything like this (and really they shouldn’t try). A jumble of diverse accelerations, dynamics, melodies and feelings? No, a feast. 

We can speculate where this comes from (possibly something to do with classical influences or “French” emphasis on lyrical content? – ChansonExpress remains to be convinced but will investigate) – possibly also partly being at the first album stage (that’s when writers have the greatest amount of material and freedom to do things their way). Certainly, there is enormous freedom in the lyrics and style, and we’re left with the impression that although we don’t necessarily know what’s coming next, to the writer and eventually to us it just feels right. And is actually more structured than we might assume.

So, let’s dive in:

“Cornerstone”, Benjamin Clementine

I am alone in a box of stone

Hold it right there – “box” is such a pejorative word – really objective and stark; packaging, almost. It’s not even a shell. Box of stone – can only be two things, a house or a coffin. Which is it?

When all is said and done

As the wind blows to the east from the west

Unto this bed, my tears have their solemn rest

We still don’t know whether it’s a house or a coffin – the “solemn rest” certainly leaves an infusion of death in the air. We may have different opinions depending on the rest of the song and how we see it, and perhaps that’s exactly right: it doesn’t really matter – he’s come to (or near to) the end of his life and his house is his coffin; if not dead then he is as good as dead… Whether looking back from the grave, or living with nothing to look forward to, there’s no hope.

For I am lonely, alone in a box of stone

They claim to love me, but they’re all lying

I’ve been lonely, alone in a box of my own

And this is the place I now belong

There’s lots of emotion just in this segment: I am lonely – either old at the end of my life and no-one comes around, or past the end of my life and just forgotten. Alone in a box of my own – it’s just a thing, maybe worked all my life to buy this house and it’s turned out meaningless because it’s empty (or I just ended up in a coffin anyway). Any that’s where I now belong – no hope, no way out.

It’s my home, home, home, home, home, home, home, home

This might seem like a throwaway line – but the repetition is really effective in emptying the word of any romance or tenderness – like this it’s just a word. The character repeats it, more in resignation than despair (compare this with the anger of “they’re all lying”). We’re left with a feeling of hopelessness and fatalism.

It wasn’t easy getting used to this

I used to scream

It’s not true, that it’s only when the door is locked

That nobody enters

Cos mine has been open till your demise

But none had come, well who am I

What have i done wrong?

This part feels more like the despair of being left alone at the end of life (partially by death – whose demise? his last so-called friend? we don’t know – but in general by apathy and disinterest), followed by the resignation. “I used to scream” says it all. But he got used to it. No hope. Slam. 

Also, we like the way that the “it’s only when the door is locked” lines don’t quite scan and come out half-spoken: we understand that this is what he really feels so he needs to express it, without compromise, and breaking the rhythm like this makes it unmissable. SongExpresso is reminded of Billy Joel’s non-rhymes.

I’ve been lonely, alone in a box of my own

They claim to be near me but they were all lying, it’s not true

I’ve been lonely, alone in a box of stone

This is the place I now belong

We’ve had all this before – but this is more so – the lines “they were all lying, it’s not true” are an angry statement of fact. This is how it is, without nuance or exception.

It’s my home, home, home, home, home, home, home, home

Friends, I have met

Lovers have slept and wept

Promises to stay have never been kept

This bare truth of which most won’t share

I hope you share, I hope you share

What about this part? It’s almost as if the lies and the abandonment are worse than never having had any human contact at all. And “most won’t share” – because we’re all selfish. Except, you dear listener, might you understand and be good to someone like me? He hopes not for himself but for others.

Cos I’ve been lonely

Alone in a box of my own

They claim to love me and be near me

But they are all lying

I have been lonely, alone in a box of my own

And this is the place I now belong

Its my home, home, home, home, home, home, home, home

The ending is a bit breathless… not of desperation, but final breaths?

So, although this may not be our style, or topic, and we normally wouldn’t think of packing a song so full of such varied ingredients, what can we take away and use?

  • consistency: while the song has its rhythmic ebbs and flows, the lyrics consistently support and return to the feeling of hopelessness. As well expressed in this article, don’t ever break the mood, always try to have everything keep building it up.
  • breaking the rhythm: SongExpresso finds the “it’s not true”, “they’re all lying” interjections really effective – they break out from established rhythm and verge on being a bit “shouty”. This makes the anger palpable and impossible to ignore. Can we try this? Can we take a key line that we don’t want the listener to forget and just speak or shout it? A technique not to be overused, for sure. What about the other way round? A metal song with a tender interlude in which we really hear the words before going back to full volume? Why not? If what’s in the break is important, then giving it its own oasis can make it stand out from the sand.
  • repetition: “home, home, home” – we may not have much opportunity to ever reproduce this. But here it is super-effective, because it unloads the word of all symbolism or romance. So think of a symbolic object – wedding ring, feather, pyramid, diploma, autograph, pet… repeat ten times and the symbolism falls away – it just becomes a thing, just a word.
  • reduction: “box” is the reduction to its lowest form of the home or house (or coffin). A perfect technique for the theme of this song – material things are meaningless and powerless to affect the writer’s hopelessness. So maybe we might also try this: compare: clothes vs. cloth; banknotes vs. paper; wine cellar vs. hole full of glass. The thesaurus doesn’t necessarily get us here – it’s really a type of metaphor, or some other figure of speech. (SongExpresso refuses to go onto Wikipedia in order to find the Greek word for this and pretend that we use these terms every day…) This one seems to work only in a disdainful, reductive way: SongExpresso doesn’t really see much mileage in calling paper “potential banknotes”. Though we’re intrigued by the idea of “glass aspiring to be a wine bottle”… Got any good examples to share (of either)?

 

The Rhyme Crime post

As a young performer, I had a song which contained the not very remarkable verse:

“You say it could all be the same

If I would only let it;

But I don’t want to play this game,

When we both want something better.”

It was a kind of anguished indie-folk-jazz thing with a trumpet section that actually sounded pretty good. But I will always remember our bass player saying “trying to rhyme ‘let it’ and ‘better’ really grates – you need to change that”. I think I took it on board but never quite got round to doing the work. It didn’t grate to me – and it actually caught the meaning I was looking for. And in the scale of things, it’s not that bad, right?

SongExpresso is now all about doing the work. There are two parts to this – the emotional one: you strive to be the most professional and the best you can be (I think Taylor Hawkins said something like that), and the practical one: as Barbara Cloyd said, producers are “looking for any reason to say no.” As soon as they hear one thing they don’t like, they pass and go on to the next song.

What would I do with this now? Maybe something like this:

“You say that we can turn back time

And it wouldn’t hurt to try;

But going back seems like a crime 

When we both deserve to fly.”

Hmm. Swapped a bad rhyme for a cliché? And lots of “i” sounds. Have another delve:

“You’re tempting me to stay

But I can’t justify 

Accepting yesterday

When we both deserve to fly.”

That took quite a few minutes, one bike ride and two sleeps. It’s getting there. It was worth it already. Bass-guy was right… I had committed SongGBH. But was it rhyme crime? Not really – I had gone with a bad rhyme and not been sufficiently bothered to look and find all means of escape (slightly ironic given the theme of the song). True first-degree rhyme crime is saying something no-one would ever normally say (or worse still something that you don’t really mean) just in order to make a rhyme.

So here’s the thing. There are loads of music professionals who commit this all the time. And I never like to criticise professionals (after all they are professionals and I am sitting writing this). But some of them seriously need a bass-player to make a citizen’s arrest. Or a shot of SongExpresso. OK, so now they (and their fans) will all hate me. But here we go with some examples that we don’t ever want to follow:

1. Rhyme Misdemeanours – no-one really notices or cares 

OK, some songs aren’t intended to be taken seriously (or apparently even listened to – and certainly not ever written down and scrutinized). And it’s all about the hook. But why settle for less? Why not be the best we can be? SongExpresso wants you (us) to feel great – and never apologetic – about every line.

The way you move me / Everything is groovy  (“Drive By” – Train)

Maybe this has to go down as attempted rhyme crime as it actually fails to do so. And groovy? Was that word sent back from the 60s in a rhyme-crime-time-machine? Also contains “I’m just a shy guy looking for a two-ply” among other – um – unique lyrics.

So open up your morning light / And say a little prayer for I.  (“I Don’t Wanna Wait” – Paula Cole)

Boom, she shot the rhyme (and the English language) into the air, and missed. Unless she is really saying “for right”? (as if that would make it better).

My Eloisa, I long to please her…  (“Eloise” – Barry Ryan, as faithfully reproduced by The Damned)

That’s taking poetic licence pretty far – to actually change the lady’s name in order to make the (awful) rhyme.

2. Rhyme Felony – some people notice – most just find it amusing

Somehow a few classic radio songs have been allowed to go down in music history with their rhyme crime intact. Light entertainment, not art you say? This does matter. Even a burger bar doesn’t leave garbage on the floor…

Yes, there’s love if you want it / Don’t sound like no sonnet  (“Sonnet” – The Verve) – Agree with that…

Abra, abra-cadabra / I want to reach out and grab ya  (“Abracadabra” – Steve Miller Band) – Yeah, ‘like Cleopatra’…

Nobody calling on the phone / ‘Cept for the Pope maybe in Rome  (“What if God was one of us” – Joan Osborne) – no comment.

Gotta write a classic… I can’t bring myself even to go on with that one.

3. Rhyme Homicide – take them away

These are just inexcusable lapses from people that should know better.  

Never opened myself this way / Life is ours, we live it our way / All these words I don’t just say  (“Nothing Else Matters” – Metallica)

Pardon? Was this written with Google Translate?

Piano keyboard, oh lord  (“Ebony and Ivory” – Paul and Stevie)

Piano keys, oh please?

Even if you cannot hear / My voice / I’ll be right beside you, dear  (“Run” – Snow Patrol)

Everyone loves this epic indie anthem. But I can’t get past the “dear”… Pass the indie sherry and my anthemic zimmer frame, dear?

 

My view? Rhyme crime is never necessary. Sorry, Sir Paul and company, there is always an alternative. But – at least in my case – it takes wrestling and wringing and wrenching, a convoy of JCBs to dig into your inner imagination and dusty dictionaries. This is not simply about calling people out when they do this – we’re constructive and always asking “how could this be better?” or “could we perfect this?”. Usually we could do a bit better. And it’s a worthy process. As always, send me your favourites – but also say what you would do instead… (but don’t bother with the classic in the attic – that ship has sailed and even a cafetiere of SongExpresso couldn’t bring that one back…).

 

"An Innocent Man" – in a rhyme crime free zone

SongExpresso has a thing about Billy Joel. Hugely musical songs in varied styles and a way of using natural language that never makes you go “eh?” (though even he had a bad day at the office: “We didn’t start the fire”, seriously).

For sure this won’t be the only time we analyse one of his lyrics. But this one is chosen particularly for what it isn’t – if you listen to Honesty, A Matter of Trust, etc. etc. then you’ll hear this super flowing series of rhyme after rhyme which never sound forced and just support the song’s flow and message (#SongExpressoNirvana). But this one contains… in the verses, almost no rhymes.

It’s a bold choice. How he holds it together is with a very subtle rhyme scheme ABCD EFGD, plus the natural rhythm of the lyrics and the relaxed phrasing.

 

An Innocent Man  (http://www.billyjoel.com/music/innocent-man/innocent-man)

Some people stay far away from the door

If there’s a chance of it opening up

They hear a voice in the hall outside

And hope that it just passes by

No rhymes. So it sounds more like speech. Rhyming now could break the sincerity. But note also that as listeners we don’t care – there’s no moment where we yearn for a rhyme anywhere in the verse. And why “some people”? At the moment we don’t actually know who Billy’s character is speaking to, he might just be making a general observation. 

Some people live with the fear of a touch

And the anger of having been a fool

They will not listen to anyone

So nobody tells them a lie

This time we end on a rhyme with the last line of the previous verse. Perhaps we don’t even notice the rhyme – is it even necessary? It’s skillfully done and doesn’t sound forced. And it closes off this first section in a satisfying way – we’re not waiting for anything more. Also notice the use of senses and emotions we have been through – hearing, hoping, fear, touch, anger, listening. 

We can empathize and maybe recognise something here in ourselves; that’s also the power of NOT making this personal e.g. “I know you’ve lived with the fear” etc. That might be too direct and negative. Here, the criticism is gentle and seems full of understanding. I think this reflects generally Billy’s style in the romantic songs – he likes to speak straightforwardly in the voice of his “I” character addressing someone else – compare with “Honesty” – “Honesty is such a lonely word” (statement of fact, could be internal), but mostly what I need from you (definitely external and shows us that the whole thing is directed to the other character).

I know you’re only protecting yourself

I know you’re thinking of somebody else

Someone who hurt you

Still full of understanding and empathy – but now speaking directly to the “you” character – and placing the blame on the other (bad) lover. 

But I’m not above

Making up for the love

You’ve been denying you could ever feel

I’m not above doing anything

To restore your faith if I can

The “But” is really just a leading note and the beat falls on the “I’m” to emphasize the contrast with the bad lover. It also sounds like how we’d say it in real life “he may have been like that but I’m certainly not”. Natural language = #SongExpressoHappiness. And the repetition adds emphasis – I’m not above that, in fact I’m not above doing anything. 

The “above” is interesting – yes, it rhymes with love. But again we see Billy’s character being non-judgmental and trying to show that’s he’s not trying to be smug or better but just speaking with the benefit of experience.

Some people see through the eyes of the old

Before they ever get to look at the young

I’m only willing to hear you cry

Because I am an innocent man

Oh yes I am

Here we have a similar “Honesty” style phrase – we start with “Some people” but midway go to I and you, so it’s all one impassioned speech. And this is really nice stuff – more sense-based images (seeing, hearing); getting old prematurely and missing out on youth; crying (also part of the youth idea?) and innocent – again contrast with the bad (guilty) lover. It’s a great theme – it’s not just “I’m a good man” or “a better man” but “innocent” – and so it’s unfair to penalise me due to others’ mistakes. There is something pure and enduring about this statement – he’s not just innocent today but someone you can put your faith into. Faith and innocence (linked by our only rhyme in this two verse section – can and man) give us an almost biblical flavor.

Some people say they will never believe

Another promise they hear in the dark

Because they only remember too well

They heard somebody tell them before

Some people sleep all alone every night

Instead of taking a lover to bed

Some people find that’s it’s easier to hate

Than to wait anymore

More of the same? Almost. I think a promise in the dark is a great euphemism – we all know what it means without needing to be told. Although contrast this with taking a lover to bed – old bad lover gets a euphemism while future better lover doesn’t need to beat around the bush (so innocent in the sense of “not evil”, not in the sense of “chaste”). 

By the way, what’s the opposite of a lover – a hater? No, a promise breaker… 

Finally, the language retains the spoken tone and natural, poetic rhythm – you might miss the rhyme if you weren’t looking for it.

I know you don’t want to hear what I say

I know you’re gonna keep turning away

But I’ve been there and if I can survive

I can keep you alive

I’m not above going through it again

I’m not above being cool for a while

If you’re cruel to me I’ll understand

Change of pace. More poppy more upbeat – more rhymey. Not “some people” any more but “I” – what we’ve been doing is getting more and more personal as we’ve gone along. This is probably the “Braveheart moment” (“Will you fight with me?”). But not preachy – gets the objections out of the way first and then drops in the “I’ve been there” story. Get a pad and write down as many empathetic and patient concepts as you can… 

Some people run from a possible fight

Some people figure they can never win

And although this is a fight I can lose

The accused is an innocent man

Oh yes I am

An innocent man

You know you only hurt yourself out of spite

I guess you’d rather be a martyr tonight

That’s your decision

But I’m not below

Anybody I know

If there’s a chance of resurrecting a love

I’m not above going back to the start

To find out where the heartache began

 

Some people hope for a miracle cure

Some people just accept the world as it is

But I’m not willing to lay down and die

Because I am an innocent man

 

I am an innocent man

Oh yes I am

An innocent man

I could go on but have gone on enough. But note the sheer length of the lyrics – minimal repetition and great content every time. I think the lack of rhymes enables this – the ear can take more. It’s almost two songs in one – the soft (empathetic) part then an upbeat (passionate) part. That’s an occasional SongExpresso technique by the way, when stuck – knitting together two or more fragments – obviously they have to work thematically but can effectively deliver a change of mood and elevate a song out of a rut.

So, takeaways:

  • Rhyme scheme – or non-rhyme: I think the ear does expect a rhyme sometimes: songs rhyme. But when you’ve got a lot to say, consider ditching the rhyme and really saying it with freedom. Of course, don’t also lose the poetry and rhythm…
  • Point of view: Think of different ways to say things. Do you ever feel your lyric might be a bit “preachy”? (I have one that builds up to a finale which incites the audience to “Enjoy each day while it’s here!” – ugh, definitely in need of a double-shot of my own medicine). If we take a cue from Billy, we can try out some different ways to say it, either to make it less personal: “Like people say, enjoy each day” or more personal: “You made me realise that I should enjoy each day”. Already a bit better.
  • Meshing two fragments: If we write every day and build up a catalogue of song ideas, adding one into another song may be a gift for a change of pace, pre-chorus, bridge. (Tip: they probably don’t fit together just like that – it’s essential to adapt and meld and not create SongFrankenstein).
  • Lists: If you have a good title or starting idea then build on that. Mind-mapping or just listing is great for this. Look in the dictionary and all the other forms of the word, or in the thesaurus: e.g.:

http://www.wordreference.com/thesaurus/innocent 

innocent‘ also found in these entries:

above reproach – above suspicion – angelic – artless – benign – blameless – boyish – callow – candid – chaste – child – childish – childlike – clean – clear – cleared – credulous – excusable – guiltless – inexperienced – modest – naive – natural – pure – safe – simple – sinless – tasteless – unsure – unsuspecting – unsuspecting – untarnished – with clean hands

Some great ideas there already.

Let me know what you think, especially if you are a fellow Billy fan…

Songwriting Resources 2 – Songwriting blogs

Guess what? SongExpresso does not have any monopoly on amazing songwriting ideas. Here are a few really good blogs for finding others:

 

  • Nicholas Tozier: He’s into practice, discipline and focus. And language. And finishing songs.
  • USA Songwriting Competition: Not so much for the competition itself, but the blog almost always has top level professional guest bloggers who (again almost always) have something non-obvious to contribute.

 

Do you use any of these or any other ones? Recommendations (but not spam) always welcome and I will review the worthwhile ones here.

 

See also other sections on:

Songwriting Resources 1 – Essentials

On these pages will appear the things I use and like. Maybe some of them will work for you. I don’t get anything for recommending them! Send me your favorites and I’ll look into adding them here.

“Ideas Notebook” / “Ideas Journal”

Not optional. My mind is not large or fast enough to remember all of the ideas that come to me. Also, you can’t predict when or where inspiration will strike. And you need it to be digital i.e. searchable. We are incredibly lucky these days to have smartphones, tablets etc. etc. that do this. My favorite is Evernote. You can add text notes, record sounds, pictures (e.g. photos of handwritten notation or tabs), webpages (it has a sister widget called Clearly that cuts out most of the junk from web pages just leaving the bits you want to read), emails and almost anything else. The first drafts of this post were written in Evernote. (Yes, you can use a paper notebook – but: Is it really portable? And do you promise to: (i) write legibly; (ii) be disciplined about writing in different sections for different categories of things; and (iii) remember where things were or even copy out on a regular basis to ensure you can find them? I am old school for some things, but I am not good at any of that. And I refuse.). There are others (e.g. OneNote). Doesn’t matter which one, but you need to find one, get one, and use it.

Thesaurus/synonyms dictionary

Compulsory (see what I did there). The “I’m sure there’s a better word for that” book. I have always used Roget’s Thesaurus (though never quite worked out why the part you need to look at first is at the back). But I also have an Oxford Thesaurus which goes from A-Z. For now I use paper ones. No good reason for that.

Rhyming dictionary

Also not optional. I have a Penguin Rhyming dictionary (also have to look in the back first – what?) – and probably would like to get a bigger one. There are some good smartphone apps out there: I used to really like “RhymeNow”, but it seems now to have stopped working on later versions of iThings. “Prime Rhyme” is OK though words appear apparently in random order and mixed syllable lengths. It also has definitions which might be interesting sometimes. “Rhyme” is the best pick out there for me at the moment – it’s not the most beautiful but it has free version and a paid version with more settings and no ads.

 

Do you use any of these or any other ones? Recommendations (but not spam) always welcome and I will review the worthwhile ones here.

 

See also other sections on: