People often ask me how I come up with concepts for songs. Years ago, I realized I look at songwriting like a director looks at making a movie. I like my songs to tell stories. When writing a song, I’m always asking myself “what do want to say in this story?” and “where am I going with this story?” Just to give you an example, I once wrote a song about a 2 minute conversation I had with a lady.
1) I started the song out with what was said at the beginning of the 2 minute conversation.
2) Then what I did after that conversation was over and
3) Then I went back to what we meant to each other before the conversation.
As I let people hear the song they immediately felt the emotion of the song through the lyrics as well as the performance. Here are some things for you ponder when writing songs.
What story does your song tell?
When you write, what are you trying to say? Do you write songs more abstract, conversational or a little of both? Are you getting your point across lyrically or are you struggling with getting your true feelings on paper? If you do struggle with getting your true feelings out, try not censoring yourself. By that I mean put down exactly what you feel and stop worrying about if your lyrics rhyme or not.
What do you write about most?
Take some time to think about the subject/s you write about most. If you are a professional lyricist then you probably do not have a particular focus but the average songwriter will lean toward a particular subject. I am not saying writing about one subject is bad but it is keeping you in a box. So it is best to realize it so you can focus on writing about different subjects. That will promote growth as a songwriter and lyricist.
What songs strike a chord with you and your emotions?
Remember how songs made you feel when you were a child? Now as an adult you here some of those songs and you get that same feeling. Have you ever wondered why? I can hear a song by Michael Jackson and I will get the same feeling I got when those songs first hit the airwaves. Whitney Houston is another one, I remember the first time I heard “You Give Good Love” I could not take my eyes off of her. I was watching a special about her and when they played “You Give Good Love” those same feelings came back. Words can not describe the power of music. I have always thought that the songs that touch you the most have a perfect marriage between the music and the vocal.
These are a few things to think about when constructing or deconstructing a song. Most people think songs come from pure inspiration. While there are songs that come from inspiration, great songwriters make a study of songwriting so when the inspiration hits they will have the tools to capture it.