Songwriting Diary #1 : From nothing to something.

I’ve finally put to be bed all the ideas and thoughts I had flying about for years, and released my first ‘proper’ album This is Who I am.

With the slate now clean. I thought I’d put together a diary of the songwriting process from beginning idea to final cut, so here it is…..

The first part of the songwriting process (in my case the initial song idea) is always the hardest to explain. I had a general theme in mind, which was a song for my wife, but something a little different, other than being a generic love song, I wanted to make a statement that times were tough, and although I’ll always keep the vows I made, this song was all I had left to give at this time.

I really liked the idea, but at this stage on idea is not enough for nothing to become something, so I turned to the trusty acoustic guitar in an attempt to come up with something soft and gentle but also a bit quirky to catch the listener’s attention. After a short while tinkering with the usual finger-picked G and C patterns, I tried something a slightly different, Instead of picking the strings individually, I picked them in pairs, which led a sort of piano-like quality to the proceedings. Also, instead of simply playing the accompanying bass note straight, I hammered onto it from a semi-tone down.

Happy with this verse idea, I know needed some chorus chords. The key of G major’s best friends are D, Am, Em and even maybe Bm. Am immediately appealed, firstly resolving to C via a passing B/C chord, and then more decisively back to the root of G.  I opened up the picking more here, settling back into a more comfortable and recognizable style to change the mood.

At this stage I also had a bit of melody/lyric worked out,

Verse:

Nothing but the best for you…

……

All the words I said to you….

…….

Chorus:

…..

This is all I have this time.

As you can see, Initially I didn’t have much, only had the first and second rhyming lines of a four-line verse done,  and only the second line of a two-line chorus done. You don’t need completed lyrics at this stage as you can hum the rest. At this stage, as the late great Freddie Mercury once said “Yes, we have a song!”, and nothing becomes something.

So, piece by piece I filled in the gaps..

Verse

Nothing but the best for you

Every single time

I give you what’s mine

All the words I said to you

Every single line and rhyme

Chorus

I meant every word I said

But this is all I have this time

Verse

Someday we could sail away

Leave it all behind

For the rest of our lifetime

Thinking back at what we made

Raise a glass to them and smile

 

From here, I could add another verse and/or middle section to increase the song length and add interest. But it’s important you don’t just add sections for the sake of it. Only add sections if the song needs it.

A good way to gauge this sort of thing is to get feedback,  play it to someone, as it happens a friend of mine has a YouTube channel which he invited me onto, and was an ideal place to give my new song idea it’s first airing, so here it is….

 

Regardless of what other people say though, it’s how YOU feel about your song that matters. If you love it, pursue it, if it’s not working out, and to quote Freddie once again “Forget it and move onto something else”. Don’t be too blase either though, always listen to feedback, good or bad, and use it to improve your songwriting. Never get lazy and think you know it all, you can ALWAYS improve.

For more songwriting tips, I have another article, How to Write a Song

Next, we’ll look into putting together a more polished demo and starting the production process.

2 Responses

  1. poeturja says:

    Wow! Very interesting reading about writing a song, music first. I don’t read music and have only played ukulele for a year but memorized chords, had all my poems, and followed the Circle of Fifths for chording (“writing”) a song. My stuff is really amateurish, my voice is scratchy, I play slowly, but having so much fun! Still, I always wondered if I could write music first and then a poem/lyrics from that. Anyway, great song and your wife is sure to love it! :-).

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