The songwriting process can be a long, drawn out affair.
The muse, as Bob Dylan said "cannot be willed, only welcomed".
Many songwriters can write a song in minutes, for others it can take months if not years to write something worth exhibiting.
Dylan is a fan of quickly written songs. In an interview for Paul Zollo's book on Songwriting (highly recommended) he says "The best songs to me — my best songs — are songs which were written very quickly. Yeah, very, very quickly. Just about as much time as it takes to write it down is about as long as it takes to write it."
So here are five hacks to speed up the songwriting process:
1. Get a good night's SLEEP and write in the morning
Ok so the story goes that the best songs are written at 5 in the morning, sleep deprived.
Actually couldn't be further from the truth.
Getting a good night's sleep (circa 8 hours shut eye) works wonders. You are most creative 2 hours after you wake up, so start when you've gotten up, had breakfast and feeling energised.
2. Go for a long walk
To get your writing juices flowing it helps to get a natural high in the form of serotonin.
Believe it or not a long walk is enough to release this endorphin and get you waxing lyrical.
Make sure that you take with you a method of recording your idea though. It could be an old-school pen and notepad, or if you have a smartphone just use the note taking app. If you've created a particular melody you like record it on your audio recorder that most phones have these days.
3. Jam with mates
You know many of the best songs have been borne out of collaboration with someone else. Think Lennon-McCartney, Morrissey-Marr, Jagger-Richards. The list goes on.
However good you think your writing skills are, you'd be surprised by how bouncing ideas with a musician friend will fuel the creative process. It's no accident that so many bands jointly take the songwriting credits - it's sometimes a lot easier.
4. Listen to great music
I remember listening to Bob Dylan when I was younger and instantly feeling like I wanted to write my own songs. I remember a friend quickly putting me down, saying 'no don't' do that'.
Looking back that was rubbish advice.
Listening to great music helps massively to inspire you to write your own material. We don't want to blindly copy, no, there no merit in that, but studying music by 'the greats' (whoever that happens to be in your favourite genre) and analysing what makes it great is a smart thing to do. Remember all music has its influences. Standing on the shoulders of giants.
The creative process is one of the most unfathomable things known to man. What is it? How to do you capture it? What brings it on?
One thing is for sure - if you read what a lot of famous musicians say about writing music the one thing they all say is the 'music comes through them' (see Dylan's comment at the top of this page).
How can you invoke it then?
Well I'm a big advocate of daydreaming. That's right, daydreaming. Letting your mind wander where it will. You never know, you may just hit in an idea for a song, something deep in your subconscious.
Yep, I'm a daydream believer!
5 techniques I've used to write songs. What techniques do you use? Share them below...
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.