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You Don’t Need An ‘Idea’ To Start A Song

I’ve worked with many songwriters who’ve said to me, “I’m not writing because I just don’t have any ideas for songs.”  I can’t speak for them, but I know that when I have that thought… I’ve gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick.

For me songs tend to start one of two ways.  One is that a fragment of words, melody, and/or harmony occur to me (I get an ‘idea’), and a song starts from that.  The other way, much more common these days, is that I sit down with a guitar and just start messing around, singing and playing.  More often than not, something comes up.  It’s not always good, but sometimes I think it is, and sometimes I can make a song out of it.

There are those who wouldn’t start a song without a good chorus/title idea to build around.  I’ve done that many times and it’s great.  There are many ways to write – a good method is whatever works.  My point is that I don’t have to ‘Have An Idea’ to start writing a song.  Writing a song is a way to get an idea!

I make a time and place for writing, and just PLAY… like a kid in a sandbox; at first anyway.   A kid’s not worrying if his sandcastle is good or not; he or she is just exploring.  Then, when something interesting catches my ear… I start getting a little more ‘grown-up’ and develop things in a more focused way, hopefully without losing the sense of adventure that I started with.

Of course there’s often a time in the process – not always, but usually – when you just have to sweat it out to bring the song home – it’s just work.  But that can be fun too… if you like a challenge.

I just need to start writing.  Then, eventually, I’ll get an ‘idea’.  It might even be a good one.

One response to “You Don’t Need An ‘Idea’ To Start A Song”

  • CJ James

    Tony, I wonder if u have any tips/tricks/advice you can share about making that transition from the child to the grown-up without losing that spark and sense of adventure. Sometimes I find myself jumping in with adult ears a little quickly – editing, rhyming, molding.
    And do u record your ‘play’ times to capture any ‘genius’ flying by?:)


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