Lyrics or music first?
That’s the most asked question about songwriting.
The answer is always the same… yes.
What do I mean yes? Which is it, lyrics or music first?
It doesn’t matter what you start with first, as long as you start.
Sure, you’ll hear people say…
You absolutely have to start with a title first.
You’ve got to know what song form you’re writing.
Or, you’ve got to have an idea of what you’re going to write about before you sit down to write.
Don’t believe any of those absolutes.
If you’re new to songwriting, you want to know how to start a song right, right?
Truth is, if you have a smidgen of a lyric and nothing else.
Go for it.
Got a couple chords and a cool riff?
Go for it.
Go for it.
A hint of an idea and no chords or words to go with it?
Go for it.
There is no absolute right way, or wrong way.
Just because one songwriter does it one way, doesn’t mean it suits everybody.
In a recent interview, classic rocker Peter Frampton, said he starts most of his songs by just messing around on the guitar.
He feels he needs to be inspired a bit before he can write.
Others say they need to be inspired too, but they get inspired the minute their pre-arranged co-writer shows up at 10:00 AM for the writing appointment.
One Nashville pro writer at a NSAI Song Camp said she just sits with her guitar, plays something, and mouths gibberish until an idea or line hits her.
That was extremely freeing to me as a young writer.
That’s how I started many songs.
I always thought I was some kind of a fool wannabe songwriter with out a clue of what to do.
I was freed that day.
And so should you be freed.
You’ll find your favorite way to start a song
But, no doubt you’ll write using all manner of ways to kick the starter on your musical Harley.
Songwriting has lots of facets to it. Inspiration can grab you from anywhere.
Sometimes it feels like your running a straight line in a dad-gum field. A net out stretched, hoping a butterfly will fly in your path and wind up in your net.
Truth is, sometimes it is that way.
And sometimes you’ll say…
Hey, I want to write a song about a scary movie on TV. Sit down with pen and paper, and wind up with your own acoustic version of Thriller.
Song ideas, titles, lyrics, and melodies can come from all kinds of places.
Sometimes even other songs.
Now, you can’t copy anyone else’s song, but one line from it might make a great title.
A particular riff might make a part of a melody line.
Maybe you thought the song was going to go a certain way, and it didn’t, but your idea was better, so you wrote it.
You’ve heard Dan Fogelberg’s song Same Old Lang Syne, right?
If not, find it on YouTube.
Did you know the lines, “Met my old lover at the grocery store,” has the slowed melody of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture?
He actually did it as a joke, thinking the song was a throw away until he got great feedback on it. The Tchaikovsky piece is long out of any copywrite and most wouldn’t know it unless they went back to listen to it.
Which no doubt you will now that I’ve peaked your curiosity.
So it just goes to show, you can start writing with anything, as long as it’s legal in the end.
The point is, get started.
And… oh hey, look what time it is now. Time to get writing!