10 Ways to Help You Come Up With Song Ideas

10 ways to come up with song ideas

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Let me guess, at one point in your life you wanted to be a rock star. Or a pilot. Or an astronaut. While we can’t really help you become the latter two, but we sure can give you great advice about coming up with great ideas for your songs!

It’s 2017! Almost anyone can come up with the new hit song! Out of the way Despacito, there are fresh new songs in town.

1. Stay Original

While this may seem as a no- brainer advice, it’s very important to keep it in mind.

You’ve probably seen a dozen of videos explaining the 4 chords that have been used for years now as the most popular recipe for most successful songs that have made the tops of charts.

Sure, you could go down that road and come up with a song of your own. But, you would soon find out that, at the end of the day, it’s nothing new and interesting.

Don’t be afraid to experiment, and try a different approach. With so many different genres of music out there, it’s almost guaranteed that someone is going to like what you’re doing.

Talk to your bandmates and try to make a rough sketch of your ideas. If your goal is to get a wide reach with your songs, think about what’s trending, and try to visualize your approach at the thing that’s most popular at the moment.

On the other hand, going underground, while risky, can pay off big time. Especially if there is a developed underground scene at your town.

Once you’ve established the main ideas, sound and image of your band, stick to it. Change of style isn’t bad, but, at the same time, shouldn’t be too drastic.

2. Remake/ Learn Other People’s Songs

The whole point of making your own music should be about getting your ideas and feelings out into the world.

They say that you can’t fully understand someone until you’ve walked in their shoes. I like to think that way about music.

Sure, listening to a song can certainly give you the goosebumps and get pretty emotional, but playing songs you find powerful can take that to a whole another level.

Think about every single detail of the song that makes it so good. Every bend, tempo change, and part of the lyrics that make you feel good when you’re listening to it.

Don’t be afraid to try and improve other people’s songs if you feel like you can do it. Of course, we are not telling you to take credits for other musician’s work, but it’s important to truly experience the music you find good, in order to create something near, or at that level.

A lot of famous musicians have started like this. Playing and experiencing the music of musicians and bands they found inspiring. Just make sure your end result doesn’t sound like a rip off in the end! Here's an interesting video demonstrating changing a melody that has already been written. Check it out! 

3. Listen to Music Within and Outside Your Genre

This is really an important tip. I’ve met so many people that, once you’ve asked them what kind of music they listen to, either say: “Only this and that”, or “Anything that has a catchy tune”.

At first, I had so much respect for the first group. I was a metalhead since I started listening to music as a kid, and I hated any other genre. Thankfully, I’ve matured enough to enjoy and appreciate other genres as well.

As a musician, being narrow- minded could easily spell disaster. Sure, if you prefer one genre over all the others, and are good at making that kind of music, great! However, if you plan on making your own music for more than a year or so, branching out to other types and genres is crucial.

Just search the internet for crazy new music genres, and you’ll soon get my point. With enough effort and musicality, you can mix up just about any two types of music and make it sound great.

You should never be afraid of experimenting, as it can really go a long way.

4. Create A Song Outside of Your Genre

Let’s take this a step further. Chances are you’re going to find other genres of music, besides the one you already like. Why not try and make a song of your own?

Think of one genre of music as one language. While getting better and improving at one language is definitely great, learning other languages gives you amazing opportunities.

No matter what your role in the band might be, exploring other genres will not only make way for new ideas but will help you in advancing with your playing level.

Who knows, maybe at the end of the day, you might find other genres to suit you better than the original one. You won’t know until you’ve tried it yourself.

5. Switching Up Instruments

It’s all about getting outside your comfort zone. First with different genres, and now with different instruments.

Though switching up instruments may seem as a waste of precious time, it can often result in very interesting ideas. If you are a guitarist or bassist, try drums. Chances are that you’ve thought of a beat that you couldn’t describe without sitting at the kit yourself, and vice versa.

You can go as far as even doing this regularly, or for a certain period of time. This opens up a whole new level of song making.

Not only can everyone contribute from a different angle, but it will also make every band member understand the other way more easily.

If you decide to take up this advice, it’s crucial to start simple. After years of practicing one instrument, taking up a new one, even for a short period, can get pretty frustrating.

Start with a basic beat, a couple of chords, and work your way through. It’s surprising how different songs turn out with a simple switch like this.

6. Get Rid Of That Writer’s Block

There’s hardly anything more annoying than encountering the dreaded writer’s block. Frustration builds up as you can’t think of anything good enough. Drum sticks break, guitar strings snap, it’s like there is no way out.

While everyone finds a different way to deal with this problem, I’ve found a couple of things that help the most, hear me out:

  • Take a break – Just take 5. Relax, eat something, go for a walk. Think about something else. Your brain isn’t a machine, it needs some time to reset and regain focus and concentration. You’re not going to think of anything good if you’re feeling stressed out.
  • Scrap everything, start from scratch – Once you’ve cleared your mind, start from the beginning. Whether it’s a similar idea or a completely different one, try a different approach. On the other hand, think about the part that blocked your flow the first time. Listen to some music you find inspiring, let it influence you and help you move over the block.
  • Don’t pressure yourself too much – You just can’t think of anything new? Big deal, it happens all the time. The whole point of making music is shaping your ideas and feelings into something you and others can experience. If it’s not your day, try tomorrow. Even the greatest musicians have this problem.

Making music should be something you love doing. If you force yourself into it, you won’t be satisfied with the end result. Great ideas take time and dedication. Nothing worth having comes easy! Sometimes you can resort to using a formula for song writing if you're really stuck. The video below outlines it nicely.


7. Build Around A Central Motive

So, you feel inspired. You’ve got a bunch of ideas floating around your head. You pick one that you find the most interesting. What now?

Okay, let’s say you come up with a cool beat. Have it playing in a loop and try to feel the groove.

Next, lay out some bass lines. Keep it simple, yet, at the same time, try to visualize any fills and licks that could go nicely with that beat.

Guitars are next. Strum away, lay down some chords in accordance with the overall mood of the song. A great way to think of a melody is to sing it! Don’t feel awkward about singing the tune first. It’s easy to play it afterward, but it’s important to come up with the general feel of the song.

This is exactly why jamming out with your band is so crucial. Having a steady rhythm and flow around which you can build your song makes a huge difference.

Now, change the key, slow down, or go faster, whatever your initial idea may be. Figure out the main parts of the songs, and build up, layer by layer.

Expressing your ideas may seem easier when you’re doing it alone, but trust me, with everyone contributing a piece by piece, a great song can come out of a simple beat or tune in no time. The video below shows an interesting case study of someone writing a song within one week. Check it out if you need some inspiration. 

8. Record All Of Your Ideas

A few decades ago, recording all of your ideas was way harder than today. Download a recording app on your phone and record away.

Instead of sitting down every day for writing sessions, try to think about your new song while you’re going to work or college, or while relaxing and watching TV.

Every time you think of a new groove or lick, record it. Tap your fingers on your desk, hum away, and great ideas are bound to appear.

At the end of the day, listen to your recordings. At first, they will probably sound like a bunch of unrelated tracks that seem impossible to mash together and make something coherent. But, after doing this often enough, you will soon find yourself putting together a song without even knowing it.

It’s even better to record jam sessions, whether it’s with your whole band, or if it’s just the two of you.

Another great benefit of doing this is that you can always turn to your recordings when you feel like you’re out of new ideas or encounter the writer’s block.

9. Collaborate With Other Artists

There is no better way of freshening your sound up than by introducing new people to your band.

For me, it’s similar to trying to switch up instruments with your bandmates. However, the artist you’re collaborating with should take the role they are comfortable with, in order to achieve the best results.

Think about the exact thing you would like to experiment with in your band by inviting someone over. Is it songwriting or vocals? Maybe it’s a guitarist you want to be featured in a guitar solo?

Whatever the case may be, if you choose a good artist for a collaboration, it can open many doors in the future of your band.

Not only will you have a totally new person to exchange ideas with, but you will also obtain a reach with people who already like the works of the artist you’re working with.

10. Don’t Be Too Self-Critical

I remember the first song me and my band came up with. After a couple of rehearsal sessions, we were satisfied with the end result. We had a gig coming up soon, so we had to practice playing it, in order to deliver a good performance.

After just a couple of days, I was sick of hearing our song. I thought it was awful, and wanted to start from the beginning.

This happens often, and you should be aware of that. While it’s certainly beneficial to make room for improvements, try not to completely abandon an idea, especially if you’ve worked hard in the first place.

Of course, you should be satisfied in the end, but it’s crucial to not have high hopes. Stick with your ideas, and try to improve your songs step by step!

That just about wraps our tips when it comes to the best ways of coming up with song ideas. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s all about having fun with your instruments and bandmates.

We hope that you found this article helpful, and thank you for reading. See you next time!

About the author

Glen

My name is Glen. I've been in the audio world for over 15 years. I love reviewing audio equipment and solving audio related problems.

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