I recently cut my daily news intake by 95%, halved the number of books I read each year, and since logging off, I don’t do social media, work nights or weekends, or watch TV beyond the occasional sportsball game. This saves me an additional 20-40 hours a week. That’s the math.
The long answer comes in two parts:
- Try writing a song AWAY from your instrument, preferably when your head is clear or your emotions are strong. Think through or listen for melodies in your mind. Experiment with different harmonies and keys. Then when you find a measure or bar that sounds promising (i.e. it excites you), reach for your guitar to learn the notes and chords and build the song from there. Sing gibberish at first to explore different melodies and phrasing. As a bonus, play your single note melody on a boring old piano or acoustic guitar. If it sounds good there, you’re probably on to something.
- Once you have an arrangement in place, it’s time for lyrics. For those, I like to channel a lasting emotional event or feeling to develop the words and rhymes. If you don’t readily have any intense feelings or events, steal them from a friend or family member after learning about their trying or celebratory experiences. Then write your lyrics from that person’s (or people’s) perspective.
While I sometimes happen upon a promising melody or lyric while playing an instrument, I use the above two tips 90% of the time to get to what I hope is a radio-quality recording.
I also trim a lot of fat. I only record maybe half of my melodies to my phone. I trash up to one third more of the demos I do capture on my phone. And then I throw away an additional 15% of songs that make it to the studio—abandoning them halfway through recording (or in some cases after finishing) if they fail to excite.
You gotta play (and even record) some sour notes to sweeten your sound. Let’s make some music!