Years ago I picked up my new issue of Domino. I was excited because Zooey Deschanel was on the cover. If you don’t know who she is (I mean of course you know who she is), well…think New Girl, She and Him, and Elf. She is also a songwriter. The article on Zooey focused on her home. One room in particular stood out, her song writing room. I basically drooled over it for months and imagined having my own space like that to create beautiful music….fast forward 4 or 5 years, and I don’t have a space to create music at all. I love where I live, I have a wonderful roommate, but no space to write music. You need an inspiring place, or at least I do. So whether it be in your home or someone else’s find the space to do it.
I am going to challenge myself to find a place to write in 2015, even if it means renting a small studio. I live in Dallas, shouldn’t be too hard right? Actually I’ve been looking for months and only found dead ends, so I might have to get creative, like a storage unit? This has actually crossed my mind. Public places are not really great for writing songs, since I need to have a place I feel comfortable singing about things that well…like a diary only need to be heard by me. Until I think I can turn a song into something beneficial for others to hear, and not too embarrassing (like that last break up) I want to keep it to myself.
Which gets me to my first tip for song writers just starting out:
1. Bare your soul.
Maybe that sounds a little dramatic…but learning to do this in songs can be therapeutic. Have something personal that you want to get out in the open. Don’t imagine yourself singing to a crowd of people…let song writing be just you baring your soul to, well…you. Can you write songs about just having a nice day? Yes of course. And those can be great, but if then you have to ask yourself why you want to write songs. For me it’s all about getting what’s been subconsciously deep inside…well…out there. Some days I might just write a song about needing more time to sleep in, which I have, but it came from a place of longing, even though it was light hearted and fun.
Anyone can write a song, I don’t care if you have musical talent or not, you have experiences, you have something to share, and you can do it in a song. Now, if you have little musical ability than yeah, your songs might take more effort, and if you can’t sing, maybe someone else will need to sing them. But songs don’t have to be written for a crowd, they can be written just for the release that comes from writing them.
2. Make a list of songs that inspire you.
So you want to write a song and you aren’t sure where to start. Make a list of songs that inspire you, and well…listen to them. Try to notice what about the song makes you want to listen to it. Is it something in the singer’s lyrics that touches you? Is it something in the melody that catches you and keeps you singing it all day? If it’s the melody how are you going to create a melody that also is catchy? Just something to think about.
3. Play your instrument and sing it out.
Sit down with your guitar, piano, or ukelele. (I love my ukelele, I can bring it anywhere because its so small and cute). Play a couple of chords you like over and over and let what ever melody that comes to you sing it out. If you are having writers block pick some chords from a song you know or have been practicing (doesn’t have to be your song). Come up with a different melody. Sing it out, close your eyes. Make up words, whatever words come to mind even if they don’t make sense (sometimes I just make up words, they aren’t real, but it helps me come up with a melody).
If you aren’t a singer play with a melody, add a few notes at a time that sound good. Play around with it.
4. Start with a poem.
Sometimes if I am not in the mood to sing, I might go to a coffee shop and write down my feelings. I try to put it in a poem. I have folders of poems I have written. If I want to write a song and start with a poem I’ll grab my folder look through them and whatever lyrics jump out at me I’ll sit down with at the piano and try to see if a melody comes. I don’t always start with a poem. Most of the time I have the melody first and then bring the lyrics in. But chances are with as many poems I have, I can usually find lyrics that fit a melody I’ve just come up with and I just edit till I like it.
5. You aren’t professional, who cares?
Why does doing something in our culture have to end with being a professional? Chances are if you haven’t written a song before, you aren’t going to start even if you want to, why do it? You argue that you aren’t going to play for someone or potentially make money at it. But that isn’t a reason to start it anyway. Do it because it is something beautiful. Do it because of the amazing results of peace that come with it. Do it for yourself. You may not have that much time to start song writing, but believe me, once you start you will become addicted. It’s one of my most treasured times I have to spend with myself. Writing with others is crazy rewarding too. It doesn’t have to be anything other than a hobby, but if you keep it up you never know what the hobby could turn into. But, it should always be about enjoying it, writing music under stress sucks the life out of you…as I have experience before.
6. Pick up an instrument, even if you’ve never learned one.
If you don’t know an instrument then you should pick one up, because instruments make song writing that much easier and fun. A simple cheap and inexpensive instrument that is great and simple for song writing is a ukelele. It’s small, most chords are just two fingers. If you just learn three chords on the ukelele you can write 100s of songs. Youtube has tons of ukelele tutorials. So lessons are free.
I hope some of these have helped inspire you to pick up a new hobby. Chances are if you enjoy listening to music, you will absolutely fall in love with creating it. Have a wonderful weekend!