Setting The Tone
The first thing that is important in the formation of a songwriting idea is to set the tone. You have to set points of intrigue to get your juices flowing. Some songwriters are skilled craftsman enough to just create songs with no impetus. But most songwriters have to have some story, some hitch that will get your juices flowing in some direction. The first thing that is important is to set the tone. You have to set points of intrigue to get your juices flowing. Some songwriters are skilled craftsman enough to just create songs with no impetus to create. That’s okay. If you are able to do that and have a constant of creative juices to get you through, then okay. But most songwriters have to have some story, some hitch that will get your juices flowing in some direction. It could be a particular word, a particular phrase, a particular story or chapter. You could be inspired by an ad or TV show, a movie, or an infomercial. You just need something to draw your music and lyrics from. You have to have a seed or a topic to base your song or songs on. Many songs have the American idiom in them relating to the wars on terror or the idiom of love lost or gained. Many songs are written from songwriters’ own experiences of love lost or gained. Whatever experience drives the impetus for your creativity, use it.
Writing Without The Starting Point
Writing without an impetus to create is going to produce material that weighs less to you. You will end up laughing at yourself as you write stuff that is meaningless. This is what others say. This is what the critics would judge on. But your impetus to create could be as so small like a pinprick or a thought about something attractive or multiple things that come to mind. Feel free to mix and match those things in order to create the environment in which you will write. These images or other things that attract you could create the strong back bone that you need to lift the song from its humble beginnings to being a hit among hits in the business.
One question that may arise is: Is there away to create the impetus for songwriting creativity? The answer to that is there is a way. Turn on the TV. Turn on the radio. Listen to talk shows. Listen to religious programs. Get something in your spirit and your vibe that takes you away, that helps you create the back bones to award-winning songs. Make fun of what your critics say. Let’s say someone accused you of something in your past, write a song around it. Trust me, it will get a lot off your chest. The trick is to use creative word choice to dissuade from the fact that it’s about the people around you.
Find Stories to Use for Intrigue
I’ll give you some examples in this section of how I am able to use stories as points of intrigue to spark your songwriting. Many artists use stories from the war, stories from their friends, stories of hardship and longing, stories of happiness and blessed times, even stories that are quite nonsensical to put into songs to make them sell. For example, right now, I am using the horror story about a musician struggling to find his way and work at the local coffee houses. When he is unsuccessful, he’s at this other coffee shop and he suffers a massive seizure that prompts immediate medical attention. Throughout the story, I put in sample lyrics that the wounded musician would be singing as the emergency personnel are carrying him out of the lobby of the coffee shop and into a waiting medical response vehicle. One of these songs is called “Driving The Gig.” The chorus to the song is a sort of tagline that goes like this: “You can get your drive on all the time/But Lord, you just can’t hide/Riding away, I’d ride, Driving the gig.”
Now, you may be asking what this part of the song means. It basically means, you can try hard much of the time, but no matter how much you ride, you’d be hoping for the gig to come. Of course, different songwriters would have different meanings and interpretations based on what I’ve put here. But that’s okay. The lyrics don’t have to mean anything to people until later on until after the song has been out a while.
Paul Simon uses stories as a way to evoke deep memories of the times and events surrounding the sixties, including the Vietnam War Protests, Civil Rights and other movements. One story he tells has to do with a boxer who has searched high and low fighting for a cause that he thinks is pointless but continuing to search for salvation. It has become one of the biggest and best selling songs on his album Bridge Over Troubled Water. To break the song down, Simon starts by talking about how the supposed boxer is a poor boy who is promised a pocket full of mumbles such as promises. What are these mumbles that Simon talks about? This is just my opinion, but the mumbles were the riches that were promises of better things to come. The main character is forced to roll with life’s punches and suffice with what little he is given. He goes on living his life traveling from train to train, getting what little he can get for his more than modest efforts to look for work. Hence “Asking only workman’s wages, I come looking for a job, but I get no offers, Just a come on from the whores on Seventh avenue. I do declare there were times when I was so lonesome, I took some comfort there.” Bridge Over Troubled Water by fortune of a different design was used as a message of calming embrace as if to say, “I will lay down my life, my insecurities for your comfort. Hence, the line in the chorus, “I will lay me down.” The opening lines “When you’re weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all” are a set up to this magnetic chorus that explodes from the speakers of any venue playing the song as a message addressing the weary and dragging crowd. In the song’s line, “If you need a friend, I’m sailing right behind,” there is the promise of a friend whenever you need a comforting soul to make it through a hard or lonely day or night. “Bridge” makes the use of saving production for the last verses. This is known as the kitchen sink production. Every surging depth of instrumentation is on hold until the very last verse. This signifies the climax of the song. Everything in the verse up to the final reprise of “Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind!” is expertly written and executed in the recording as an anthem to heal a nation suffering through a decade filled with tragedy. Other songs are laced with humorous longing as in “Why Don’t You Write Me?” and “So Long Frank Lloyd Wright “and a slim chance tale of going across the county line driving who knows what in “Keep The Customer Satisfied.” Much of the songs composed on this album have a two verse or three verse system with or without a bridge and instrumental break. The three verse song is mostly a traditional staple used by most artists before and since the making of Bridge .
A lot of songs written by Simon in the sixties had short times just over two minutes, some just over one. But it was also with Bookends and this album that Simon began to experiment with longer timed songs that had more involved stories in the lyrics. Many artists since this album in the history of pop and rock have done the “extended version” or “extended outro” device that became popular on many of the rock albums beginning in the mid-1970’s where the guitarists and other featured instruments would do outrageous solos and orchestrations in order to sell the album and the record if it wound up on the radio. “Hotel California” is a particular song that had this trademark. The solo that would be the one of the hour here would be the two guitars’ riff played by Don Felder and Joe Walsh. They trade off in intervals of thirds doing arpeggios (in it happens to be B minor) up and down the scale. Chicago featured the extended outro in the brass arrangements that ended many of their hits.
While we’re on the subject of using stories as a point of intrigue, there is also a possibility of songwriting based on poems that have already been written that may or may not have been intended to be songs. In 2003, Art Garfunkel made a comeback album called Everything Waits to be Noticed where his collaborators Buddy Maddock and Mia Sharp helped transform poems from Garfunkel’s 1989 book Still Water to pass for grand hits like “The Kid,” “Bounce,” and “Perfect Moment.” When you take a poem to put it to a song, it can be achieved in two ways: You can either leave the original poem in its entirety and put memorable melodies to it, as Garfunkel originally tried to do or you can do what his two collaborators did and transform it into a song by summarizing various lines of the poem and then adding other filler lines that are more musical.