by: Konner Scott
When trying to come up with a new song idea, there are thousands of different strategies I can employ. However, the bulk of the time, I find myself gravitating to two specific techniques that work well for me.
The first strategy is: start writing and see what comes out. No, really, that’s it. There’s no big secret or hidden tool. I just start playing guitar and piano, singing some random gibberish, and if I’m lucky, somewhere along the way, I latch onto something worthwhile. If I have enough sense, when a good idea emerges, I’ll grab onto it and let it carry me forward.
This strategy is very hit-or-miss. Sometimes the idea isn’t very good, and sometimes, even if it is, I don’t execute well on this. The advantage to this method, though, is that I’m able to generate a bunch of songs very quickly without a lot of forethought. It’s great songwriting practice.
Additionally, I often come up with ideas, themes, and stories that would never have emerged in a more formal creative process. Some of my best songs and some of my worst songs have come as a result of this method.
The second strategy is: I sit down and just brainstorm ideas, then write them down. I’ll usually come up with a short phrase (“Bottom of the Waterfall”), followed by a brief description (“a song about a relationship that seems to be going well, but everything’s about to go south and neither party realizes it”).
This method is nice because it’s very consistent. In one sitting, I can generate 10-15 ideas, and then just pick the best and go from there. By the time I start writing, I already have confidence in the idea, and a general sense of how to construct the song and tell the story. This strategy takes more time, though, and the songs tend to be a bit more predictable and- dare I say it- formulaic.
Which method do I prefer? I honestly can’t say. They both have their place, and both strategies have been instrumental in my development as a songwriter. I genuinely believe that without having both the spontaneous approach and the meticulously planned approach in my back pocket, I would be a much worse songwriter. There’s a time and a place for each… and a million other ways to write a song, as well!