On December 4, 1971 Deep Purple was going to record their Machine Head album just after a Frank Zappa concert at Montreux. However, someone fired a flare gun at the ceiling after the concert and the place was set on fire while Deep Purple sitting in the audience. The band moved to a nearby restaurant and when the fire died, they could see a layer of smoke just on the Lake Geneva. This picture inspired Deep Purple’s bass guitarist Roger Glover about the song title: Smoke On The Water. Ian Gillan, the lead singer, wrote up the lyrics of the song for their Machine Head album.
The inspiration for songwriting can come from virtually anywhere which is why so many people find it difficult to do at times. Since there is no one source for inspiration, finding it to write your next great song can seemingly be a very arduous task.
It must be stated that songwriting is a talent which some people have in spades. However, everyone has this talent inside them so you can access it to write your next song. You may find that your muse or inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places. Here are ten tips that you can use to help you find the inspiration needed to craft your next song and many more after that.
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1. Don’t Wait For Inspiration To Arrive
It has been said that great songwriters do not sit around waiting for the right moment to strike. Instead, they go out and find the things that inspire their next work. This may mean going out for a walk, looking at images in magazines, talking to someone on the phone, or just settling in with your computer at the ready. Whatever it is you’ll find it and learn how to use it to write your next song, just be sure that you go out and get it instead of waiting for inspiration to strike.
White room – Cream (1968)-Written by Pete Brown who was a friend of Cream’s bass player Jack Bruce. The song expresses depression and hopelessness. Pete Brown said “It was a miracle it worked, considering it was me writing a monologue about a new flat.” The music was inspired by a cycling tour Bruce took in France.
2. Write Notes When Inspiration Strikes
While you should seek out inspiration, it can also strike at anytime. In fact, many great songs have been written because the inspiration for them came at the most unusual times and were written or recorded at that moment. According to biographers of McCartney and the Beatles, McCartney composed the entire melody of the song “Yesterday” in a dream one night in his room at the Wimpole Street home of his then girlfriend Jane Asher and her family. Upon waking, he hurried to a piano and played the tune to avoid forgetting it (wikipedia.org). That singular moment might have been lost forever had it not been recorded when it occurred, so always be ready to write or record when the moment happens.
3. Write On A Daily Basis
It is important to develop the habit of writing on daily basis, even if you do not complete a song on the first day. Take about 15 to 20 minutes from your day and devote it to writing so that you can get into the rhythm and feel of the song. You can have a recorder next to you and play what you feel as a start or you can begin at another place. Wherever you feel comfortable writing is important so that you can develop a habit that will stick to you.
4. Tap Your Inner Voice
You should write from your own vision and not from others. This does not mean that you shut yourself off from other music. However, your inspiration should come from within so that what you write is original and represents who you are. The best songwriting comes from your own interior voice that expresses who you are to the world. Do not be afraid to tap it as it is really the only resource that matters.
5. Write In The Morning
While inspiration can strike at any time, writing in the morning before you do anything else is usually the best advice. Your day has not yet become cluttered with responsibilities or consumed with being on social networks, replying to email, and the like. A fresh mind is a great place to start writing a song. The important part is that you take a little time each morning to write so that your inspiration is fresh and without distraction which makes it easier to go from your mind to the computer or paper.
6. When It Doubt, Start With Melody
Of melody, rhythm, chords, or lyrics, many who are new to songwriting often choose the melody because it may be the easiest. Of course, you may be different and therefore go with what is most comfortable to you.
However, you can purchase a cheap digital recording device and hum the melody when it strikes you. Later, you can listen back on the recording to see if it appeals to you or not. In this manner, you are in some ways writing all of the time and capturing ideas when they happen when you record the melody first.
7. Take It One Step At A Time
Inspiration is a wonderful thing when it hits, but it is also quite finicky because it can disappear with no notice whatsoever. One moment you are writing or recording a great song and then the next, poof! All of your inspiration has disappeared without a trace. That is actually quite common because inspiration is ethereal in nature which means that it cannot be captured or contained, only referenced for an indeterminate length of time. When your inspiration disappears at least try to finish the main lines or basic structure of the song. This will provide some form of completion and you can go back and try again.
8. Words And Expressions
Another great source of inspiration is the words people say and how they express them. A great example is the Buddy Holly classic, “That’ll Be the Day” which Buddy wrote after seeing the movie, “The Searchers” in which John Wayne’s character used the line repeatedly. You can use the words, phrases, and lines you hear every day and transform them into songs.
9. Not Every Inspiration Will Be A Hit
For every song that becomes a classic there are thousands of others that will never get written because they are simply not good enough. Remember, that is perfectly okay to write songs that never succeed because they help lead you to songs that become hits. There really is no failure when it comes to songwriting save for the times when you don’t write at all.
10. Never Become Discouraged
It really doesn’t matter how many songs you write as long as you are creating them. It may take you many hours or days to fashion a single song or perhaps only a few minutes to get out the basic structure and have it ready to record. What is important is that you keep writing all the time. Do not become discouraged and never let anyone else’s opinion keep you from songwriting.