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Where Do You Get Lyric Ideas?
#3035811 03/30/20 10:27 PM
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I assume everyone is different in this respect. But, I also assume that if you have a specific way of doing things, you might find it helpful to see how others work...maybe there are some ideas worth being inspired by.

So to get it started, here's how it works for me: It always starts with the title. Maybe it's something someone says (that's it most of the time), or something that for whatever reason, pops into my head.

The title is almost always the hook, too. So when the song starts to take shape, the title might be the only lyric I have. But, all my songs are about stories, so the title has a "built-in" story just waiting to come out.

The lyrics are just nonsense syllables and occasional words while the song gets nailed down. My main concern isn't lyrics, it's the melody line. When it's time to start working on actual words, I fit them to the melody line as much as possible, including syllabic emphasis.

Then the story gets edited, like anything else I write. Dumb lines get removed. Lines get shuffled around...eventually there's a song.

So, how does it work for you?

Re: Where Do You Get Lyric Ideas?
Anderton #3035816 03/30/20 11:03 PM
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I'll share my example and the example of a collaborator I am working with, very different ways of going about things.

First, in the last few years I finally started carrying a small pad of paper and a pen with me at all times. This has really paid off! Others may prefer to record their ideas on their phones, anything that works is good.
One of the best takeaways I have from college was a photography instructor saying "You have to be ready to be lucky", advice I should have heeded sooner.

Sometimes I am in a noisy place when inspiration strikes. All of my songs except one are based on some sort of story, subject to exageration. I wrote two complete verses using the roof of my car in a retail parking lot for a table once. Recently at dinner with friends one of them jokingly mentioned a Lummi Nation coloquialism and I jotted down a verse and a chorus on the spot. Later a friend of mine wrote another verse and chorus, I think it might need a bridge and the story part is done. He played a classic country style and sang what we had, it fit perfectly. Will finish that soon.

The one song I've written that is not based on a story came from a random idea of writing a song that sounds like it is about something but is not actually about anything. Once I had the idea I wrote 3 verses and a bridge in about half an hour. The music came quickly too, it's ready to be recorded.

I can't explain inspiration, anything and everything can set off a burst of inspiration. I've written songs afer reading a book, remembering an event of some sort that stuck in my mind, somebody nearby saying something that caught my attention, seeing a sign or sticker, a photograph, an interesting visual in real life - yeegah!

For me, the story comes first, the song gets a title later but not always after completion. I've had songs that I got stuck on and wrote a bridge or changed a word literally decades later - it's very satisfying to feel like it's DONE! I never worry about the music, playing in a variety of original, original and cover, and cover bands has given me all the tools I need to create in a wide swath of genres.

One of my most popular and requested songs was written forever ago, when Dolly The Sheep was on the cover of Life or Newsweek or something. I saw it at the magazine stand in the supermarket and it got me thinking about the implecations of cloning mammals.

I tend to write songs that are a bit off the beaten path and funny. A fellow musicain told me "People will clap out of politeness but if you make them laugh you got them." That sticks with me too.


Now, my friend. Katie is a fountain of creativity and has always written by playing an instrument and just singing the song. Hopefully she remembers it!!! Lately we've been recording those songs so we can revist them without depending on memory.
I think that's great but it is not the way I work at all.

Looking forward to hearing how others write, great topic!


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: Where Do You Get Lyric Ideas?
Anderton #3035838 03/31/20 12:34 AM
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I never sit down to write a song about anything in particular. Mornings are best to just sit in solitude either with a guitar or at the keys and let it happen (or not.) More often than not, I'll get a lyrical phrase and a few measures of accompaniment. The lyrical phrase has to totally fit the vibe of the accompaniment, so sometimes there's a little adjusting things until I have that few measures as a "thing" (for lack of a better term.) Often I'll record the "thing" on my phone right then and there.

If it's a "good thing" then it's like a little seed or a fertilized egg. All the DNA of the song is buried in that little "thing" - the mood, the tempo, the first words, chords, riffs, playing patterns, etc. I don't worry about whether it's original, or sophisticated, or self-indulgent, or whatever evaluative terms one can come up with - I just have to like it and want to keep playing it and feeling it and letting the next move present itself.

If I'm lucky, the song will pretty much write itself withing the confines of a day or three. But probably 3/4 of the songs come to a halt at some point, and it's a slog from there. It makes me think of the old movie meme where someone says "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out differently." Well, artists are crazy, and eventually it does come out differently and I'll finish the thing. Sometimes it's years.

Usually it's the lyrics that are the holdup. But sometimes it's a feeling that the song just isn't good enough yet. Often it's coming up with a bridge, or how the chorus will contrast with the verses, or whether it's just a stupid song that I should simply abandon. Sometimes the whole thing is just too long and complicated and I'll take after it with an editor's blade, cut it all up, put it back together with half the parts left out - and then it works!

I read a lot of poetry, and I study poetic technique, scanning technique, the different forms poets use, all that stuff. At the end of the day, I want my songs to be good musical poetry. It's a hybrid thing, a different animal than an instrumental song or an actual poem - the rub between those forms is where the fascination lies for me.

nat

Re: Where Do You Get Lyric Ideas?
Anderton #3035839 03/31/20 12:49 AM
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I went back and read Craig's OP - where do I get my lyric ideas? Here's a quick list off the top of my head:

I love double meanings (like Elvis Costello's "Motel Matches" as an example.) Find a common phrase and work a double meaning out of it - lots of fun.

Phrases that you just hear going around can be good hooks, it you can make something new and interesting out of it.

Imagined conversations can be very productive for me. And have the melody or a riff follow the same inflections that someone might use in the conversation. For example, "you said, WHAT?" would occur on "four and ONE" with a big chord or snare hit or something on the ONE.

I have no problem with reading poems and finding things to borrow. Not explicit copying, but at a more abstract level. Like, say, here's a few lines from Philip Larkin:

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word

I hear a triple meter here "NEver such INNocence" NEver beFORE __ or SINCE." I hear a descending melody, the first line just descending the scale, the second line starting at a higher note, with that pause between FORE and SINCE being just right to soften the landing of the short phrase, sadly.

So I'll come up with something like that - "YOU said you'd MARry me. THEN you said OTH ___ther WISE."

So now I've got an egg/seed thing.

nat

Re: Where Do You Get Lyric Ideas?
Anderton #3035843 03/31/20 01:01 AM
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I asked Martha Davis where she got her idea for a song called "Call Me." It's a really sweet song, very lilting. I thought maybe she got the idea because she missed a lover, or wanted to talk to her daughter, or something.

"Oh, that? I took one of my animals to the vet, and the receptionist said "I'll call you in the morning." smile

Re: Where Do You Get Lyric Ideas?
Anderton #3035854 03/31/20 05:39 AM
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Almost all lyrics are a reflection of the composer's personal life. Putting life into lyrics is an interesting talent and there's multiple ways of doing it.

Lyrics can serve as a sounding board. Think blues.

Lyrics can tell a story. Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd was a hell of a storyteller, witness "Gimme Three Steps" and "Working For MCA".

Lyrics can be non-sensical. "Louie Louie" Need I say more?

I don't care much for Rap music but the lyrics can be an interesting study is placement of words and syllables as a rhythm device.

Don't sing lyrics like you are reading from a book at a podium. Too many folk singers do this and I lose interest. The expressions in music can be applied to lyrics to make them more interesting.

Don't cram too much in a song. John Entwistle was showing a song he wrote to his bandmates; after Townsend heard it he said he could write four songs from just that one.

Re: Where Do You Get Lyric Ideas?
Anderton #3035866 03/31/20 11:16 AM
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From various places.

Meaningless poetic jumbles (Black Market Daydreams), other people's relationship problems (My Lucky Day, Pull Yourself Together), my wife (Only Ever After You, The Dance of Hate), Jesus (Magic Spell, You Promised, The Life of Me, You are Here), God (Hypernatural), love (You Call to Me), people from my past (Headcase), Craig Anderton (Craig Anderton, Craig Anderton part 2) etc. etc.

A few years ago I saw something on the TV news about sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. So I wrote this. It's called Holy Mother! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7UlnTyIHZM

Last edited by BMD; 04/01/20 08:02 AM.
Re: Where Do You Get Lyric Ideas?
Anderton #3036413 04/03/20 12:08 AM
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Irrelevant, as my lyric-writing ability is a thing of horror. I can sometimes use it as an aid to remembering a melody, but if I were to put the lyrics together and sing them, people would throw heavy things at me. Instrumentals are more fun and safer.


Scotch whiskey is made from barley & the morning dew on angels' nipples. ~ Warren Ellis

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