Master songwriter Ellis Paul is in the TrueFire Studio today shooting his first course with us on songwriting, and shared with us his “Song Idea Generator.” Check out his tips below and stay tuned for an announcement about his upcoming project again soon.
Ellis is also going to do a live online teaching session tomorrow (Tuesday, August 14th) at 2 PM ET. Tune in and ask questions!
The Source of Song Ideas
Write What You Know
Keep a journal with you! The emotional connection to your life’s story will make the songs rich in emotion and believable. Write down days of your life to turn into songs — they carved you into an artist. Write about what you love, what you hate, what is broken, your family, your love partners.
Use Books, Art, & Movies
Writers are readers. Find quotes from books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction that inspire ideas of your own. Take a journal to a movie and write down lines that inspire you. Look at art: Norman Rockwell, Van Gogh, Wyeth. Writer the stories of their art. Use the Internet and find quotes that will trigger your ideas. Listen to great songs.
You are a conduit. Imagine every song was already here, and you are discovering them. Stay out of the way and allow your stories, your people, your life to flow through your music. Keep the heavy-handed criticism away from the flow of the first draft. Don’t get in your own way! The more you write, the better the flow flows.
Something you want to steal. Your first kiss. Your greatest victory. Your hardest loss. Your secret crush. Write about home. What was your hometown like? Find a headline in the news today. Write the story of a non-human thing: a violin, a cat, a car. Writer about your most memorable road trip. What will you be like when you’re 100 years old? Open a fortune cookie and writer what’s inside. Write down your dreams.
You start with 3 chords and the truth! Improvise a series of chords until you hear something inspiring. What is the mood? Romantic? Angry? Thoughtful? Attach that mood to a person in your life, or a day or a new story. Change the tuning or jump to another instrument to be reinvigorated. Drop the D string or go into an entirely different tuning. Change is a good path to fresh ideas. Every instrument has a song.
Choose a historical figure you love. What made them unique? What is the backstory that brought them to their prominence? What joy, what scars do they have? What obstacles blocked their path? Write their backstory. Remember to show them in action. Let your descriptions explain their character to the listener.
Setting & Timing
Make space in your home. Create a private space to write in. An inspired space brings inspired songs. Set the mood in the space and your mind. Bring supplies to your songwriting room: sparkling water, food, lights, wine (in moderation!). Awake the soul with coffee. Find a daily routine for writing: early or late. Set your writing time so you are free of worldly distractions. Treat yourself to a hard-cover journal, they last for years. Try to finish your first draft in 72 hours. Write it while it’s hot! Free write daily on any subject you love. Morning notes make for good morning quotes.