When an idea for a song pops up, from where does it appear? From a dream? A movie? An image or title in your notebook/journal? From thin air? Are you on a walk in the forest? On an exercise bicycle at the gym? In the shower? Doing the dishes or laundry? Do you have a happy place where you go to let the ideas flow? Your music room? Studio? What kind of activities seem to get the groove moving? Do you dance around the room? Do songs start to appear after a yoga session?
Nick Cave creates a space and time for “inspiration” to come to him. He welcomes the ghosts, angels, and spirits of creativity, and he is ready to write everything down.
If you have a process or schedule that works for you, do you stick to it? Do you go to your “writing space” at the same time each day? Respected artist Nick Cave has stated that he does. He creates a space and time for “inspiration” to come to him. He welcomes the ghosts, angels, and spirits of creativity, and he is ready to write everything down.
And when the words, melodies, grooves, and sounds come knocking, how do we make sure they don’t disappear as quickly as they came, and we lose them? These are issues and questions that go back to the beginning of humankind. Documenting important moments in human’s lives started by telling stories and sharing through generations.
Here are descriptions of how folk music is passed down from generation to generation, and around communities and travel. The article focuses on the European and American traditions, but the process is similar all over the world. Songs are taught by hearing rather than reading. And songs are constantly changed by people adding their own words and music.
We might sing or speak into our phones to record as we walk our dog, hike in the woods, or while waiting for a bus.
In our modern-day environments, we might sing or speak into our phones to record as we walk our dog, hike in the woods, or while waiting for a bus. Or if we are actually sitting in our recording studios (tiny or gigantic), maybe we’ve got the laptop/desktop humming along and we can hit the buttons that collect our bits and pieces of notes, story, beats, characters.
Here are some examples of tools for recording/documentation you can use while you are in the middle of that rush of ideas.
And after the first impressions are documented, then what? I know songwriters who keep notebooks full of titles and pick one every once in a while and see if a melody or story pops up. And then begin filling in the blanks.
From Graham Weber, member of the Western Youth band and Manager of the Austin, TX location of the House of Songs collaboration program:
“My process in the past few years is Voice Memo on my phone. And then transcribing onto a doc on my computer or onto blank paper (with a verse/chorus on each page). Then I lay it out, physically lay it out so I can see the form, structure, flow. And once it’s good I type it and save it. So, Voice memo-to-handwritten-to-typed out and saved when it’s a keeper.”
Regarding how and when to capture those amazing moments where the information and images keep coming, I remember what legendary songwriter Lou Reed told me when I was in his band in the 90’s. To paraphrase him……”In the 70’s and 80’s I would wake up at night with an idea and just roll over and go back to sleep thinking if the idea was great, I’d remember it when I woke up. Actually, that didn’t happen. So as the years went by, I knew better. Now when something shows itself, I get up, go to the laptop and record it, write down the words, play the guitar part, whatever it takes. So, when the antenna picks up the next signal, I’m ready to catch it.”
Lou in the early 80’s discussing the process, of finding themes, characters, and storytelling using the song form. And bringing a literary mind to rock and roll.
I would wake up at night with an idea and just roll over and go back to sleep thinking if the idea was great, I’d remember it when I woke up. Actually, that didn’t happen. So as the years went by, I knew better.
– Lou Reed
This is an old VHS clip and ends ca 2.54 – but Lou states what he’s after as a writer. We’ll explore more about taking a song from your mind and eventually presenting it to the public.
See you then. And on we go.
Cover photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash.