A chapter from The Smart Songwriter – The Ultimate Guide to Songwriting, Available Here

Some believe that inspiration is not a real factor in writing songs but only a kind of legend or myth. These people are sort of right.

Inspiration is something that certainly comes from above and allows us to write great songs, but it is also the result of everything we feed on, so it often happens that for long periods we have no kind of idea of how to write a song and that is where preparation comes into play.

Within this book, we have already addressed some techniques of preparation, such as destination writing, reading a book or going to the cinema. In short, feeding our brain and our soul.

For many, it is essential to take notes on ideas, words, conversations, all recorded on their mobile phones, on post-its, anywhere. For others, these are just moments of pure inspiration. Another way to prepare, is to write a real diary, a kind of therapeutic document in which to vent about what happened during your day, in the world or to some of your closest friends.

Another method is to write additional invented verses on existing songs that you love. According to Bruce Springsteen, we have everything we need to write great songs as early as at the age of 12 or even 18.

Other people write purely for themselves without thinking about the listener or a particular topic at all. All these methods and techniques are valid, none is better than the other. The important thing is to understand what works best for you and for your creative process.

After the preparation part, comes the real inspiration, that moment when the song seems to come from nowhere. Tom Waits says that “inspiration is like taking a picture in the nature, you stand still with your camera in your hands for three days without anything happening and then suddenly there it is, the perfect picture.”

The real inspiration is made of small moments in which we think of phrases, melodies and whether we like it or not, we must absolutely note them down somewhere, otherwise they will be lost forever.

Chris Martin tells in an interview that he had the title “A Sky Full of Stars” for years, having written it on at least 7 songs, none of which was good enough for him. One day, he decided to sit at the piano and the right words and the perfect melody came out naturally. Nobody knows where the inspiration really came from and maybe it is not even important to ask oneself.

Another aspect of creativity is certainly the drama. You must have heard many times various artists say that they have written their best songs in moments of personal suffering own or of others.

Think of Adele, who built her first success and sold millions of copies based on the break up with her historical boyfriend. Or Eminem, who says that, if there had not been drama in his life, his songs would be absolutely boring. However, songwriting does not come in moments of deepest despair, songwriting can only be therapeutic when you have a clear vision of that moment.

Art comes from the precise description of a situation in our inner life and only a real understanding can help us write about something so deep and true. Creating a song is not only about applying techniques and tricks, but is, above all, a way of driving demons out of our hearts.

Finally, now that we have collected everything we have inside, we can start writing. A lot of us start from the melody and it seems that most of the Hit creators work in exactly this way as well. Sing your melodies with words that come to mind in a made-up language or your own and then work on the text.

A great example of this is Nik Kershaw ‘The Riddle’, it was a scratch vocal with words to help shape the melody. The Record Company heard the demo. He then finished the song and they didn’t like what he had written, they wanted the demo… the rest is history! Hence the name ‘The Riddle’

‘You can sing your song in front of 85000 people and they will sing it with you for 85000 different reasons.’

Dave Grohl

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