As a songwriter, I am frequently asked about the origin of my original song ideas. Well, the short answer is that I mainly come up with ideas by sitting behind my piano and playing until something magical comes up. This may sound like putting a monkey behind a typewriter and hoping it can eventually pound out “To Be, or Not To Be,” but my method is more than just a matter of luck. It also allows time, personal experiences, and skills to rise to the top of the creative process.

There are many different methods one can use to come up with good ideas for original songs. However, what might be even more critical for the songwriter is not to lose an idea. There is nothing more frustrating than having what you think is a clever idea, but after walking away from it, you come back to find you have completely forgotten it. In this area, I suggest a very simple and useful solution: record yourself! That’s right. Record everything – simple jams and brainstorming sessions. These can bring out some incredible nuggets that you can eventually use. So if you are feeling creative, hit the record button before you pick up your guitar or sit behind a piano. Let your creative juices flow. You may come up with something, or you won’t. But it is better to know you have a recording of it than not.

I once found myself in an argument with my band about wanting to tape our rehearsals. The argument was that there was nothing to record. It was just a rehearsal! There was no real reason to use up tape space. My opinion was, what if we missed something cool that we didn’t plan on doing during rehearsal? I eventually won out. It was a positive thing too. During one of those rehearsals, we found ourselves jamming on a number of pretty cool song ideas. We ended up completing three very cool songs from that one simple jam.

Another critical component I discovered in my experience of putting together a creative idea is that I might have a kernel of an idea. Then I begin crafting my songs based on that kernel. Then I use that kernel to start writing an original piece of music. But for me (almost without exception), I will always feel that something is missing at some point in the process of creating that song. At that point, I usually return to my original jam recording because I have to find that one element that made me want to start writing the song in the first place. Sometimes I overlook a simple component. The best part of having the birth of a song recorded is that you can always refer back to it and compare it to what you recorded. That helps.

I still have a massive box of tapes filled with parts of songs, choruses, verses, and instrumental ideas. Some of those tapes even have labels on them. Most do not. But I can always pull one of those ideas out of that box when I need inspiration.

So don’t lose your ideas. You should have your phone and a recording app ready. I’ve moved away from the old cassette tape recorders. These days, I use my trusty iPhone. It’s come in handy. Your ideas are far too precious to lose. Take every step necessary to keep those ideas safe and from being lost or forgotten.

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