Monthly Archives: August 2013

Idea Collection

One technique that’s used by many songwriters is ‘Idea Collection’. Although there are numerous approached the basic premise is always the same.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you were going to work on a song about jealousy. You’d start by writing down whatever popped into your head about the subject: hate, broken heart, loss, other man, ring, alone, loneliness, anger, trust, insecurity, no answer on the phone, broken promises, unfair, juvenile, lover, etc. Try to list as many ideas as possible. They can be a word, a phrase, a concept, whatever.

It’s important that you’re non-judgmental during this process. Be sure not to be critical of any of your ideas. Just keep jotting them down. Quantity is more important than quality for this to work.

Now start writing your jealousy song. If you’re like most songwriters there will be times when you can’t come up with anything. That would be the time to review your ‘Idea Collection’. You’ll find that often there’s a better word or concept that you can use or perhaps a direction to go in for the bridge.

I think that this approach can be helpful because of the freedom you allow during the creative process of compiling the Collection. When you’re actually writing the song your brain is multi-tasking. It’s thinking about the song form or the rhyming scheme or the meter. If you can free it up a bit with the ‘Idea Collection’ it can work much more effectively.


What We Can Learn from Cinema

Next time you watch a movie see what you can learn from it as a songwriter.

Here are some examples:

As songwriters we need to remind ourselves that we can use the cinematic devise of ‘dropping in’ on either an internal conversation, a discussion, a situation, or whatever, in a life or lives, either our own or someone else’s.

Who hasn’t wished he wasn’t a fly on the wall? It offers a kind of voyeur appeal. It also makes the listener quickly attempt to determine what’s going on. Cinema often uses this device. The next time you’re watching a movie, study how the film opens, how the director establishes the locale, how he introduces the characters, how he informs you of the issues and problems that will propel the story forward. You can use those techniques in songwriting to have songs with more believability and to make them more coherent.

You can also use the lessons learned in cinema in regards to creating first verses and opening lines. Think about how movies often start with a very general shots, often from a helicopter. This establishes the location for the story. From the beginning, we know if the characters are in the city, a town, in the wilderness, wherever. Well, the same holds true for song.

What do you think?

The Second Verse

One of the biggest challenges for songwriters is writing the second verse to songs, but doesn’t necessarily have to be as long as you think it through.

There are many effective ways of approaching second verses. Here are a few suggestions:

Expand Your Ideas from Verse I
By that I mean, if the first verse is about love or your relationship, talk about another aspect of the relationship. What ever you do, don’t keep saying the same thing over and over again except in a different way unless it’s what we call a ‘list song’. An ‘list song’ is one that lists things in the verses and reaches a general conclusion in the chorus. ‘Everything is Broken’ by Bob Dylan is a good example of a list song.

Tell More of the Story
If your song is a narrative song you can use your second verse to move the story forward. If it’s a love song perhaps start with when you met and move to where you are today or perhaps where you hope to be in the future.

Move from the General to the Personal or Vice Versa
If in your first verse you talk about love in general, for instance; how love makes you feel, how love changes the world, how low important love is in life, consider focusing the second verse on your particular relationship. A few years ago I wrote a song called “Ray Took a Slug in the Leg.” In the first verse I talk about Ray Davies being shot on the streets of New Orleans. The second verse, I expand the concept to apply to how crazy the world is today. It doesn’t matter if you go from the general to the personal or vice versa.

You can hear “Ray Took a Slug in the Leg” at Just click on the “Songs” tab.