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How To: Write A Song (On The Spot)

Earlier today I told a friend of mine that I’ve never excelled at anything that didn’t come naturally to me. I know this is such a shitty mantra to roll through life with, because that’s basically saying that if it's not handed to you by the Grace of God, there’s no point in trying. That’s not at all what I meant, though.

Like… hear me out. I’m not stupid, I’m just not a mathematician or a scientist. I also have an insanely hard time concentrating on things that don’t make my brain happy. Like fractions for example - pardon my language, but eff those things. I was gonna do a swear word there, but I’ll wait until we know each other a little better first.

The point I’m getting at is there are a few things in this life that have always come naturally to me. Do you want a list? Okay fine, you twisted my rubber arm:

- Self deprecation

- Anxiety Curiosity

- General Fear (LOL)

- Reading

- Writing pretty much anything except things about science and math

- Music in general

Writing and music especially, though. I used to write songs and record them into one of those colourful tape recorders with the microphone attached to the side. You know those ones you had when you were a little kid? I swear I was like 6 years old when I wrote a song called “the grass is always greener”. Like, chill kid. Go outside and rub some dirt on your knees. But no, I was locked inside being emotional (and nothing has changed since then).

Words and music have always come to me very easily. I can write a poem at the drop of a hat (not saying the poem will have any artistic value whatsoever, but I can create a rhyme with good rhythm). That made me sound like a man in the 1950’s singing about nickels, but it’s fine.

It’s hard to write a how to guide about something that I don’t even necessarily understand when it happens, but I can try. So here’s my guide on how to write a song on the spot, which will be accompanied by a video of me writing (very poorly) a song on the spot. I say very poorly because, well, I already told you my self deprecation skills are top notch, and also because it hasn’t been spruced up yet. The first draft is never the best draft, you know this. I’m going to put the video first, in case you’re more of a visual person, and then a quick little step by step how to guide right after it… sound good? K good. You’re the best.

Step 1: Think of an idea

Sometimes this can be hard, but you can look up random idea / title generators on the internet. I can actually say i’ve NEVER done this before, besides for the purpose of this video. It was fun and i’d do it again. I’m actually kinda pissed I haven’t tried that before. If you’ve got a relatively artistic brain, the ideas will start flowing once you have a topic. Again, this isn’t how everyone does it, but it definitely works for me. It also is different every-time, but if you’re looking to write a song for the first time ever, I want to make this as easy as possible for you.

Step 2: Decide which chords you want to use

I’ve got to be honest with you, I know like 5 guitar chords and I simplified all of them so they won’t hurt my fingers. Piano is a different story because I played for like, ten years I must take a moment to thank my mother. I do this because she used to scream “YOU’LL THANK ME ONE DAY” as she cranked the egg timer to 40 minutes and made me practice classical piano every single day between the ages of 5 and 15. When she would say that I’d reply with “NO I WON’T I HATE THIS AND I HATE YOU”. Anyway, she was right, what else is new? Thanks, mom. This is a long drawn out way to tell you to choose the chords you want to use and the order you want to use them in. I struggle with this aspect the most because my limited chord diary makes it hard for me, especially while using the guitar. Once this part is figured out, it gets easier.

Step 3: Get a note pad and just start singing

Generally when I’m feeling inspired to write a song, I’m alone. So me singing dumb shit out loud for a while isn’t going to hurt anyone. It’ll actually only help, because eventually you’ll belt out something that means something to you. Write it all down as you go. I know a lot of people record voice notes as they go too, just to make sure they don’t forget the melody or any of the lyrics they randomly come up with. They say that when you’re writing a book, you should just write down every thought that comes to mind. Don’t over think, don’t read it over, don’t go back and edit, just write. Thinking of song writing in this way can definitely help you.

Step 4: Work out the kinks

Sometimes a song you’re writing will be amazing, but there will be one line or bridge or pre chorus or whatever that makes you cringe. You’re like… this song is the greatest, but that one part is so freaking lame. Don’t give up cause you turned into a little pansy in one line of your song, just change it, or revisit it after the fact. It’s always worth it.

Step 5: Finalizing (ish)

The best part about writing your own songs is that you can literally make changes to them forever. Especially with modern technology. Like if you write a song after reading this and your career takes off (if it does shout me out at the Grammy’s okay?) you can always go back and fix it. Artists release second versions of songs all the time. Like, even Taylor Swift decided she didn’t like the line “hey kids spelling is fun!” on her “ME!” track, and now that version is basically nowhere to be found unless you bought the album. My point is, everything is a work in progress. Sometimes going back to a song the next day, week, month, or in my case sometimes YEAR to do some tweaking, is the best thing you can do.

Thank you for making it to the end of this blog. I hope you enjoyed my cringe 6 minute video tutorial and very lame song. But, hey, like I said. It’s tweak-able… most of the time.

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