What to write a song about – it is the ultimate question for songwriters and music producers. Is it necessary to write a song about something or is it enough to just write music? In this article, I’ll dig deeper into the purpose of songwriting and share my thoughts on it.
I think if a song is written about something or for someone, it will be heard and its deeper meaning felt. The songwriter doesn’t necessary need to let it be publicly known that a particular song has a personal importance to them.
The lyrics, melody and harmony will reveal the inner meaning of the song. The best thing is, the listener can decide to adapt the meaning of the song according to their own experiences in life and choose what it means to them.
Truthful songs are able to do this to the listener, because of the message that is carved into the musicality of the piece of music, in one way or another.
Whatever you do, don’t copy already written songs. It’s a cheap trick to do, and the moment you do it, your musical integrity will be thrown out of the window – and people will hear it.
What you can do though, is let yourself be inspired and influenced by music. You might fall in love with a musical idea in a song you hear and want to incorporate similar elements to one of your songs – that’s fine!
Just do it with dignity and good taste. Make it your own – from scratch.
Pick up an instrument and play it. Jam with it. Use effects to your advantage and gain inspiration from them. Make unique sounds. The instrument will always tell you what kind of music to make. Let it be natural.
Listen to your inner voice. Music will flow from you, if you let it.
Don’t freak out
Sometimes you might not know what kind of song to make, and that’s okay. It happens to musicians all the time. The worst thing to do here is to stress it.
Writer’s block is fairly common among songwriters and artists alike, and there are different ways to get over it, such as simply showing up to your musical work and keeping your musical muscle alive.
Music will happen if you can relax and connect with your inner self. Very often it requires some kind of life experience or event to launch that natural connection with yourself. In the next section I’ll discuss some of the most usual inspirational sources, at least for myself.
Dig deep into yourself
Things happen in our lives – continuously. If you open your eyes to whatever is going on around you, you will find something to inspire you in songwriting and to help you make genuine music. Here are my top five sources of inspiration:
Love & Relationships
Be it a cliché then, though it’s the truth! Nothing strikes emotions like love, attraction and a fresh crush. They can be euphoric and electric. On the flipside, the sadness caused by love is just as powerful and even more dramatic.
All the new people you meet, the relationships you form and the barriers you run into during them are all great sources of deep emotional activity, and therefore sources of musical inspiration.
Think about your family too, and the closest ones you have around you.
Love happens and love is lost. As songwriters, it’s our duty to take advantage of this powerful feeling and translate it into magical pieces of work. Sometimes, the deepest words can only be expressed through music. Talk about honesty…
In my life, passion equals drive. If you are passionate about something, not necessarily about love or other people, but things you do in life such as work, hobbies and whatever you might do, you have drive.
Music creation requires a lot of drive to accomplish. If you lack passion in life, it could be hard to make music too. You need to find your passion.
Passion could be about the will to showcase your skills, your life goals or recent accomplishments.
I am passionate about great music, and want to belong in it, and this is why I have such a drive to write music in the first place.
Traveling & Life Experiences
Get out of your comfort zone, and you’ll be surprised how much inspiration you can gather. Every once in a while, you must get out there in order to keep your mental balance.
I went to the Grand Canyon recently and while I was there, all I did was observe the vastness of it in awe. Adrenaline rushed through my body while standing next to a majestic cliff at one of the viewing points. I was shaking a bit because of the winds up there. I felt so little compared to the size of the natural wonder.
I believe that experience had a permanent effect in me, in a good way. It will surely translate in my music. Best of all, life experiences are a cumulative effect. The more experiences you have, the better music you will make.
Of course, musical influences are a big one. Music doesn’t necessarily rise from nothing every single time. It doesn’t have to either. Listen to the music you truly love and hold dear in your heart.
Give back by embracing your influences and make tributes to them through your own music.
Seasons & Weather
Weather has a psychological effect in me. I don’t know why, but I tend to write better music when it’s raining. I think there is some kind of calmness surrounding it. Some kind of ethereal state.
Different seasons easily dictate the direction of the music, too. Winters are usually quite depressing compared to the energetic spring time or the warm, mellow summers.
Fall is a special time of the year due to the nature getting ready for the cold winter – perhaps a time for us musicians too for finishing as many tunes as possible before the dark times.
Whenever you begin to slip into the “dark side” of songwriting, starting to copy someone else instead of taking influence or wanting to create a hit sing song with only money in your eyes, stop right there.
You need to stay true to yourself and listen to your inner self. Music will come from you. It will be your music and you can be proud of it. No one else will ever write the song you write!
Don’t stress songwriting. If it is meant to happen, it will happen naturally. Good, honest music is the only kind of music that will endure the times and be remembered. The rest will just fade away because they might offer only momentary value.
So, what to write a song about then? Only you will know the answer!
Remember, songwriting is not only about people, cities and memorable places, but of more abstract matters equally as much. It could be literally anything you hold dear and what influences you.
I hope you now have a better, fresh view into writing songs. Be inspired, stay inspired and learn to control your emotions by routing them in your music.
For another perspective, have a look at Gary Ewer’s Beating Songwriter’s Block book, which includes songwriting workouts, what makes a successful song, creating melodies, lyrics and more.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below and I’ll be more than happy to get back to you.