Indie Songwriter Tip #1: Recording a Sketch of Your Song
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
This blogpost was originally posted on Medium.com earlier this November but I think it is fitting to share it here:
If you are a creative like me, then you know that some days you are inspired and some days you are not. Creating and keeping routines around how you write gives you a great push forward, helping you to create more and better songs. In this series on Medium, I’ll give you some invaluable tips to increase your songwriting productivity. Some tips may seem trivial at first, but using all these tips together will help you streamline your songwriting significantly.
I have been writing songs for over forty years but it was only after I changed my routines and started working smarter and more structured that my songwriting started flowing. Here are some of my tips on how to write more, better and faster. I hope they help you, too! Please let me know…
I love to take long walks out on the Swedish countryside where I live. More often than not, I start singing as I walk and all of the sudden a new melody or song comes to my mind. I call it a “song sketch”. Whenever and wherever I am, I simply lift up my cell phone and record it right away. In that way, I don’t lose any of that spontaneous inspiration that just hit me. I can always listen to the song later when I get back home to develop it further.
Recording with structure:
There are many apps you can use to record your song ideas with depending on what phone you own. I use one called Audio Recorder by Sony Mobile Communications because I have an Android Phone. Use whatever works for you. You should not only record the melody but all the important details about the song you are writing. Here are some examples:
When back home, I record piano and guitar compositions that I am considering to support the song. At times, I will speak important information into the recording at the beginning such as what fret I put the capo on, how many bpm (beats per minute), what inspired me to write this song, the form of the song, what instrument should have the solo in the intro, etc. I speak what I hear in my mind at the time about arrangements and try to capture the whole inspiration package that just jostled my creative grey cells out of their slumber.
Change the filename:
After recording, I go and change the name of the song to a working name which I believe will be the name of the song in the future. Of course I won’t always keep that name later on, but it is still easier to find that song if its name isn’t “Recording 2016–11–30” which is automatically created by the app. Maybe I have three recordings: a verse, a chorus, and an idea about the composition of the song. In that case, if the song is called “Not a Chance” then I will change their filenames to, for example, “NAChance_verse”; “NAChance_chorus” and “NAChance_comp_idea”. When back at home in the studio, I can then listen to these, create a new recording with all of these working together and then delete the old three files.
Back it up:
Then, if I think this song is doable, likeable and interesting, I e-mail the recording of the song to myself so I have a backup. (You never know when you will damage, loose or break your phone).
Save it in the Cloud:
Then I save the song if it is really promising on my iCloud drive in a special map for up and coming great ideas. (You can use Dropbox, Google Drive or whatever you have to store it.) This is great because another day I may long to start working on a new song but don’t have any inspiration. Then I can just open the map and check the candy bag in the cloud. It’s like finding colourful yarn and knitting needles in a drawer when you are a knitting freak or finally getting to that trail you’ve longed to jog on a sunny day. Something like that…
Structure is a sort of a swear word for most creatives, but, if you always record your great song ideas in this way, you will make sure that you don’t lose any of them.
Recording your song sketches on your smart phone wherever you are is a good standard procedure to start with if you are a creative indie songwriter lacking structure. No more letting those great inspirational ideas drop!
Recording the first draft is free, it’s easy and vital for any songwriter. You can always look back on that fateful day when you first got the idea for that hit song and see how your baby has grown since then. It’s encouraging!
I’m looking forward to sharing more tips with you next time. Next up will be about how to get the inspiration to write unique melodies and lyrics by listening to silence.