In 2001, the Guinness Book of Records declared Liverpool the “City of Pop” due to the number of #1 records that have emerged from here. But how did John Lennon, Paul McCartney and countless other prestigious artists manage to write such incredible tracks? Songwriting can be as complex as it is rewarding with the hardest part being coming up with a subject to write about in the first place. Music is a reflection of human emotion and it has been that way since the ancient tribes created songs through drums and simple instruments.
Dabbling into your own experiences and feelings is a great start towards seeking songwriting nirvana but when that fails you can always look towards other sources of inspiration. As a songwriter you don’t have necessarily have to know everything about music theory but knowing basic chord theory and how to identify the key of a song can go a long way in setting you apart from the pack.
Here are some places to turn to for inspiration when you are at a songwriting low:
Heartbreak is never easy but it can make for some great songs. Channeling hurt into music is a formula that has been used by artists since the invention of music, from operas that deal with murder and deceit to heart-wrenching break-up songs like those performed by Liverpool legend, Cilla Black.
For every song about a painful breakup, there are a dozen about finding new love. People like to write songs about what they feel and listeners lap the lyrics up like they are freshly brewed beer.
Be inspired by inspiration
We all love songs that motivate us and that remind us that tomorrow is a new day. Just as songs about difficult times and strife are popular, so too are the ones about fighting back and being inspired. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Gerry and the Pacemakers is a very popular song and football anthem with an underlying inspirational message.
The creative progression
If you are having difficulty writing, write about that! Do you know what else will make a great song? Struggling to be noticed as an artist, late night gigs in seedy pubs and busking on street corners. Remember that before they made it big, every singer or band had to endure very similar struggles and many of them came up with some great songs about it with a prime example being John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”.
Make it all up. If you can’t find inspiration anywhere and all else fails, just make something up. Music does not always have to be about deep or profound subjects. It doesn’t even always need to make sense. The Beatles didn’t really live in a Yellow Submarine but it made for a chart-topping hit none the less.
Songwriting is a passion, not a job. Don’t rest until every last part of your song feels undeniable. If you think it is just ‘good enough’ chances are it’s not. Do not be afraid to rewrite your song until it’s the absolute best it can be.
Sally Collins is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible.