Six Places to Find Great Song Titles

Six Places to Find Great Song Titles

If you’ve been writing songs a while, you’ll know that finding your song’s story – the idea that starts it all – is the key to coming up with a great song idea. But your song’s title, which is usually its lyrical hook, is also a key part of how you tell your song’s story. In fact, a particularly great title is going to help you tell that song’s story in an especially interesting and distinctive way. On top of that, your title is the thing that represents your song when it’s not being performed or heard. It’s the thing people click on to hear your song. And it’s the thing that gives them their first impression when they first hear about it. So it’s definitely worth spending that extra bit of time coming up with a good one. We’ll look at some ways you can do this in a bit, but first of all let’s talk about what a good title is in the first place. Every great title is great in its own way. But here are some qualities you tend to find in good song titles – and some well-known examples that do the things I’m talking about: It’s good to be bold with a title – to say something that really grabs people’s attention. Think ‘My! My! My!’ or ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’. It’s good to be original with a title – to come up with a word or phrase that’s new, or at least different somehow. Think ‘Love Foolosophy’ or ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ or ‘Cake by the Ocean’. It’s good to create a world with...
107 Song Prompts for When You’re Really Stuck

107 Song Prompts for When You’re Really Stuck

Songs prompts, oh, song prompts. If I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan. I’m not really into writing by numbers. I think spoon-feeding is great for babies but terrible for songwriters. And I think the most important thing a songwriter – well, anyone – can learn is to think for themself. That’s why most of the content on the site is about the big, fundamental ideas every songwriter should know about. (Including this article about how to come up with your own song ideas.) But, you know, sometimes songwriters get really stuck. Sometimes songwriters have no idea where to begin. Sometimes songwriters get so stuck they just sit curled up in a corner murmuring ‘HELP ME’ to their pot plants.     And if that’s you, I have some good news: I made you a big list of songs you can write. Specifically, 107 songs you can write. Do I hate myself for doing it? Of course. A little. But will it help you out if you’re really stuck? Of course. So we’re good.     If you’re new to the site I recommend you read my article on how songs tell stories, and how a song’s style, idea and hook work together before you do anything else. They’ll help you know what to do with the song prompts I’m about to give you. You can also download a nifty (and printable) version of the list here. Otherwise, have a browse. See which song prompts inspire you. Go write some songs, live your dream, change the world. And remember: these ideas aren’t gospel. You can use the song prompts as is....
Eight More Ways to Write Better Lyrics

Eight More Ways to Write Better Lyrics

In last week’s article I laid out five (well, eight) fundamentals that’ll help you write better lyrics in your next song. All of these principles were about the woods not the trees, because – controversial as this might sound on an internet listicle – most of the important principles of songwriting are about the woods not the trees. That is, yes, it’s generally a good idea not to split an infinitive where you can. But it’s an even better idea to write lyrics that are simple, conversational and specific, and show off a bit of your personality. The difference is, one of these skills takes about ten seconds to master (and give you an endorphin boost), and the other five might take you ten months (if you’re lucky). I know, I know. You came here for simple, instantly actionable advice that can change your life overnight. I know, I know. I should quit killing your vibe and just write ‘Ten INSTANT SHORTCUTS to writing a HIT SONG – RIGHT NOW!!!’ The trouble is, that’s not how this works. Anything worth having doesn’t happen overnight. So while I’d be fun to distract you with some simplistic dos and don’ts, that’s not really my style. Instead I’m going help you focus on developing a few key skills that are going to help you for the rest of your life as a songwriter. Cool, huh? That in mind, if you haven’t read last week’s article I recommend you do that before continuing. And if you have, nice work, and let’s keep going with a handful of more detailed principles – somewhere between...
Five (Well, Eight) Ways to Write Better Lyrics

Five (Well, Eight) Ways to Write Better Lyrics

If you’ve ever wondered how you can write better lyrics, I’ll give you the honest answer: practice more. Seriously. Lyric writing is pretty much the most difficult thing you can do with words. You have to say exactly the things you mean, using only a few words, all while making sure it rhymes, scans and works rhythmically the way you want it to. So before we look at five specific things you can think about to write better lyrics, here are the three big things you absolutely must be doing for any of those ideas to be useful to you.   How to Write Better Lyrics: Write. A lot. Like I said: practice. Then practice some more. Set aside ten, twenty, eighty minutes a day to sit down with a yellow pad or blank screen and get some words down. Start training your brain to think, live and breathe lyrics. Just like training in the gym or learning a new language, with writing lyrics you have to put in the hours if you want to make progress. And what should you write? Whatever you feel like. Honestly. It doesn’t matter. You might hate what you’ve written. (And if you don’t now, you will in a few years.) But that’s fine. That’s how it works. Keep practicing and you’ll be writing better lyrics in no time.     How to Write Better Lyrics: Listen to Different Lyrics. A Lot. Lyric writing, like all kinds of writing, is done with a heady mix of instinct and logic. The way you fine tune your instincts is to get to know a lot of...
How to Come up with 100 New Song Ideas

How to Come up with 100 New Song Ideas

Here’s an important truth about coming up with new song ideas: you should write about what interests and inspires you, not what some internet listicle tells you to. So if you were expecting a 100-item list, I’m sorry to deflate your dirigible. Instead, I’m going to show you how to come up with your own (much smarter) list of your own (much more interesting) song ideas. I call it the ‘Give it a twist’ technique. Let’s take a look. So as you might know, songs tell stories. And the hallmark of a good song is that you can summarize its story, or central message, or central idea, in a single sentence. Try it: It’s a song about a single mother who’s forced into sex work to support her kid while she dreams of a better life for him. (Rockabye) It’s a song about a girl who’s lonely at night and wants to dance with somebody to fix that. (I Wanna Dance with Somebody) It’s a song about a guy whose significant other left yesterday, and now he wants to rewind the clock because he was so much happier then. (Yesterday) And how, you might ask, do you turn these old song ideas into new song ideas? The way you turn any old idea into a new idea: give it a twist. Write a song about a recently single mother who’s scared to go into sex work but thinks she’ll have to to support her kid. Write a song about a guy who’s lonely at night and wants to dance with somebody to fix that. Write a song about a...
Idea, Style, Hook: The Holy Trinity of Songwriting

Idea, Style, Hook: The Holy Trinity of Songwriting

They say the best things come in threes: The Hanson brothers. The Little Shop of Horrors backup singers. The examples in this paragraph. And songwriting has its own Holy Trinity too: idea, style and hook. I’ll explain, but first let’s be clear on what these three things are.   A song’s idea is what the frick the song is about. Maybe the idea is ‘Love song’ or ‘Breakup song’ or ‘I just wanted to tell you you’re cool Song’. Or maybe the idea is ‘Dance track’ or ‘Summer anthem’ or ‘Novelty song’. I’m talking about the big idea of the song. The ‘elevator pitch’ if you like: the sentence you’d say to a co-writer or a producer or your Great Aunt to describe what the song is. The style of the song is the musical world it sits in. I’m not talking about specific harmonies or sounds, even if they play a part in making up the style – I’m talking about the overall mood, emotion or world the song’s music conjures up. An upbeat dance track has a different style to an emotional power ballad. A jazz song has a different feel to an R&B song. You get the idea. A song’s hook is a word or phrase that forms the backbone of its lyric. (Yes, the word ‘hook’ is sometimes used to describe a catchy bit of music usually somewhere near the start. That’s a different kind of hook for another time.) Hooks you’ll know already include ‘Yesterday’ or ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It’. They’re anything from a single word to a complete sentence that...

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