Songwriters... how do you write an album?

Yer Blues

When I first got a recorder 8 years ago I'd basically come up with an idea, use a drum track, and just go with it. Lyrics have always been an issue for me so I tend to just go with "stream of conscious". At the time I had maybe 30 complete songs. I always figured if I wanted to move forward I'd pick the best 8-12 or so.... but I never got to that point.

I put the recorder on hold, but with cell phones, tablets, etc having cameras I've got maybe 20 something rough ideas. I'm thinking of going through them and picking the best 8 or so to work on. Maybe even get to the point of hitting a local studio and recording them "professionally".

To me it seems like a better idea to throw out as many ideas as possible and then pick the best. I worked with an original instrumental band and we ended up recording two albums worth of stuff, but it was basically stuff the bandleader came up with and wanted to record. Very few, if any, idea were scrapped.

I realize this is not a one size fits all, but just curious how others do it.


Dang Twangler
Unless it's a concept album, just pick your 8-12 favorites. If you have trouble deciding, enlist from friends to help you choose.

If you end up with a set of songs that sound too similar, save a couple of those for your next project and pick a couple of others from the second string.


Gold Supporting Member
I don't think one writes an album as an album, but as many different pieces that end up as an album. Friends of mine are caught up in writing within the parameters of what today's market desires; certain length, certain content, certain form, etc. I work within those boundaries when i work with them, but I'm of the the opinion that if you cut off the creative flow, even if it sucks, you won't get the good stuff (prototype's post).


Don't get too precious about it. Focus on getting it done, not making it perfect.


It depends on the project,who you're working with, and your budget.

Most bands I've worked with come in with just the tunes that they're going to put on the record - they don't have the money to record 20 songs and pick the 10 best.

When I'm producing, I'll have the artist give me what they've got, and I'll go through and pick the ones for the record.


When writing, I just write whatever comes to me. But once I get a collection of songs, I try to fit them into some sort of meaningful grouping. It is pretty fuzzy, meaning there aren't any hard and fast rules. But I try to come up with a mix of tunes that somehow relate to on another. Ones that don't work for this compilation are save for the next compilation. Once I have a group of songs, I sometime write for a certain slot: like we don't have any dancing song, or love song, or drinking song got this album.


Gold Supporting Member
I just wait until i have something to say

If i dont have anything that MUST be said

I wait.


Fall in love or get betrayed by someone you love.
Have a close friend or relative die unexpectedly.
Go broke and lose your mind for a few months.
Go somewhere really beautiful.
Go somewhere really ugly.

Keep a notebook to jot down lines, phrases, words, random things you read or hear.
Keep the back page or two of the notebook just for song titles/hook lines.
Think of a cool or intriguing title, then write the song to fit.
Anything to kickstart the process.

The music part is generally easy, the story, the words, and the emotion are what lifts a song, and links the songs on an album.
As far as the mechanics of it, just get a rough solo guitar/vocal demo down as a reference/starting point.
(Very occasionally, that ends up being the best version.)
I write songs dang near every day. Doesn't mean they're good, but I write a lot. I do not try and make them "fit" into any category. I am of the Keith Richards school of songwriting: songs exist, I just channel them from the ether more than I write them :)

Also, all my songs start from a line, usually the first line of the song.

Dr. Tweedbucket

Deluxe model available !!!11
I had a goal and ideas for about 7 or 8 songs and started piecing things together. When I was done I had like 15 songs. Things just started falling in my lap and I had to get it on tape as quick as I could and then work it out. I ended up deleting the worst 3 songs because the 12 was nearly an hour and that's a long album. The 12 were all pretty good songs though, so I was happy.

As far as concept, that would be harder to do ... for me. I'm doing good to get a concept for a single song. Right now I'm working on another album but the ideas aren't flowing quite as well. It's a weird thing this song business.


I think of it in terms of a three dimensional sonic storyline/movie, in which I'm the narrator, and the instrumentation is the colors and sounds and sights and smells and tastes and feel of the world in which we inhabit during our time together. Time, length, etc, are all dependent on the story you're telling. Each chapter flows naturally into the next based on each characters path.


Silver Supporting Member
1. Write a bunch of songs.
2. Figure out how long you want your album to be.
3. Do you have enough songs for that running length?
4. If no, go back to #1, else continue
5. Can you put the songs you have into a pleasing order of the proper running length?
6. If no, figure out what's missing (a great opener? a great closer? something in a different tempo? etc.) and go back to #1.
7. Assemble album, release.

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