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This may be a bit off topic, but where do you get song theme or lyrics ideas?

Dr. Tweedbucket

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I don't have any problem coming up with a decent tune, it's coming up with a good theme and lyrics that is the hard part. It's kind of intimidating in a way to write anything too serious ... for me anyway. Maybe it's because I've never much analyzed other people's lyrics... so I'm at a loss when it comes to writing styles.

Any pro tips or ideas?
 

sysexguy

Member
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1,254
I'm no expert but every journey starts with a first step...so I'd say anything goes, write something without any higher aspiration beyond nailing something down, it'll probably not be to your liking an hour or a day later but you'll be on the way to writing a better song next.

An old bandmate used to do a gag where he'd grab a Time magazine and ask someone to pick a page and point to any paragraph. He'd then spontaneously start singing a song while reading that very paragraph :nuts but FUNNY!!!!

Lots of songs (that aren't too serious) especially in NashVegas just take a common phrase from everyday language and construct a few supporting lines to create a chorus and then they build a scenario around that as verses....That may or may not be what you want to do but writing say ten songs using that technique would be a good exercise.

Don't let others influence your determination to get really good at songwriting....these songs are for you for now

Andy
 

small axe

Member
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2,914
mine comes from my heart, soul, and mind....you got to let it flow and dont be hesitant....experiment and play...d.ont be intimidated....its just music
 

otaypanky

Play it like you mean it ~
Platinum Supporting Member
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Doc, I can't believe your post! You have one of the wackiest, free association, seeing the crazy stuff kind in the world type of imaginations I have ever come across. You're always out there with unique, unusual, or just plain nutty and funny stuff any time I have read one of your posts. OK, sometimes more serious stuff too~.
But my point is, you definitely have what it takes.
Occasionally a string of lyrics run through me head, followed by another, and another. And I realize a cool verse just popped into my head. But if I don't stop and write it down, it's as good as gone usually. If I sit down to try and write something, it doesn't happen the way it does when it just occurs on it's own.
 

monty

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23,732
Always listen to people talk. I've got song ideas from the girls at the coffee shop before.
 

Butterfly

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1,629
Always listen to people talk. I've got song ideas from the girls at the coffee shop before.

this is good stuff. I'm a fiction writer, and I've noticed all my life I've listened to what others say but more importantly how they say it. Basically when people talk, they are telling stories.
 

Bix

Member
Messages
345
I come up with my best lyrics/melodies while riding my motorcycle... Of course, it's parked right now!!! But I've developed several complete songs and several good starts on the bike... Outisde of somewhere where you can let your mind drift, look and listen for ideas. For me it's more important to identify the idea or theme of the song, and the lyrics will come. So I'm always on the lookout for good ideas and inspiration.

Good luck
Bix
 

mtnblubird

Member
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28
The poet Richard Hugo once said something to the effect that a poet just keeps rewriting the same poem over and over. Can't say that I agreed with him at the time. But later I heard a radio interview with Bruce Springsteen in which he stated that his songs were all about _____ . In other words, there was an artistic view of life and an artistic statement that ran through all of his songs. And Springsteen could articulate that vision in one sentence.

I think it takes a while for artistic vision to get honed and sharpened to the extent that you can articulate it in a statement as Springsteen was able to do. You have to write and analyze, analyze and write. And when you can consciously see and articulate that vision that runs through your writing, I think you are better able to capture a lot of different views and stories that hold together in a meaningful way, regardless of the genre and medium in which you are working.

But then, what do I know?!? ;)
 

Dr. Tweedbucket

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Doc, I can't believe your post! You have one of the wackiest, free association, seeing the crazy stuff kind in the world type of imaginations I have ever come across. You're always out there with unique, unusual, or just plain nutty and funny stuff any time I have read one of your posts. OK, sometimes more serious stuff too~.
But my point is, you definitely have what it takes.
Occasionally a string of lyrics run through me head, followed by another, and another. And I realize a cool verse just popped into my head. But if I don't stop and write it down, it's as good as gone usually. If I sit down to try and write something, it doesn't happen the way it does when it just occurs on it's own.

Well, see, that's the problem.... I can write silly or crazy songs all day long and it's easy because I can say "oh, I was just messing around". To write something more serious is much more of a challenge. Too, if I have a really good tune, I kind of hate to throw it away with anything too goofy. I don't want to be over serious either, I guess I need to just listen to other people's lyrics and find some kind of balance. Maybe I wasn't meant to write serious songs! :cry:

I come up with my best lyrics/melodies while riding my motorcycle... Of course, it's parked right now!!! But I've developed several complete songs and several good starts on the bike... Outisde of somewhere where you can let your mind drift, look and listen for ideas. For me it's more important to identify the idea or theme of the song, and the lyrics will come. So I'm always on the lookout for good ideas and inspiration.

Good luck
Bix
Yeah, absolutely, once I have a theme to work with, then the ideas start flowing. I ride too, so maybe that's a good idea!
 

Big Boss Man

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2,455
I never really start with a theme first. Usually I try to first come up with a couple lyrical ideas or hooks. Then based on those initial ideas I choose a theme and finish the lyrics.
 

tonefreak

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2,461
I read... I remember going through a Hemingway phase and wrote songs around the world through his eyes. I also wrote a series of songs around "The Inferno" by Dante.

I watch movies... the movie "Crash" became an instant favorite and that connection provided several themes for songs.

I live life... the good and the bad and everything in between. I remember going through a rough time in my career many years back. Really burned out with the whole rat-race... song!

I've taken a singer/writer's poems and wrote the music and melody around them. That was a great challenge trying to put yourself in someone elses shoes and writing a "soundtrack" for the already written lyrics.

Life itself provides the inspiration... personal or other people's experiences, if it moves you, it's a song.
 

Julia343

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7,610
Lyrics. Don't be afraid. They're gonna be lame anyway. Just listen to some of the crap on the radio. There's nothing profound there.

Sing about sex, drugs, and rock n roll and you're good.
 

Jahn

Listens to Johnny Marr, plays like John Denver
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I'm just riding the subway, all of a sudden a funny turn of phrase pops in my head. It grows like a fungus all over that original phrase until bingo, a mess. Then I get home, get out the hedge clippers, and pare it down to some sort of typical song structure.
 

kludge

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I don't remember who said it, but "Finished is better than perfect, every time". My problem with songwriting, and quite possibly yours as well, is a tendency to want it perfect, and not be willing to accept merely good.

I actually cranked out a song last night, with the help of a bandmate (who is herself a prolific and excellent songwriter). Basically, she was my "babysitter" and made me stay on track, giving me rewarding feedback when I was on the right track, telling me when a line or chord change worked. And while I don't think the song is "finished", in that it needs some serious edits and perhaps rewriting in places, at least I have something I can play from one end to the other.

I should add that the idea for this song has been sitting in my head for roughly a year now. I just never sat down and turned "idea" into "song" before.

Here's what I have right now...

Year of the Cat Revisited
(or maybe Ruins of an Ancient City, or Always and Never. The name isn't settled yet)

[verse 1]
In an evening from a Bollywood movie
In a haze of road dust and smog
You walk in the shadows of skyscrapers
Bringing tourists back from the ancient ruins

You go home to the old part of the city
Eat your dinner of curry and rice
The noise and the smell of the 21st century
And the ruins of a world left behind

[chorus]
And it's always and never the Year of the Cat

[verse 2]
You left her with the monsoon rain
In the little flat you shared above a store
Your parents sent you money and a plane ticket
It was time to go back to the real world

Two days later you paused at the airport
Thumbed a ride back to town
The flat was empty, all her things were gone
Native English speakers can always get jobs

[chorus]
And it's always and never the Year of the Cat

[bridge]
Now everyone you know has a cell phone
And some of them have cars
They tell you it's good for business
That way they can find out where you are

[verse 3]
Pretty college girls wearing patchouli
Your memories and the moss-eaten stairs
Your wasted life in this ancient city
Where you keep your foolish heart and aging bones

[chorus]
And it's always and never the Year of the Cat

[instrumental outro]

As I said, I don't think it's quite done yet. I'm assuming you all get that it's a reference to Al Stewart's Year of the Cat, examining the central character 30 years later, still in that Asian city as the world passes him by. But I want to make it clear that he's not just waiting for the girl to return to him - he's hiding from the world, and he's a personal failure for it. He was selfish and stupid and now he won't take responsibility for the bad decisions he's made. I don't want to leave a lot of room for the listener to judge for themselves here. In that regard, I think the second verse is mostly crap, and the third verse probably needs another section.

You might have noticed I take what lit-crit folks would call a constructivist approach. I'm an engineer, so I'm used to thinking of the large scale structure and then drilling down to the details. I knew I had "verse chorus verse chorus bridge verse chorus", and that the first verse introduces the character and environment, the chorus ties back to Year of the Cat, the second verse is his background and what happened after the Year of the Cat events, and the last verse is to show his wasted life. This sort of construction keeps me focused.
 

Dr. Tweedbucket

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Wow, I thought it was good! ^ you sometimes can work a song over to death (at least tune wise) and in the end, you realize the keeping it simple was actually better. I think the writing above was excellent.... you may be over thinking it... but then, I supposed you have to be true to your ideas.


I'm almost embarrassed to share this, but here is a sample of my simple minded goofy songs that I do ... ( and naturally you can see why I want to write something with more substance ). > Still, it's a fun song and I can just blow it off as messing around.



Ratt City

Were going down............... to Ratt City
Come on down ................ to Ratt City

Get there at midnight, hit the East side of town
Keep on movin, check what's going downnnnnn ......

.....in Ratt City........

Streets are dirty, eyes are on you every where.....
Feeling the rush, there's panic in the air .....

.....in Ratt City........

Were going down............... to Ratt City
C'mon down ................ to Ratt City......

I'll grab my camera, don't forget your gun.....
Wear your sneakers cuz we may have to runnnnn .....

......through Ratt City ........

A walk through the park should be good for a scare....
Guys in the shadows, take their pictures if you dare.......

.....in Ratt City........

Were going down............... to Ratt City
Come on down ................ to Ratt City

Playing with danger as we run on down the street.....
See some people that you'd never want to meet .....

.....in Ratt City

Were going down............... to Ratt City
C'mon down ................ to Ratt City

Were going down............... to Ratt City
C'mon down ................ to Ratt City

Were going down............... to Ratt City
C'mon down ................ to Ratt City

Were going down............... to Ratt City
C'mon down ................ to Ratt City
[fade]


And this last one is about as serious as I've done so far. I like of would like to do more like this actually >


Etched in Time

Hey Mr. Lennon, won't ya sing us a song
The party is just getting started and... in full swing not too long.
How about a little Number 9 Dream, or some Imagine too...
Instant Karma would be cool now .... yeah sing it the way you do.

Your music is etched in time
The music will never die...

Hey Mr. Hendrix, won't you play us a tune.
The party is in full swing now, and you can really set the mood...
Can you play Wait Until tomorrow, and Little Wing too?...
Hey Joe or Watch Tower ...yeah! ... just play it the way you do...

Your music is etched in time
The music will never die

[bridge]
Every note is from your heart and soul, every word, every vibe...
Listen closely, don't want to miss a thing, the music will never die ... will never die.

Hey Mr. Morrison.... Mr. Bonham too...
Keith Moon is stopping over ..... well yeah, along with the Who.
Ronnie Van Zant's going do his thing and ... Stevie Ray will play some blues.
We're gonna rock this house all night long
The way we always do...

Your music is etched in time
The music will never die

The music is etched in time
The music will never die

Your music is etched in time
The music will never die

[fade]
 

otaypanky

Play it like you mean it ~
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
3,054
Jahn made an important point I can relate to.
For me also, coming up with an idea or starting point for a song stems from one catchy line or phrase. Then it just starts rollin'.
Occassionally days or weeks later another idea to add or improve it pops into my head. Sometimes while trying to put a new song together I'll come up with a groove and realize that the groove is actually better suited to an older song I already worked out.
But I haven't gotten to the hedge clipper stage yet ~
 

FractalGarden

Member
Messages
1,827
The hikes I take with my dogs (with iPod engaged) work best for me. Something about the steady tempo of moving makes the words flow. Then it's a matter of furiously scribbling down the ideas once I'm back home before they dissipate. The lyrics I've written tend to tell a story, so more times than not, I get the idea for the song, then I write the lyrics, then I write the song.
 

kludge

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7,104
Jahn made an important point I can relate to.
For me also, coming up with an idea or starting point for a song stems from one catchy line or phrase. Then it just starts rollin'.
That's one of the things that made the song I'm doing now so hard... I didn't have a hook. I had an idea, a story, which is much harder to work from.

I just LOVE stuff like Dr Tweedbucket's Ratt City, which is all just hooks and catchy phrases, but I can't write that way at all. To quote one of the Roche sisters, rock and roll is about ****ing. Me and my high-falutin' ideas don't rock so well.

Last night, I dragged out my old Norton Anthology of English Literature for a school project my daughter is doing, and was reading her choice bits of poetry from Shakespeare, John Donne, and other masters I loved when I was a student. After reading one in particular, I had to explain to her that most sonnets are basically smut. Oh, I wish I could get elegant poetic imagery and, well, ****ing to meet in the same song!
 




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