I’ve spent a bit of time on this and now remember what it was like when I used to write songs. I wonder if my experience is common, or if I’m just doing it the way I do it.
I haven’t completed a song yet. I’m still playing with how to write a song. The way I started was the way I remember doing it in the deep dark past. I sat down at the guitar and started to play chords. I didn’t have anything in mind that I wanted to write about. I didn’t have a key to play in or any idea of a melody. After a while I had a few chords and the bones of a melody for a verse and some words on paper. I put them down and left them for the last few days. There was nothing about what I did that feels like a song yet, just bits and pieces. But I’m sure I could fill it out to make something that would technically fulfil my intention.
But it doesn’t feel right. I remember writing like that. It’s not a bad way to go, it’s like letting a song write itself and I would just hang around until it was finished. I may finish that song. It might even end up Ok. Sometime tweaking and starting over and changing around will lead to a result. Other times not. But it didn’t feel like what I wanted.
While taking a shower, walking on the beach or just sitting around musing about things I’ll often get a melody in my head. Sometimes I’ll hear a few phrases to go with the melody. Sometimes I’ll think of an idea I’m convinced will make a good song. And all that is, or at least always has been, ephemeral. Way back when I’d try writing down the words. Sometimes that would work and I’d get it down on paper, but more often I’d find the paper and pen too late and something about the phrase or idea would be missing. Sometimes I’d get to my guitar and try to work out the melody or some chords. But I’m not enough of a musician to do that easily and I’d almost always be too late. That’s why I’d end up writing the way I did.
Today I have the technology to do it differently. At least I think so. I’m going to keep my iPhone close and when I have a thought I’ll record it. Then I’ll try to write from the ideas that are floating around rather than kludging something together. I wonder if it will be any better.