Where do great song ideas come from?
Are they crouching behind bushes just out of sight like crafty little leprechauns or hidden under rocks like salamanders waiting for you to turn them over to discover them buried there?
Actually, neither is the case. While it may seem like song ideas are deliberately hiding from you, they’re actually happening around (and within) you every day, all day long, 365 days a year. You just need to know how to spot them.
In our NCS Coaching, I teach songwriters that you have a lot more control over your innate creativity than you might think. With the right skills, you can begin to spot ideas so quickly and easily that your title list will be brimming with song ideas queuing up and screaming to be written.
Here are five ways singer-songwriters, worship leaders, worship songwriters, and anyone struggling to find great song ideas can spot ideas and write the kind of compelling songs people will want to hear over and over again.
Listen for alliteration. Many hit radio songs and worship songs are carried on the power of alliteration. Meghan Trainor‘s 2014 career-establishing mainstream hit “All About That Bass” (Trainor/Kadish) is a stunning example. The rapid-fire title features not one use of alliteration, but three.
Say it out loud and pay attention to the repetition of the letters a, b, and t. Alliteration is “ear candy” and engages the listener’s brain on a basic linguistic level that makes it more memorable.
Trainor and her producer, Kevin Kadish, devised the alliterative delight when they combined a title he had floating around “All Treble, No Bass” with a phrase the pop singer often said at the time, “I’m all about that!”
Feel the feels. When was the last time you were genuinely moved by something you saw or heard in real life, or experienced in a play or movie, or even just read in a book? Odds are, if something moved you, it will move others.
When you feel an emotion, pay attention to it and see if you can identify exactly what you’re feeling. One study revealed that there could be as many as 27 distinct human emotions as opposed to the mere six emotions previously thought to be our very limited range of feeling.
But if you feel it as a singer-songwriter, billions of others probably do, too, so see if you can capture it in a song idea with a concise title that expresses it. Ben Fielding and Brooke Ligertwood’s hugely popular “What a Beautiful Name It Is” has had millions of views, likes, and shares because it evokes a tremendous worship response.
While worship isn’t generally thought of as an emotion, it made the list referred to above as adoration and awe. Because worship is already built into the range of human emotions, our job as Christian songwriters is to make fresh the emotions of adoration and awe in every song we write. Feel the feels and write powerful songs that connect with a lot of other feeling folks.
Rhyme time. From childhood we experienced the joy of rhyme. Do you remember the first time you heard or spoke the words to Mary Had a Little Lamb? There is a distinct mental and emotional pleasure derived from the connection between the simple words “snow/go” that form the first inklings of poetic enjoyment in our childish minds. It’s just how God wired our brains.
Rhyme is the strongest key to memorization, along with melody (think the Books of the Bible song you may have learned in Sunday School), so using rhyme in a song title immediately triggers memory in your listeners.
Here’s a short list of song titles that rhyme outright or that contain an element of rhyme:
- Helter Skelter
- Mellow Yellow
- Tutti Fruitti
- Good Golly Miss Molly
- Who You Say I Am
- This Is Amazing Grace
- Good Good Father
Using rhyme within a title makes it immediately memorable, so listen for rhyming words in conversations, movies, sermons, novels, and even in your own prayers. Rhyme shows up constantly, so begin to listen for it and you’ll be amazed at how many start cropping up around you. Couple rhyme with alliteration in your song title and you’ve got a double whammy!
Cruise the news. While it’s completely unhealthy (imho) to keep the news blaring in your house all day long, it’s a fact that news reports are a source of inspiration for songwriting. In a post from LAWEEKLY titled “10 of the Best Headline-Inspired Songs,” they report that many mainstream rockers find song fodder in the headlines.
Their entry on Don McLean’s classic song “American Pie” states:
“The story goes that on Feb. 3, 1959, American folk singer Don McLean — then 13 years old — was doing a paper route in which he delivered news of the fatal plane crash involving Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, and was so moved that he wrote the song “American Pie.”
Try listening more closely to what the reporters are actually saying for song ideas, as well as responding to the actual events they’re reporting on for song ideas. Their job is to communicate to the public and so is yours. Listen for alliteration, rhyme, and emotion to capture song titles and ideas that move you.
Interestingly, as of this writing, there are more than 65 songs on Spotify with the word “coronavirus” in the title, according to this post on qz.com.
Read to feed. The number one, all-time, undisputed king of where to find song Ideas is reading. Reading not only informs our thinking, it feeds our creativity and is the ultimate source of song ideas. Seeing words on an actual page, phone, Kindle, iPad, or any other device is the single greatest way to find song ideas.
It’s one thing to hear words flying by your ears and trying to snatch them out of the air for a song idea. But it’s another to see them written before you on a page and to “hear” them in your mind as you read them silently or aloud. They can come alive to both senses that way, to come alive to your seeing and hearing, and spring into a song quicker than you can say “Bob’s your uncle.”
After all, writing songs is about communicating with words. How can you expect to become a great songwriter if you don’t love words? Reading may have been forced on you as a child and you might think of yourself as a poor reader, but that’s no excuse or reason to not read. Read read read. And then read some more.
Every prolific writer is a great reader. Words are life to a songwriter. Love them and they will love you back with a thousand song ideas per day.
There is no shortage of song ideas. There are millions of them happening all around you every day. These five suggestions for finding them form the beginning of a way of thinking, a mindset, that every aspiring songwriter should adopt in order to become a powerful, and prolific, communicator. Use them and you’ll never lack for a great song idea again.
Our NCS Coaching is all about helping you use these skills, and many more, to fulfill your call to write for Jesus. Use this link to set up a no-obligation discovery call with our team today to talk about your dreams and goals as a songwriter. https://go.oncehub.com/NCSSongwriterConsultationCall
Nashville Christian Songwriters exists “to empower Christian songwriters worldwide,” and that includes our inner attitudes and beliefs about ourselves and God. To go even further, consider joining NCS Membership to access monthly masterclasses and join a growing community of dedicated Christian songwriters seeking to change the world one great song at a time.