[Sheet Music]

Lesson 134: Composition/ Songwriting - Ideas for Tunes

How Do I Get New Ideas?

  • A new instrument
  • Try a new tuning
  • Write a lot of tunes
  • Just sing a melody without an instrument
  • Just sit down and noodle on an instrument
  • Listen in on people in a cafeteria/ restaurant
  • Sit in a café/ restaurant and watch people
  • Watch what people buy in the supermarket
  • Write about a place
  • Write about a person
  • Write about a pet
  • Think of a feeling - pain/ sadness/ sorrow usually works well
  • Work from a title - an anagram/ Band-in-a-Box/ Wikipedia etc.
  • Keep a list of prospective song titles
  • Write a tune for theatre/ film/ TV
  • Write a piece of video game music
  • Write a jingle/ a sound logo/ a ringtone
  • Write a piece of elevator music
  • Take a poem and write music to it
  • Draw inspiration from a painting
  • Draw inspiration from a book
  • Draw inspiration from a film
  • Draw inspiration from listening to music
  • Draw inspiration from not listening to music
  • Draw inspiration from something you saw on TV
  • Write about something you read about in a newspaper
  • Talk a walk - the oxygen will do wonders for your brain
  • Visit new places and meet new people
  • True stories from real life are often the best
  • Express feelings, do not hold back - "spill your guts"
  • Always carry a notebook
  • Keep an archive of your ideas/ tunes
  • Write for yourself, do not try to impress or please others
  • Try to write a different type of song - a different form or in a different genre/ style
  • Just sit down and start writing, like you would do a crossword puzzle ( Kenny Werner)
  • Stop judging your ideas
  • Study compositions and songs you like and learn from them
  • Co-write with someone
  • Listen to a piece of music and try to write something similar
  • Recycle your own ideas - when you have a really good idea, write many tunes where you use it in different ways *
  • Deliberately try to write a really bad song
  • Do not be afraid of writing bad songs **

Some More Composition/ Songwriting Philosophy

I do not listen to much music nowadays. I work with music all day long and practically every day. So, the first thing that I want to do when I get some time off is not listen to music. I would rather read a book or watch TV.

This is not necessarily a problem, though. The fact that I do not listen to much music may be a good thing. It inevitably makes me write original music. I do not say that it is better than the music other people write, but at least it is my own music.

You may also want to check out lesson 15, another lesson on the philosophical aspects of composition/ songwriting.


*) Check out my tunes

  • Fall, Break and Heal, Rise
  • Innocent Mental Mood and Innocent Mental Mood, Episode II
  • Multum Stultus and Spring Flowers
  • One Man One Song and One Man One Song Part II
  • Pets, Pets Part II ( The Return) and Pets Part III ( aka Cats in the Coffee Shop)
  • Pick Me Up! and Is This Silly or What?
  • Sensei & Unsui and Turn Around
  • TANSTAFJ and Job Insecurity
  • Untitled ( aka Reel #1) and Untitled, Too
where I have used recycling in various ways.

**) Don’t be afraid of writing crap. Crap makes the best fertilizer in the world and when you have a lof of it, one day from this pile of crap will grow something wonderful. - Pat Pattison ( Berklee College of Music)

© 2014 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.