By Ed Melendez
I am often asked where I generate original ideas for songs. Well, the short answer is, mainly by sitting behind my piano and pounding away until something magical comes up. This might sound a lot like trying to get a monkey behind a typewriter and hope it can eventually pound out, “To Be, Or Not To Be”. But the thought behind my method isn’t just luck. It also allows time, personal experiences, and skills to rise to the top of the creative process.
There are many different ways one can come up with ideas for new songs certainly, but what might be even more important to the songwriter is to not lose ideas you’ve come up with. There is nothing more frustrating than having what you think is a great song idea, then after walking away from it, you come back to find you’ve completely forgotten it. In this area, I suggest a very simple and useful solution. Record! Record! Record! That’s right. Record everything. Simple jams, brainstorming sessions. These can bring out some incredible nuggets you can eventually use. So if you are feeling creative, before you pick up your guitar or sit behind a piano hit the record button. Then let your creative juices flow. Maybe you come up with something, maybe you don’t. But it is better to know you have a recording of it than not.
I once found myself in an argument with my band about wanting to tape our rehearsals. Their argument was that there was nothing to record. It was just a rehearsal! There was no real reason to use up tape space. My argument was, what if we missed something cool that we didn’t plan on during a rehearsal? I eventually won out. It was a good thing too. During one of those rehearsals, we found ourselves jamming on a number of pretty cool song ideas. We ended up completing three very cool songs from that one simple jam. I was able to go back and pull the ideas right from the recordings.
Another important thing I discovered in my experience in putting together a new song is that one might have a kernel of an idea, and often as songwriters, we begin crafting our songs based on that little kernel. So I use that kernel to begin writing a new song. But for me (almost without exception), I will always feel at some point in the process of writing that song, that something is missing. At that point, I will usually have to go back to that original recording of the jam, where the idea was created to find that one element that made me want to start writing the song in the first place. It is sometimes a simple element I completely overlooked. The beautiful part of having the birth of a song on tape is that you can always go back to it and compare it to what you are working on. That really helps.
I still have a huge box of tapes that are filled with parts of songs, choruses, verses and instrumental ideas. Some of those tapes even have labels on them. Most do not. But I know I can always pull one of those ideas out of that box when I need inspiration.
So don’t allow your ideas to be lost. I encourage you to carry a little pocket tape recorder with you. I’ve moved away from the old cassette tape recorders. These days, I now simply use my trusty little iPhone. It’s come in pretty handy. Your ideas are far too precious to lose. Take every step necessary to keep those ideas safe and from being forgotten or possibly lost.