How to Create More Songwriting Ideas Than You Need with Brainstorming
Tired of the “what do I write about?” question, or the “I know what I want to write about… what do I say?” dilemma?
Then this is for you… transform your songwriting forever with Brainstorming, my go-to writing technique and favourite songwriting warmup.
After the video, you can read a written transcript and find links to other helpful songwriting resources
Brainstorming: Video Transcript
Brainstorming is my number one songwriting tip or hack. It’s my go to songwriting technique. You can create more songwriting ideas than you need, then keep only the best ideas for your song.
A common songwriting problem is figuring out what to write… whether it’s “I don’t know what to write about” or “I have a great idea but I don’t know what to say about it!” Brainstorming is your solution. You unblock yourself and get your ideas onto paper where you can craft them into lyrics. With practice you drop straight into a flow state and dump your song ideas onto a page without distracting yourself by judging your ideas until you’ve finished.
- I’ll describe the basic idea first, then get into some important details you might not think of on your own.
- Get out a piece of paper or your notebook, a pen and set the countdown timer on your phone for 5 minutes.
- If you don’t have a song topic or title, brainstorm a list of possible titles and topics for 5 minutes..
- Once you have a theme or title idea you want to explore, brainstorm again. Write ideas as fast as you can think of them for 5 minutes.
- Don’t edit anything, don’t judge anything, don’t cross anything out… just write! Practice getting your ideas onto paper.
As you brainstorm, some ideas will be weak or even bad… Keep writing
Some ideas will be great… Keep writing
Don’t worry about spelling or finding the perfect word right now… Just keep writing!
Brainstorming can feel awkward if it’s new to you
That’s okay… it’s a skill you develop with practice. Stop your internal struggle to write only the best ideas. Instead, try to find and write AS MANY ideas as you can. As you get better, you can brainstorm longer, but don’t push it longer than you can stay focused. Stick to quality before quantity as you practice this technique.
Why Brainstorming Works
Brainstorming works because when you flip the “I don’t care switch” in your head, you can release a flood of ideas. Sometimes a series of terrible ideas will lead to brilliant ones. Right now, every idea is a “yes”… write them all down.
When you’re brainstorming, focus on words, short phrases and fragments of lines. Keep your ideas to 5 words or less. This makes it easier to fit them into complete lines later when you’re editing. Don’t try to write lines or rhymes yet.
Writing full lines in a brainstorm point usually causes trouble… you start trying to create rhythms and rhymes and patterns. Whenever I start rhyming during a brainstorm, I start forcing rhymes or slowing down or even stopping. Stick to quick ideas and imagery. We’ll find rhyme pairs later in the songwriting process in Module 2: Frustration Free Lyrics Writing.
Brainstorming Other Song Elements
Brainstorming isn’t just for lyrics. Using the same concept, you can brainstorm chords for a progression. Pick a key, some chords to play, then play around with them for a few minutes until you find a progression you like. You can brainstorm melody ideas, turn, record yourself on your phone and sing a line or two of lyrics while you play a chord progression. Listen back to find the best variation you sang. We’ll get deeper into chord progressions and melody writing in later modules.
Your first idea isn’t always the best idea… keep exploring and brainstorming!
Other Things to Know About Brainstorming
Back to lyrics writing… I’ve had songs come quickly with a few brainstorming sessions. For other songs, I’ve had over a dozen pages of handwritten ideas that I edited down to a single song. On one page there might be several great ideas, on another there might be only one golden word or phrase.
In the next video, I’ll discuss editing, how to sort your ideas, choose the best ones, and start polishing. Right now think about putting words and ideas on paper, that’s it.
Don’t judge anything right now, record your ideas without editing or thinking. Focus on generating ideas, focus on the act of writing!
Getting More Ideas Out Of Brainstorming
These prompts can help you focus on your topic and generate more ideas:
1. What other words and phrases fit with the idea?
2. What emotions can you tap into, what’s the emotional journey?
3. What imagery, or poetic language comes to mind?
4. What metaphors and similes can you come up with?
5. What senses can you tap into… sight, sound, sensations
6. Who are the characters? How do they look and what do they do?
7. What’s the setting, where would the action be?
8. What other ideas fit with your title idea?
I’ll explain each of these points in more detail later in Module 2: Frustration Free Lyric Writing. For now use them as a jumping off point for writing.
I find pen to paper is the best way to record my ideas.
Typing might work for you but I’m a good typist and it actually slows me down. Try writing by hand first. Practice keeping your thoughts a few words ahead of your pen, this will help your writing flow and you’ll avoid stops and starts. As you’re brainstorming, focus on your next idea, not on what you’ve already written. Review and edit later when you’ve finished the brainstorm. Don’t mix these steps, you’ll slow down or block up.
Try Brainstorming right after you finish this video. Don’t worry about the quality of your ideas or your results, try to get as many ideas on paper in a few minutes. Set a timer for 5 minutes and get as many ideas down on paper as you can.
In the next lesson, we’ll look at the difference between writing and editing. Editing is the next step in the songwriting process, where you choose the best ideas you’ve just brainstormed and start polishing and improving them.
END Video Transcript
Try Brainstorming Right Now!
- Start with an idea or title. If you don’t have a title yet, brainstorm possible themes or titles first
- Set a timer for 5 minutes, when you’ve practiced this you can try brainstorming for longer. Right now choose a short, manageable time so you teach yourself to stay focused. Don’t do anything except write down ideas while the timer is going. If your thoughts are flowing you can continue once the timer runs out.
- Write ideas as they come and keep your thoughts a few words ahead of your pen
- Remember: every idea is a “yes” … write them all down, even if they seem silly or off topic. Sometimes great ideas will follow from weak ones.
Don’t worry about the quality of your ideas or your results.
Try to get as many ideas on paper in a short period of a few minutes.
This is a sample lesson from the Ultimate Songwriting Jumpstart, if you can play songs you can learn to write songs with the musical skills you already know…click to find out more about it!
More Songwriting Resources…
It’s faster to get songwriting training from someone who knows how to teach it, than endlessly questing on Google or YouTube