It’s not an easy question to answer. Let’s look at it through a wider lens for a second. All forms of writing involve the creative process. Whether it’s a novel, a movie script, a short story, or a song, the process of delving down inside and coming up with something original is the same. You need the germ of an idea. That’s what makes you a writer. You must have that starting point. Ask yourself, “What do I want to say?”

Let’s say you just broke up with your girlfriend and you’re burning to say something to her. You decide the best way is in a song. So you get the idea, “You’ll Never Do Better Than Me.” You think about her turning on the radio and hearing that sucker 10 times a day. Aha! How sweet would that be? OK, now you’re motivated.


Pick up your guitar/keyboard/glockenspiel/ whatever and just start experimenting with that line. Try different chord progressions. Start filling in more lines. Don’t worry if they’re dumb, write them down anyway. Remember “Yesterday” by The Beatles started out as Scrambled Eggs.


You can change it later, and you probably will, but you need a starting point.


If you get stuck, try the phrase on top of other melodies you already know. Try it as “Louie Louie” or “Get Back.” Try it in different styles. Try it Country, try it Reggae, try it Rock. Don’t think of it as songwriting, think of it as fishing for a groove. Once you find something that works with your phrase, continue to experiment until you feel like the phrase has found a home. When it feels right, you’ll know it. It’ll be like the song is trying to tell you something. If you’re good, right about now, the song will begin to write itself.



You’ll never do better than me

Too bad that you just couldn’t see


There’s nothing wrong with using a rhyming dictionary, I do it all the time. If you don’t have one handy, go through the alphabet replacing the first letter until you find a word that you can end a phrase with. In this case I was trying to rhyme the word “me.” So I start going through the alphabet: Bee, Free, Key, Knee, Pee, See, etc. You see how it works. You find a good word and try to end a phrase with it.


You’ll never do better than me

Whenever I think of you I pee


Nope. Try again.


You’ll never do better than me

Too bad that you just couldn’t see


It’s not exactly “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” but it’s a start. And that start is everything, because from that little seed, a mighty oak tree will grow. You may go on to write four great verses and a chorus, but you have to have a starting point. The craft of songwriting is forever fluid. A song is never done. If you’re the author, you can change it right up until the final vocal track.


So, you can see that the initial idea is what starts the ball rolling and that’s what you should always be on the lookout for. Keep a notebook handy at all times. Listen to people talk. Write down interesting phrases.


Inspiration can come from anywhere. You hear dialogue on a TV show, read something in the newspaper, or hear something your kids said. It’s all around you. If you’re a writer you can find it. It’s out there.


The other day I was late and my wife asked me when I was leaving. I glanced at my watch and said, “I’m leaving here five minutes ago.”


Hmm, that sounds like a song, doesn’t it? So I whipped out my notebook and wrote, “I’m leavin’ you five minutes ago.”


That intrigued me so I came up with a little turnaround, and used the line to end a phrase.


Looked at my watch and what do you know?

I’m leavin’ you five minutes ago!


I can almost hear it as a country song, can you? Maybe something upbeat and sassy. I thought that phrase would work as the last line of a chorus. That’s an old country songwriter’s trick that goes back to Hank Williams: zapping you with the last line.


What I just tried to walk you through was how a songwriter’s mind works. You take your initial idea and fool around with it until you have the basis for a song. It sounds simple and it is, when it’s done right.


Learn more about what Greg Kihn is up to……. 98.5 KFOX …….. MySpace …….  BlogSpot …… Twitter …… Facbook …. Website …..

Originally posted 2009-02-14 05:06:19.