I’m a huge advocate of music theory and song analysis when it comes to songwriting. But many times our best and most creative ideas come from silly “mistakes” or unexpected places.
We have probably all heard about the story of Tom Waits, who plays five radios at once to come up with new ideas in his songwriting process. But there are many more sources you can get inspiration from and boost your creativity. They might sound silly at first, but keep in mind that in order to create something new, we have to do something that we have never done before.
So here are three crazy ideas of how you can find some inspiration for your songs.
I had a friend who went to the forest to record birds singing. Then he slowed down the recordings and composed music based on those noises. (He swore he was hearing pentatonic scales on those slowed-down recordings.)
We can get inspiration from the noises around us. Noises from animals, from traffic jams, from people shouting on the street. (Listen to the “singing” of this shoe shiner on the street.)
Once you have recorded those noises, write down each of these “melodies” on sheet music, or you can put the notes into your DAW. Choose a key for your song, and transpose all the motifs to this key.
Ask a layman
One of the best books I have ever read about the music industry is The Song Machine by John Seabrook. In his book, he mentions that many top producers use a top-liner in their songwriting process. A top-liner is a person who comes up with melody ideas on a piece of music. Many times these top-liners are non-musicians—regular people who happen to have a good ear for music.
Here is an idea: ask your non-musician friends to send you a voice message and sing something silly. It doesn’t have to be a complete song, only a short motif.
Collect all those short motifs, and again, transpose all of them into the same key. You don’t have to use all the melodies, but you can get pretty good ideas from them. Choose the best motifs and try to come up with a song by combining them. Maybe you will find a hidden talent amongst your non-musician friends!
If you want to learn more about writing a melody, you can read my detailed article on how to write a melody.
Listen to other genres
Some people only listen to music inside their own genre. But songs from completely different genres have much more in common than most people think. You can create really unique music if you listen to songs from other genres and get inspiration from them.
Do you write heavy metal songs? Listen to some songs from boybands from the ’90s. Do you write salsa songs? Listen to some heavy metal songs.
It’s not like you need to completely copy those songs. Did you find an interesting bassline? Write down the rhythm of that bass and make a bass groove with the same rhythm, but with a different chord progression.
Do you have a crazy method for getting inspiration for your songs? Let us know in the comments!