Today we’re going to set aside a longer block of time to stretch out and explore.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A timer or clock
- Something to write with
- Your choice of instrument
- Blank music paper or something to record with
- At least thirty minutes. I prefer ninety.
Oh, and your choice of frosty beverage.
Set aside a block of time to focus.
It’s normal to thrash and resist the work at first, which is why I like to set aside a decent chunk of time. Ninety minutes should offer you enough breathing room to settle in and find a groove. With ninety minutes on the clock, you can relax.
As always, these simple guidelines for better focus are relevant.
Pick a topic.
Now that you’ve settled in and started the timer, turn your thoughts toward something you’d like to write about. You might start with a single image, a dramatic situation, a memory—start anywhere. It doesn’t have to be a perfect, complete song idea; just pick a general topic to go exploring in.
For example, maybe you spent a day at the beach last weekend. Why not write about that?
Go there in your mind.
Whatever concept you choose, immerse yourself in the remembered or imaginary scene by writing about it. Call on all your senses:
Taste the salt in the air. Hear the surge and tug of the waves. Feel the sharp rocks underfoot. See the wind pulling at your friend’s long hair.
Before long you’ll feel like you’re really there. Focus. Let the mood of the scene settle over you.
When you’ve written your way into the right headspace, sketch out scraps of music that express this mood. Try any or all of the following:
- a chord
- a short sequence of notes
- a chord progression
- a complete melody
Compose as though your scene is a movie you’ve been hired to score. Try writing short musical figures to express individual images: you might write a short melody based on a seagull’s call, or write a chord progression about clouds blotting out the sun. You might try to write something that captures the feeling of wet sand contouring to the bottoms of your feet, leaving footprints.
Write down each chord, progression, and melodic fragment that you come up with as you go—writing things down will free your mind for more ideas while making your existing ideas easier to work with. Feel free to label each with a short tag to help you make sense of the page: “Seagull”, “Footprints”, etc.
If you have time, you can start slotting your lines of lyric and/or musical phrases into some kind of song structure. At that point you’ll have a rhyme scheme to help pull you along from line to line and start drawing the whole thing together.
Finish up for the day.
When your allotted time runs out, if the song isn’t finished, set a date & time when you’ll return to the song. Don’t leave it to chance!
Now kick back. Here’s to a job well-done.
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