It all starts with....
There are many ways to begin writing a song.
Some days, I pick up my guitar and noodle around... Eventually hearing a satisfying melody and (hopefully) some random and enticing poetic line blasts out of thin air, and off I go! These compositions can take a long time to work out, but there are rare moments when a song comes along in its entirety, and fast.
Sometimes, I have to really work at getting into 'song-mode' and there has to be a ritual of sorts...everything has to be 'just right' so I have to clean the house first! I might then light some incense (Nag Champa) and light some candles, hoping to create the ultimate ambience for tapping into that 'precious musical flow.' Composing a song is very connected to moods. Some days, I have to inspire myself to write, and I have to change my mood to get myself psyched to create, so a hike is great for that! It helps get my heart beating, my blood pumping and my brain flowing away from the un-necessary, and into the right direction. At times, I really don't want to play at all, but I have to. I must practice and prepare but have no desire to start. No desire to get the ambience in line, no desire to get outside for some fresh air for that new perspective...Sometimes I got nothing and have to start anyway. But usually, within fifteen minutes of 'just doing the act itself' I find myself back in the groove of things and all is right with the world, musically. Yep, that's it, you just have to pick it up and there you are, right back where you left off.
I usually come up with a melody first. Things can get pretty dreamy up here and out here in the Music Stream. I start fiddling around unplugged (guitar fiddling around) and when I think I have something good, I'll plug in, turn on the reverb and from time to time, kick in some harmony vocals with my Harmony Singer Pedal, (This pedal somehow magically finds the right notes above and or below the note I am singing and somehow 'hears' what the guitar is playing and really comes up with some beautiful stuff!) I Love jamming out (rehearsing) in my own space, because the sound is set 'just right.' The sound outside, in a new room or music venue can be wonderful, but more often than not, it isn't and there's not much that can be done about it. Mostly, I have to stop being so critical of myself and let the flow FLOW! (don't we all!!)
With regards to lyrics. On one side, lyrics are extremely important to the music and on the other side, seemingly not so. For years I knew every word to my favourite songs, and it wasn't until much, much later that I would process just what those words actually meant. I can sit through an entire concert, never processing the lyrical content. The music, if it's good enough (to me) will just take me over. That said, I still put value into each word that finds its way into one of my songs. Every word counts and every one is placed with exacting thought. The "the's" the "at's" the "too's" every one! Let's face it, a song with BOTH brilliant lyrics AND melody can be life changing, inspiring and profound. (I am working on it.!)
There most certainly is no "right" way to make music and/or to write a song, and truly no "one" fail safe method. Unless you count writing from the heart. If you write from there and from yourself; from that place down deep, you will find a brutal honesty that actually does prove to be fail safe. Now, add a little melody (make it good) and write/sing/play about whatever you want. There is most certainly a freedom to music, never let anyone tell you differently. But make it good. Make it great!
Upon re-reading and editing what I have written here, I find myself thinking of Bob Snider's book on how to write a song called "On Songwriting" which you can find HERE. I read this book a few years ago and in it you will find all sorts of rules that were meant to be broken! It really is awesome and funny, just like himself and his music.
On another side note, a couple posts ago, I posted my newest song "Shut Eye" and in one post before that, a post to BONO you can hear the first song I ever wrote on guitar "Wide World"... Just scroll down if you like!