Whether you have just started playing or you have been in bands for years and you’re starting a fresh project, writing strong and thoughtful material will always rise above all else.
Creativity comes in so many ways and at so many different times - lyric ideas can come while walking outside, while in the shower, while talking to people, while seeing live music, melodies can come while sitting in traffic, or doing things free-flowing. Great parts of songs can come to life from 20 minute jams with different players (Tip* be sure to record it and listen back later!), from poetry notebooks, after seeing an amazing inspiring movie or even after reading books & local news! Concepts, music and lyrics have endless possibilities and there are no rules regarding how they come to be. Most of the time ideas will likely come at very inconvenient times! Be sure to mark it down wherever you can, sing it to yourself in a voice memo or voicemail, use a notepad or text yourself. The idea might leave or be quickly be forgotten (we live in a very busy age!) so whatever it is write it down right away! It doesn’t matter if you’re punk, pop or a heavy metal band... Song material can come from literally anywhere. When you’re building your band or self as a solo artist, whether to prepare for playing shows or to record your first CD, you’re going to need some songs! And some great ones for that matter!
- What genre are you? Who are the successful bands or artists in your genre that inspire you? What makes their songs great? Try studying & taking note of their arrangement (i.e intro, verse, chorus etc) to get ideas as well as their approach lyrically (are they clear, do they tell a story, are the words simple or is more poetic or cryptic)
- It can be easier sometimes to start with a song title or even a message you’re trying to convey and branch off from there.
- What inspires you? Are there certain places around you that you know bring creativity or inspiration? Are there certain activities that you do that get that creative energy going or put your mind in a close-to meditative state? Be open to these places and actions and write down what you’re thinking about.
- When you’re first starting out you may want to consider writing some goals for yourself or together as a band so you have at least 6-10 songs to pick from to play your first show.
(Typically most live acts will get a time slot of 25 mins-45 mins to fill, so your material will need to cover this time. Also for acts that play loud full band shows you may want to consider having the ability & flexibility to play your songs acoustic / at lower volumes for particular shows or even for recordings - one acoustic for your record to show diversity or have a couple extra for marketing- like a free download or Alt version of a song *of course there are exceptions, for example - if you’re a metal band & that is not your direction). Additionally, you’ll want to include and prepare the time in between songs on stage for conversation and banter.
So how do you know which songs should stick? It’s hard to know sometimes before playing them out and before a crowd reacts.
Asking yourself these questions about each song might help start you in the right direction when making a set list:
Is this particular song one you always look forward to playing? The audience wants to hear songs that you enjoy yourself!
How relatable is the song? Does the melody of the song match it’s mood/lyrics? If it’s a sad song & a quiet moment in a bridge will people feel that? People will pay attention if it’s something they can relate to.
Will people be able to sing along, dance, or bob their head to the song? Either way, whatever it’s about, mean it when you sing it! Play it 100% because people will feel it!
If the melody is catchy enough, most likely in a live setting the words won’t even matter and people will connect and move their head to the beat anyway!
Ultimately it’s not about pleasing your audience, but it’s about giving your audience an experience and music they’ll remember - We are all humans with feelings and that is how we relate. It’s about opening up, sharing your honest emotions, yourself and creations that you’re proud of with people who have opened their ears to it. For the Every crowd will react differently, and every room will have a different vibe. It is important to believe in each one of your songs genuinely so it’s not up to anyone else if it’s a hit or not. If you don’t believe in it, leave it out, more songs will come to you. Focus on the songs you believe in and make them really great. That way others will start to believe in them too.