View Full Version : What are your favorite song writing tools?

03-21-2012, 07:44 AM
I'm trying to refine my song writing workflow, and I'm looking for tips and recommendations. I find that I often come up with little ideas that I like while I'm practicing or just noodling around, and then promptly forget them. So:

How do you get riffs, chord progressions, melodies or lyrics out of your head and preserved for the future?

Are there tools (high tech or low tech) that you find useful?

What would make your life as a song writer easier?


03-21-2012, 12:46 PM
My .02 - I write lyrics first and the melodies are a result of the lyrics structure. I figure out chord progressions next, sometimes taking into consideration the feeling I am try to convey. Then I usually plug the chords into Band-in-a-Box and polish the melody. I'm usually working on lyrics for a couple of weeks and once they are close, I will start on the music. When "finished" I keep a song on my music stand for about 2 weeks and play it a lot. Often I make small changes there. The next thing I do is practice any picking that I am going to be doing so I won't be having to play it for a week trying to get a keeper video for YouTube. I spend as much time learning the song well enough to do a video as I do writing the song (which I assume better players don't have to do). For me, Band-in-a-Box helps with the timing - which I am weak at. I will be watching this thread and hoping for some help - I need it :-)

Ukulele JJ
03-21-2012, 01:00 PM
How do you get riffs, chord progressions, melodies or lyrics out of your head and preserved for the future?

You record them. It can be as simple as just keeping a folder full of Audacity snippets and TextEdit/NotePad jottings somewhere on the computer.

That, and a bookmarked link to RhymeZone, are pretty much all the tech you need. :-)


04-12-2012, 05:25 PM
I bring a sheet of paper and a pencil with me where ever I go; you never know when lyrics will come to you. Jot down any ideas that come to you, even though you may never even use them.. how will you know if you don't save them, right? Also, maybe get a small voice recorder. I have one and use it ALL the time. That way you can record and save any random melodies that you happen to come by. ;)

04-14-2012, 01:40 AM
I have an ap on my phone that is a voice recorder. I get my best song ideas while I'm driving. I can hum a few bars or dictiate lyrics and play them back later.
I had been toying with a song idea about a place I visited. I wasn't sure how to approach it. I got this idea about a week ago and recorded it yesterday. 8 string Kamaka uke on the rhythym and solo tracks:


Driftin' Duke
05-01-2012, 10:17 AM
Up until last year when I got a mobile phone that can record, I used to use an MP3 player that did very distorted, but totally adequate recordings just to make sure I had the seed of the idea. I have found that songs evolve of their own volition, but on a couple of occasions listening to the very first idea again made me realise that it was better than what I had developed.

Unless you have an idea of a melody that is really complicated, I try to be ruthless, so if I can't remember the melody the next time I see the words and chords I've jotted down, then it's not good enough and I ditch it.

I used to have a home studio, but now all I use is a Zoom R16 digital multi-track recorder and some decent mics that I have kept to develop song arrangements. I have used it as an idea recorder as it has it's own stereo mics, but getting my phone out is sooooooo much quicker.

05-09-2012, 11:52 PM
I too have the mobile phone option as a standby for emergencies (it only records 60 seconds - but it's enough to capture that useful little phrase or chord sequence). However, I also have a great little ZEN MP3 player whose unlimited recorder will go into operation at a single touch of a button and that's really useful to have in the shoulder bag for preserving a more complete first draft. Its quality is surprisingly good.

I would also recommend Band in a Box as a useful songwriter's tool. You can experiment with styles once you have entered the chord sequence and you can sometimes discover something you'd never have thought of, simply by trying a song in a host of styles before settling on the one you think is best for the song.

BTW Mystery Worm - nice video and song. Did you actually go there and get inspired, or was this tourism in the imagination, only?
If I could make one small suggestion I'd change the very last line (when you switch "I" to "We") to
"If the stories are true, we all will visit Fengdu"
- since we who have not been there before our final journey will not be "returning", but going for the first time. Unless, of course, you were hinting at reincarnation with that line. BTW it has certainly passed the "whistle test" I've been singing the chorus in my head the whole time while writing this :cool:

05-10-2012, 01:24 AM
The story of the Fengdu song is that when people die, they go there to be judged and reassigned for their next life. If the stories are true, you have been there before. We all have. Multiple times.
The legends say that the truly evil are sent to Hell and are not reborn. I wonder how bad one has to be to be reborn a slug.

And yes, I was there and those are my photos.