Do you have a songwriting journal already? If not, you should go ahead and get one, or something like it. Most songwriters like to have their ideas organized in a single space that they can get to and sift through pretty easily.
If you aren't the journaling type, consider doing songwriting vlogs or typing lyrics out in a document or notes app. As long as your musical ideas are easy for your to get to, you're doing good!
My personal choice for a songwriting journal is digital with my notes app. I can easily get to my notes on my phone or on my computer thanks to iCloud.
Back before cell phones were a thing, I was really big on a physical journal for my life entries and a separate journal for all my music and poetry. As you can imagine, a lot of the poems turned into songs.
One thing I failed to do before becoming a professional session singer and writer is see all the things I was missing out on when it comes to my songwriting journal. I put poems, lyrics, and a random idea or two here and there, but there was so much more I could have added that would have helped me get a more complete idea out before losing it once I got in my home studio.
Your journal should obviously have lyrics, but are you making the most out of jotting down your lyrical ideas? Whether you're just writing phrases down or you're jotting down a whole song piece by piece, you may want to include keywords for the overall message that the song could be trying to get across.
Write down the feeling you want the listener to feel when they hear the lyrics. Set the stage for how the singer will interpret the emotion of the lyrics. Will it be powerful vocal delivery? Is it playful?
The more thought and ideas you put into how the lyrics will really play out and affect people, the more these ideas will start to form a real vision, the better the song has a chance to come to life the way you want it to.
Related Post: Do Lyrics Really Need To Rhyme In A Song?
You might be journaling and hearing the instrumentation ideas but not writing them down because you feel like it's silly or not your job. Don't think like that! Pairing your lyrics with instrumental ideas is another great way to give your song a fighting chance to come to life as authentically as possible.
This may not be a big deal to writers that don't really get into music theory like that, but if you do, you can really help set the tonal mood for the songs and make sure they match the lyrics when you also document some chord ideas.
These chord ideas you're hearing may be on a guitar, or it could be on a piano. Or maybe you're hearing synth sound ideas. Whatever the instrument you hear, document both that and the chord progressions.
This is especially necessary if you're in a genre/style of music that get's really complex with the chord and key changes. Those elements can easily be forgotten by the time you get home to your instrument or get to link with a producer or instrumentalist.
Related Post: We know the Circle of Fifths, but is there such thing as a Circle of Thirds?
Another simple but important idea you could add to your lyrical ideas is the tempo that you want the song to be in. It will be tricky to know the exact tempo you're going for, but there are a few ways you can write your tempo ideas down.
The first way to go is to estimate the BPM (beats per minute). If you're familiar with the feel of different BPMs, you could go with estimates, or if you want to be more exact, you could use a phone app like GarageBand.
If you want to go with easier and looser tempo markings, you could use classical tempo terms like "largo" (slow around 40-60 bpm), "adante" (walking pace around 75-108 BPM), "moderato" (108-120 BPM), "allegro" (120-150 BPM), and "vivace" (150-170 BPM).
Another way to do this is to just list a separate song you know that has a tempo close to the idea you have for your own song. This is the simplest and easiest way to go about it, then you can change it to a real BPM later once you get into the recording process.
One day I was out and about, and I heard the most insanely cute song on the radio in the store from an artist that I could not recognize. I looked the song up and found it on Spotify pretty fast. Now you may say, "Well hey, there's no need to document this in my journal if I already add the song to my playlist."
That's where you're wrong! Think of inspiring songs in your journal as pictures that represent the lifestyle of your dreams in a vision board. Adding great songs that inspire you will help your motivation levels out immensely! You can also add random quotes and poems from others that really inspire you; the inspiration doesn't need only come from music.
Get more tips on writing lyrics and melodies by joining the community! Sign up here and get your free digital copy of my book "The Unsigned Music Playbook".
This blog was written by singer, songwriter and producer Yona Marie. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
If you are ever in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services for your music project or brand, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her song services page.