Follow these steps to maximize your musical inspirations

Music artists like Sia, Adele and Ed Sheeran are all known for their outstanding voices, but there is more to their talent than you think. These three artists are rare because they write their own music and express their emotions through the art form of songwriting. Although there is no specific “process” to songwriting, there are strategies to know beforehand to make songwriting easier.

 Step One: Become Inspired

The best way to start songwriting is to get inspired by other artists’ music. “Listen to a lot of music, find out what you like. A lot of people write songs that sound like the artists they listen to, the people who influence them,” said Matt Rigdon, a Cedar Falls-based guitarist, songwriter and guitar teacher for 20 years.

Step two: Write Lyrics or Create a Melody 

Writing lyrics seems like a hard thing to do, but but it can flow from poetry, emotions, an inspiring person or a moment in life.

The structure of a typical song lyrics consists of Intro/Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus/Bridge/Chorus.

“It depends on the mood. I get inspired by happenings in the day, things I’m thinking about,” Rigdon said.

Melodies, which could also be the first step in songwriting, can be inspired by a number of things too. For example, the rhythms of a train have inspired many blues songs.

Songwriter Justin Hurwitz detailed the creative process behind the La La Land hit “City of Stars” in Variety magazine: “I was just composing it from an emotional place and thinking about the tone. I would say the tone is hopeful, but melancholy at the same time. And it kind of goes back-and-forth between cadencing in major and cadencing in minor because I think that’s kind of what the song is about. You have these great moments and then you have these less great moments in life and in Los Angeles, and we see it happen in the story.”

Step Three: Finding Out What Key Your Song is in and Create a Chord Progression

When you find out what key a song is in, this helps discover what other chords can be compatible with the rest of the song. This is the idea of chord progression. Rigdon said the easiest key to write in is E-minor, which has chords or notes that are compatible with others. For example, Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” is in E-minor.

Step Four: Name Your Song

Naming a song you wrote yourself solidifies the whole experience. It’s something that was made from scratch and is another way to express yourself. The name of your song might not even be related to the lyrics, but makes it whole. For example, the Beatles’ song “A Day In the Life” does not have those words in the lyrics, but instead it gives additional meaning to the song.

Step Five: Perform and Revise

At the end of the process a songwriter should perform the song to make sure it is what was imagined. Expect to make revisions, which will either simplify your song or make it more complicated for the listener. “It has to apply to the listener more than yourself sometimes, but some songwriters get away with writing something that nobody will like. They just write for themselves and say ‘If no one likes it I don’t care,’ which sometimes helps them be successful,” Rigdon said.

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