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“What’s your process for writing songs?” is one of the most common questions I get asked in this job. (Right behind, “how old are you?”)

Most of it is still a mystery to me, but here’s what I do:

1) Listen to a song that I’m REALLY into. You gotta feel this song to your core and listen to it a few times while you do step 2.

2) Write new lyrics to the song, about whatever you’re working through
– you can copy the rhythm, you can copy the rhyme scheme, you can copy the melody (for now)

3) Leave those lyrics alone.

4) Some days later, sit down with a guitar/piano and play until you get an interesting melody or chord progression (don’t know how to make your own chord progression? Find a song from a different genre and copy the chord structure of the entire song, speed it up or slow it down, then put a capo on the guitar OR transpose it to a new key)

5) You’re gonna need to rearrange some stuff at this point – delete some words, change the melody to make it fit the new chord progression.

6) Badda bing badda boom – you got a song. Does it suck? Maybe. Do you like it? Maybe. Did you write it? Hell yes you did. Be proud that you accomplished something today. It probably sounds nothing like the songs you copied.

Try out this sequence if you get stuck and don’t know what to do. The terrible song you end up writing might inspire a better one next time you’re in the mood to write.