How To Capture All Of Your Best Songwriting Ideas

Have you ever had a great song idea at exactly the wrong time?

Maybe you were on a walk, and you thought of a nice lyric? Then by the time you finished your walk, you’d forgotten it?

Or perhaps you do a decent job of capturing ideas when you have them but…

…soon they become an unorganized mess of notebooks, voice memos, scraps of paper, etc.?

If that’s you, keep reading because in this blog post you’re going to learn:

  1. How to organize your ideas in a way that will result in more completed songs.
  2. How to capture your ideas more easily in the future to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

This happens to you because…

….your brain is great at generating ideas. Unfortunately, your brain sucks at retaining ideas.

All day long, your brain is coming up with things. If you’re lucky, you’re able to act on them right away but more often than not it’s not an appropriate time.

You’re driving. You’re with somebody. You’re at work. You’re in the shower.

What you need is a way to capture these ideas so that you can deal with them later.

You see, there are three general steps to writing a song:

  1. Capture all the different song ideas that you have.
  2. Sort through your ideas and identify the ones worth pursuing.
  3. Turn those ideas into completed songs.

In this blog post, we’re going to tackle step one:

How do you capture all your ideas in a way that sets you up for step two?

What most people do is have:

  • Voice memos for their voice recordings.
  • Demos in a Dropbox folder or in GarageBand sessions.
  • Notes on their phone.
  • Word docs on their computer and/or Google Docs.
  • Notes in journals or notebooks.
  • Scraps of paper lying about.
  • etc.

If you take that route, pretty soon you’re going to start losing ideas. And if that’s the case, you’re no better off than you were before you’d written down or recorded those ideas.

To solve this, I’m going to propose that you…

…create one location where all your song ideas end up.

Productivity expert, Ari Meisel, calls this an ‘external brain.’ And for this task, I propose using Evernote.

Evernote is an app designed for note taking, organizing, tasks lists, and archiving. Evernote allows you to store and categorize any type of media: video, audio, text, a screenshot. You can even take a picture of a book, and it will convert it to text. It’s pretty amazing.

Evernote allows you to categorize all those different things into “notebooks.” And you can tag each item with tags like: ‘lyrics’, ‘demos’, ‘melody ideas’, ‘songs for next album’, etc.

So, how do you get started?

First, commit to using Evernote from here on out.

Then, move all your scattered ideas over to Evernote. Depending on the number of ideas you have laying around, it could be a pain. Trust me, it’s worth it and I promise that it gets easier after this step.

From now on, put all your ideas into Evernote as you have them.

  • When you make a note in your phone, you make it in Evernote instead of the notes app.
  • If you record a voice memo, immediately share it to Evernote (which you can do from the voice memo app on an iPhone.)
  • If you work on lyrics in a word processor, immediately share your document to Evernote.
  • If you write lyrics in a journal, take a picture and have Evernote convert it to text.
  • You get the idea…

If you’re thinking: “this sounds nice but I don’t have the discipline to do this. I’m not organized. This will never work for me.”

Don’t worry, I’m the same way.

To pull this off we need one more tool. A tool that makes capturing an idea in Evernote as easy as pushing one button on your phone.

The tool I’m talking about is a free app called If This Then That (IFTTT.) In layman’s terms, it connects actions between two apps.

Here’s how it can work for our purposes:

Let’s say you’re walking your dog, and you have a lyric idea. Here’s what you do:

That’s it.

The whole process of getting your note into Evernote takes a matter of seconds.

You don’t even have to open the Evernote app or find the right notebook to put it in. It’ll go into a notebook called “On the Go Ideas.”

Or let’s say you’re driving your car and you have a melodic idea. Here’s what you do:

It will automatically end up in Evernote. Pretty cool, huh?

Once you’ve gotten the hang of this, you’ll realize you have another problem to deal with…

…these ideas still aren’t turning into songs. Next week, we’ll tackle sorting ideas. And, the week after that, we’ll deal with turning ideas into completed songs.

Stay tuned!

Chris

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Chris Jacobie

Hi, my name is Chris Jacobie. I'm a music producer from San Antonio, TX. I help musicians make better records ...even if they don't have much money.

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