Most people think of songwriting process as something that would take weeks or even months. Sometimes, yes, the whole production process (including arrangement, recording and mixing) might take a long time but in fact, the songwriting itself is usually a quick process, simply because a song is the emotions, feelings and expressions of the writer about a specific topic in a specific period of time, right? So, all these feelings and expressions should be translated into a song before they are all gone! Then later the artist can go back to it and “polish” them and prepare them for a proper production!
It’s exciting when a song seems to happen spontaneously and easily; within what seems to be a few minutes, you’ve written something that is, for all intents and purposes, a great song that’s ready for prime time. As you hopefully know, there’s no rule that says the longer it takes to write something, the less likely it is to be successful. So, putting aside the argument around how long it should take to write a song, I want to describe something related: The benefits of purposely writing a song as quickly as you can.
Speedwriting might be hard because all good music needs good structure. We might be able to come up with words, melodies and chords relatively quickly, but structure? That sometimes takes a little longer. Structure involves smooth transitions between sections, giving lyrics a sense of chronology, and pulling melodic fragments together using melodic and rhythmic motifs, etc. That usually takes a bit of work.
There can be some benefits to forcing yourself to write a song quickly, in real time. Mainly:
There are many ways to speed-write songs, but I think the best way is to just sit with your instrument and start playing with little or no forethought. It’s best if you’ve got a chord progression as a starting point, so if you need, take a few seconds and sketch something quickly and then develop it from there.
Just start! Imagine that you’ve been asked on the spur of the moment to sing at a local show. You don’t have a song ready, but you don’t want people to know that. So, you just start.
Be sure to have a recording device rolling so that you have something you can go back to later on and listen to. Let it record everything! Don’t forget, if you record unnecessary audio, later you can simply delete them but if you want to just record selectively, you might miss a great part, because you wanted to avoid recording anything unnecessary! Plus, keep recording and pausing the record process will steal your focus from your main task which is to write! Just let it roll, and later come back to it and take the best parts and you can simply erase whatever you don’t need!!
Some tips for spontaneous speedwriting:
Speedwriting allows you to see your musical instincts in action, and the results might surprise you (in a good way!) You might be tempted to always default to a slow tempo because it gives you time to think. But challenge yourself. Each time you try, choose a new tempo, a new key, and a new performance style.
You’ll discover that it’s not easy to do this, and you may wind up with nothing particularly useful for future songs. But forcing creativity in this way is a great mental exercise. No one has to hear your results, but every once in a while, you’ll create a gem of a moment that can find its way into a future songwriting attempt.