As a songwriter, inspiration can strike at the most improbable and inopportune times: reading a book, watching tv, taking a shower, walking the dog, grocery shopping… the list goes on and on. In fact, it seems like more often than not, inspiration strikes when you’re not expecting it. And unfortunately for those of you who are unprepared to capture these random moments of inspiration, it means that the perfect melody, chorus, chord progression, lyric or even song title you thought of while raking the leaves will be gone by the time you get back inside.
Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to capture each and every musical idea that pops into your mind so you never have to miss out on an opportunity to write what could be the best song in your catelog. But before we dive in, there is something very important we need to discuss:
Sometimes inspiration will strike while you’re preoccupied and your only option is to jot the idea down as quickly as possible. But ideas without context won’t be much help to anyone. Always remember to stay organized in your note taking, so that each moment of inspiration can easily be referred back to. Here are a few ways to help stay organized:
- Date every entry
- Give a frame of reference as to who sings what, who plays what and/or where the idea fits into the bigger picture
- Speak clearly (you’ll be amazed at how much of a difference this will make)
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets take a look at a few different ways to make sure you don’t miss out on any of random moments of inspiration:
At this point most people own some kind of smartphone capable of using apps, be it an iPhone, an Android phone or a Blackberry. Lucky for all of you smartphone owners, there are tons of apps that can make it easy for you to write and/or record any ideas that you have. A few of these apps are:
- Evernote: a note taking app that automatically syncs to your desktop so when you get hope, all of your ideas are already there. Notes can be written or recorded as an audio recording.
- Soundcloud: the Soundcloud app is a very simple and intuitive way to create audio recordings that are automatically saved to your Soundcloud account online.
- Four Track: an incredibly powerful app that acts as a fully functional four track recorder right from your phone.
These apps are just the beginning! Make sure you check back next week, as we’ll be dedicating a full article to smartphone apps for on-the-fly songwriting.
Not everyone in the world owns a smartphone (shock horror!). If you are one of these people, don’t fret. A simple way for you to still take advantage of using your phone as a mobile audio recorder is to simply call yourself or your home phone and leave a voicemail with the idea.
The Zoom H4N is a dual-mic, mobile audio recorder that can fit in your pocket! Not only is the quality of the recordings incredibly high, but the recordings are mp3 files that can be quickly transferred from the device to your computer for easier organization and utilization.
Old school voice recorder
Remember seeing these bad-boys at the doctor or in movies? These voice recorders used to be common place in note-taking but have been phased out by things like… computers. But they are still a very useful and inexpensive option for on-the-go voice recordings.
Strategically placed notebook and pen
This method is slightly less practical, but for those of you who are on a tight budget, it will certainly work. All you have to do is replace a mobile device with strategically placed notebooks and pens. You may not be able to capture every idea that pops in your head, but by placing a notebook is many of the places that make up your daily routine, you can ensure that you at least capture most of the ideas. Here are a few places to consider storing a notebook dedicated to your musical ideas:
- Your car (we don’t condone writing while driving. If you have an idea, pull over!)
- Bedstand / nightside table
- Work place
- Living room
How do you capture random moments of inspiration?
These ideas will all work well, but there is no doubt that some of you have found far more effective (and possibly ridiculous!) ways of making sure you don’t forget all of the golden ideas that come when inspiration strikes. We want to hear from you! Let us know how you do it in the form of a comment below.