Here are #11-15:
11. Collaborate: I’d venture the majority of well-known songs have been written by more than one person. Collaborating is excellent because as a team, you can instantly get feedback, and can potentially recruit songwriting partners who have strengths in areas you don’t, or other primary influences. Entire bands have been based off unusual collaborations.
You’ll find an enormous number of composer and lyricist duos (Rogers and Hammerstein, Gilbert and Sullivan, Lerner and Loewe, Jagger/Richards, Lennon/McCartney, Page/Plant, John/Taupin, etc.). Popular music has always made use of several songwriters, and some are often specialists in lyrics, melody, rhythm, etc.[Examples: “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha, “Macarena” by Los del Río]
12. Adapt someone else’s song in an interesting way: I’m talking about covering songs here. Many bands and artists cover older, successful songs because they are guaranteed hits. However, most of the covers just seem to be less-good versions of the originals.
The most interesting covers are ones that take the concept of an older song and give a new take on it. This can be done by switching instruments, changing genres, or just altering the feel of it. You can even add in new hooks.
Keep in mind, there’s a world of mediocre songs out there that can easily be re-purposed into hits, and many have been, by both players (Dread Zeppelin, The Klezmatics) and DJs (Daft Punk). And rappers have been doing it successfully since the late ’70s.[Examples: “Love Me Right” by Angel City, ” Hard to Handle” by The Black Crowes, “Under My Thumb” by The Hounds]
13. Synesthesia: This is one of the rarer abilities in the world, but it does occur, and you may have it. Synesthesia is when two or more senses are linked when you experience them. It’s most common with numbers and music, where a certain number or note will be linked to a color or shape. However it comes in many different forms, with several sensations crossing for different individuals
Many great composers were synesthetes, and composed passages of music partly based on how the shapes or colors fit together or match in their mind’s eye. Liszt was known to tell his orchestra, “Bluer, gentlemen, if you please,” and “deep violet, please… not so rose.” They had no idea what he was talking about, but it made perfect sense to him.
Unfortunately, it seems you either have this ability or you don’t, but it is another way songs get written. But it’s absolutely not required to write a good song.[Examples of synesthetic musicians: Tori Amos, Billy Joel, Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Wonder]
14. Gifts from beyond: Your subconscious is considerably powerful than the most powerful supercomputers (for now… dun dun dun!). Sometimes an idea will just come to you—and many of the greatest melodies, hooks, and beats have come about spontaneously.
Getting this to happen is a bit like trying to attract birds to your yard. So here’s what you should put in your bird-feeder:
First, listen to lots of music. The more variety the better. Even if you aren’t paying 100% attention to it, your subconscious will be absorbing it. Second, I’ve found that it occasionally helps if I have music “fasts”, where I don’t listen to any music for a few days, and my mind seems to make up stuff to fill the absence.
Make sure you can record ideas easily with a phone, computer, piece of paper (if you know notation), another recording device, or at least an instrument where you can immediately play something in your head before you forget it (which you almost always will). Many of these inspirations come during altered states, such as within a trance or when you just wake up. Write them down as soon as possible.
Keith Richards famously woke up in a hotel bed in the middle of the night with the riff from “Satisfaction” in his head. He happened to have a portable tape recorder, so he quickly recorded it and fell back asleep. In the morning, he had forgotten all about it until he found the tape of himself humming the riff, followed by many minutes of snoring.[Examples: “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones, “Need You Tonight” by INXS, “Surfer Girl” by The Beach Boys]
15. Be open to fate: Random things will happen in each of our lives, out of the blue, that can inspire great songs if your mind is open to adapting these experiences. “Blackout” was written after Rudolf Schenker’s first drinking blackout in Cleveland, Ohio. “Fun, Fun, Fun” was written about a real girl the Beach Boys knew who came in complaining about taking her dad’s Thunderbird “to the library” and getting caught at the burger stand.
Songs have been written about sad events, like deaths, wonderful events, like children being born, and enormous geopolitical events, among other things. Essentially, these are musical anecdotes. Use your own experiences to draw inspiration for your songs.[Examples: “Wind of Change” by The Scorpions, “Ballroom Blitz” by The Sweet, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” by Elton John]
There you have it.
Fifteen ways to write a song, and I’ll bet you there are more I forgot to mention or am unaware of. I’ve found that I write very different types of songs when I jam versus when I hear music in my head first, versus when I experiment with new instruments, versus when I try to write about an event in my life or start with lyrics first.
Experiment and you’ll find what works best for you, find some variation, and hopefully get some good tunes out of it!