Read what advice Jimmy Webb the lyricist and composer of "MACARTHUR PARK" and many other monumental hits, has to impart about songwriting ideas, [and even using a rhyming dictionary and thesaurus] from his five-star reviewed book: "TUNESMITH".
JIMMY WEBB ON "CATCHING" SONGWRITING IDEAS:
"Almost without exception, every great songwriter whom I know personally or that I've heard of or read about, uses a specific technique: Some free-associate on legal pads for hours and then pare lists of cross-referenced words or phrases down to related components that can by used in lyric lines.
"Many write draft after draft - as many as twenty- of a whole lyric in composition notebooks, lining out their less fortunate efforts as they go. Some sit at a piano or hold a guitar and 'chain-of-consciousness-sing' any old thing that comes into their heads at the outset - getting a 'sound' first and working out the intricacies of meaning later.
"Another well-known writer stands in front of huge speakers and 'word-jams' to tracks that are already finished.
"Some write lyrics, some only music. Some write both and among these, many write the words first. Others write a catchy tune and add words that fit. Many move the lyrics and melody along simultaneously in careful steps.
"All these techniques are valid. It is almost a certainty that before a writer achieves full-fledged professional status, they will have developed a unique method of working their tail off. ON USING A RHYMING DICTIONARY AND A THESAURUS:
"But there is one thing that these gentlemen and ladies have in common - whatever their style. Virtually all of them keep a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus close by. No shame here. In fact it is not a very lucid act to attempt the writing of verse in any form without these unless one happens to be a Mensa, And even then...
"I find that other reference materials can be invaluable: BARTLETT'S FAMILIAR QUOTATIONS for either avoiding or searching for cliches [sometimes a cliche can be a valuable component of a lyric if recognized for what it is]; specific research material when writing about an unfamiliar subject: but mostly the work of other writers of song, prose and poetry.
"Writers must read. One corollary being that composers must listen. [...]
"How can one write an original song if one hasn't heard and 'read' at least a few of the most famous and best examples that have ever been written?"
It's interesting that one can find entire books and websites which are devoted to just ONE of the songwriting ideas which he listed above.
It's also a relief to find out that it's NOT "cheating" to get words that rhyme out of a rhyming dictionary or to rely on a thesaurus.
And there's a LOT of more useful songwriting ideas like the above in Jimmy Webb's book!
David Grisman [above] uses "The Original" Cowling System:
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