Creating a song title isn’t always easy. You sit looking at a blank page, the ideas floating around your head seem well worn or vague, and every avenue that you go down leads to something that feels un-original or cheesy.
The best thing you can do is to write, but what do you write? What can you write that is original, engaging and worthy?
In this article we explore the basics of creating a song title, and lay out the various important points that song titles should deliver.
Purposes Of A Song Title
Song titles have to deliver a number of important factors. For example it is good if they can possess some of these qualities:
- Evoke Emotions
- Evoke Imagery
- Be Of Interest
- Be Memorable
- Make The Reader / Listener Curious
- Convey Something Original
- Convey Something Universal That Everyone Can Relate To
- Tease The Reader / Listener - Not Reveal Everything
- Be Imaginative
- Use A Small Number Of Words - 5 0r less
- Contain Or Reflect The Main Lyrical Hook (Importance Depends On Music Genre And Perspective)
Achieving even a few of these factors is difficult to do in less than 5 words!
Brainstorming Ideas For A Song Title
Your title should ideally fulfill many of the above points, however don’t worry too much about getting the perfect title. Once you have chosen your topic, come up with a few draft titles. Work out what you like, what you don't like, and why one song title works and another song title doesn't work.
There are various techniques you can use to brainstorm your song title ideas,including:
1. Noun and Adjective Lists
Write down long lists of nouns and adjectives. Blend words from these lists to create pairs of words. In addition, also blend words within the same lists to get verb-verb and noun-noun word pairs. Select the ones you like and develop those word pairs or use those word pairs to create new word pairs based giving lists that go in new directions.
2. Research Other Media
Do some research. Read some online articles, newspaper articles and magazine articles etc. and use them to generate seed ideas for new titles and song lyrics. Researching other media for songwriting suggestions is described here in the research exercise below.
This exercise is about finding some useful basic ingredients to work with by researching across a number of media.
1) Look for some news reports online, read some newspapers and magazines. Select the stories that interest you.
2) Now go through each selected story one by one:
- Write down keywords that represent the gist of the article
- Write down the characteristics of the people in those stories that grab your attention
- Write down phrases that make you want to find out more, phrases that make you ask questions.
- Look at the photographs and other images included in the selected news story, then write down a description of the story the images tell, especially in the context of the accompanying text.For example:
- Who are the people you're looking at?
- What are their individual stories?
- What is the location?
- What is the emotion being displayed overall in the image?
- What are the emotions of any individuals within the picture?
3) Look for one story from the selected stories and the material you have generated that captures your imagination, then develop that idea further:
- Words and phrases associated with the selected story
- It's characters
- Descriptions of any images
- Emotions each of the above evoke
4) Keep thinking about your chosen topic until your next writing session. Note down any ideas that the topic inspires as they come to you. That way you have a list of those ideas to add to your pool of ideas right from the start of your next writing session.
3. Prose On A Topic
- Choose a topic you are interested in writing a song about.
- Proceed to write some free flowing text inspired by that topic.
- Explore any emotions and emotional perspectives, scenarios and conclusions that the story implies.
- Use that text to then create phrases and word pairs to use as a seed idea for creating a title.
Creating The Title
Using words and phrases you’ve written down and that appeal to you (selected from your trusty notebook or from brainstorming exercises like those described above) you can combine them to create a phrase that reflects the basis of your song.
Choose the best for purpose and try measuring it against the checklist of purposes a title needs to fulfil near the beginning of this article. Depending on the song genre and other factors, some of that checklist may be more or less important, but each point should at least be considered.
This at least gives you one or more working titles to choose from. Not only do you have the title but you also have some phrases you can use in your song, a better idea of the theme, a fuller idea of the message you want to send, and perhaps your chorus hook.
Now that wasn't too difficult was it?
Common Tools For Songwriters
There are a few basic tools that can be of help when creating titles and other aspects of writing a song:
- A Pocket Sized Notepad
- Pen, Pencil and Eraser
- Post It Notepad
- A Rhyming Dictionary (online and an offline book)
- A Thesaurus (online and an offline book)
- A Recording Device That You Can Speak / Sing Into
You can also get quite a lot of ideas and useful feedback by talking to other songwriters and lyricists. To this end, either a group of songwriters or a songwriting community (such as the community of songwriters and lyricists at Songstuff.com) can be of huge benefit. Such songwriting communities provide a valuable opportunity to both give and receive song critique.
A Quick Note On The Benefits Of Critique
Don't under estimate just how much benefit offering critique can be to the writer performing the critique. Just highlighting one of those reasons, offering critique of songs by other writers allows you to improve key songwriting and editing skills without the baggage of being emotionally attached to the work. The skills in question are:
- Discussion and Evaluation
Songwriters and lyricists often develop an emotional attachment to their own songs, even early drafts, and that can blind you to issues, prejudice your suggestions and undermine the adoption of improvements.
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