Nine Quick Ways to Start a Song

Sometimes the hardest part is getting started. Here are some ways I trick myself into having an idea for a song. Open your DAW and get going!

1 This Song is Dedicated

Dedicate a song to someone you know (or don’t know). You don’t even have to tell them. Thinking of people leads to emotions, and this leads to musical ideas.


2 Inspiring Sounds

Browse Presets until you come across a sound that naturally makes you want to play a melody, and now you have a riff to build a song on!


3 Kick and Snare

Start with a kick and snare pattern, and fill in the rhythm with instruments instead of hi hats and percussion.


4 Tribute

Make a tribute song to a genre, artist, event or location. These are easy sources of inspiration and many great songs have started this way. For example, some artists like to do tributes to the old-school version of their favorite genre.


5 Sample

Build around a sample to get started and then remove it. Or keep it in if you want to go the sample-clearance route.


6 Beatbox

Beatbox an idea directly into your DAW. This will help you have a fairly complete idea to work towards, and here is a link to a tutorial that demonstrates this.


7 A half-hour commitment

Tell yourself that you’re only going to work for 30 minutes, and then at 30 minutes decide whether to keep going. This way, you aren’t stuck in a project, and can try a different idea if it doesn’t work out. Also, it’s easier to commit to a short time of making music, which can often turn into more time.


8 Start with a Piano, Diversify

Compose a melody and chords using a grand piano preset, and then replace the chords and melody with multiple instruments. Another way to get more instruments in is to have different instruments play different parts of the melody.


9 Combine Themes from Classic Works

Comedian Victor Borge demonstrates this using fragments of songs, (see video below). Just make sure you do this with works that are Public Domain.



An encouraging concept is to always learn something in a beat-making session, even if that particular beat doesn’t turn into a full song. You can always cannibalize the techniques and sounds created from previous sessions. This will help you recognize all the ways you are moving forward and want to jump back into studio.

Author Bio: Sean Duncan is an electronic music producer and freelance writer from Seattle, WA. 

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