December 13


How To Get Your Song Ideas Down Quickly & Securely

By Keith Livingston

December 13, 2019

bedroom producer, home recording

Yesterday, I found a recording from maybe 1984, of an idea I had for a song. I shit you not! And I like it. I’m going to record a fully produced version.

I must have recorded it on the Tascam Portastudio I had back in the day. Somehow, it got on my most recent computer.

I stumbled on this recording by accident. But I’ve lost many song ideas over the years, from not getting them down in a usable, organized form. I think I’m going to remember them later, and sometimes I don’t.

A Simple System For Song Ideas

So, I’ve developed a really simple way to record my song ideas and have them available later.

I use my phone. Specifically, the video recorder on my phone. Here are a few small tweaks I use to make it easier and more organized. Here they are . . .

  • When you get an idea, record it immediately. Don’t go to the can, or answer that text first. Reach over, grab your phone, open the camera app, set it for video, turn it over, and record.
  • I turn the phone face down, so the video is black. It makes it easier to distinguish the videos from your cat videos.
  • Have your videos set to automatically back up to a cloud service. I use Google Photos for this.
  • Tag or organize your song ideas into an album or folder, so you can find them, later. Call it, “song ideas”.
  • When you’re recording, pretend you’re teaching someone else how to play or sing the idea. For instance, if it’s a guitar idea, after I play it, I’ll talk through the chords — “Here’s the A minor chord (plays chord) and the next measure I play the A minor again, but add the low G to the chord (plays A minor 7).” If it’s a riff, consider turning the camera around, and playing the riff in slo-mo, on camera. This way, you don’t have to try to &$%)## remember, or figure out what you &$##*&%@ played, 3 years later!

It’s simple. I can start recording in about 10 seconds.

Respect Yourself (Na, na, na, na, na)

And there’s an unexpected benefit to keeping the ideas safe. It’s respect. Hey, we’re creative peeps, right? Our minds generate these ideas out of the blue, sometimes. Give those ideas your respect!

Let’s suppose you worked a job, and you had a great idea to improve the company. You ran excitedly to your boss, and told her the idea. She said, “That’s great, Skyler. I’ve got to take a lunch meeting now, and I don’t have time to deal with this. Could you write up a report and send it to me? Make sure you double space it, and send it in PDF format.” So, you did, and you never heard back.

Would you feel respected?

Well, that’s the way the creative parts of your mind can feel when you don’t show you value their ideas. Getting the ideas down immediately, in a safe place, in a usable form, shows you value them. And those creative parts of your mind may respond with even more ideas.

Respect Yourself (Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)

I even go so far as to give myself some positive self-talk when I listen back. “Dude, killer riff” (if indeed, it’s a killer riff). Every few months I’ll go back through the song ideas and pick out the next one I want to record.

I pull up the video(s), open my recording software, tap in a tempo, and off I go.


Keith Livingston

About the author

Keith Livingston started recording his own music in the late '70s, on a 4-track. He worked his way into live sound and studio work as an engineer -- mixing in arenas, working on projects in many major studios as a producer/engineer, and working in conjunction with an independent label.

He taught audio engineering at the Art Institute of Seattle, from 1990-1993, and in '96, contributing to authoring several college-level courses there.

He was General Manager of Радио один (Radio 1) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Now he spends his time recording his own songs wherever he roams, and teaching others to do the same.

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