Starting Your Songwriting Notebook

Jun 29, 2017 | Beginning, Song Craft

A songwriting notebook is your idea vault.

Firstly, it’s one of the best ways to capture all of your:

  • Great song ideas
  • Hooks
  • Thoughts about what’s going on with you that could turn into a song idea, and
  • Moments of inspiration.

Secondly, a songwriting notebook is your best tool when you’re starting with a blank page, or need to bring ideas to a co-write.

To start, I’ll run through how to set up and use a physical book, and after that I’ll walk through how to use your new notebook to amp up your idea creation and ensure you’re never stuck for ideas.

If you happen to be more of a computer or mobile device person, no need to worry. simply replace write with type, and name your document “Songwriting Notebook” and you’re set.


Your Songwriting Notebook

Your songwriting notebook is the most consistent tool you have as a songwriter because once it becomes a habit. As a result, you’ll actually start seeing more in the world and how it can become a song.

My poetry professor Arthur Smith called it “setting an appointment with the muse.”

Once you open yourself up to seeing things from a songwriting perspective, it’s amazing what enters your world – and – your songwriting notebook.

So how do you make it a habit?


Week 1:  Getting Started

Purchase a blank book.  Lines or no lines, that’s up to you. Wile my preference is a hard cover, yours might be a spiral notebook, a small notepad, giant legal pad, etc.  It just needs to be something you’ll write in consistently and can reference back to as you start writing more songs.


At the top of pages 1 - 4 write Hooks & Titles

This keeps possible hook lines right up front. This also allows you to start your writing on a right hand facing page.


On page 5 start capturing things you think are . . .

Funny, odd, sad, strange, something someone said, you read, or just make you go “hmmmm . . . that’s interesting” in a simple line or two. Make sure you include the date to the right for each entry (this will come in handy later).


Do this for 7 days in a row


Week 2:  Building Up Your Ideas

Now go back to each entry and write for 10 minutes (freestyle object writing) about whatever strikes you.

It doesn’t have to rhyme, or a story, or anything like a song, just write what comes to you when you think about those lines.

This is all top of mind writing in the moment, so whatever pops into your head, write it down. It doesn’t have to make sense so don’t edit yourself. Just write.


Week 3:  Mining The Writing

Go back through your freestyle object writing exercises and circle anything you think would be a good hook, title, first line or cool line in a verse or chorus.


If you think it's a hook, transfer to your Hook & Titles page

Be sure to include the date next to each so you can find the full entry later. How handy is that?!  These are your song idea inspiration pages and are VERY handy when you’re in a co-write or just need something to get excited about so you can start writing.


Week 4 & Beyond:  Keep Writing!

You don’t have to do the object writing exercise every time.  It’s just meant as a kick-starter.

Continue using your notebook to capture random thoughts and ideas. Once you’ve got it rolling, use the pages as a space to be creative.  You’ll be amazed at how you’ll start noticing more and more things that can turn into a song.



moleskin songwriting notebook

Moleskin – they make a variety of different types and sizes. If you like a grid, lines, blank, or a music staff, they’ve got you covered. The elastic strap is handy for keeping the pages from ripping if you tend to stuff things into a bag and the pocket on the back inside cover gives you a bit of storage for photos or napkins you may have written on when you didn’t have your book handy.rhodia songwriting notebook


Rhodia – has a very versatile selection from staple bound to spiral, hard cover to soft, this company should have something that fits with your songwriting lifestyle. One of the best features is the protective coated cover, which is very durable and can save you in a light rain! Also easily labeled with a Sharpie on the front.

And of course, there’s always the spiral notebook.  I’m not one for the wire things that make them wonky to shove in a back pack, but the main point is – get something and start capturing your ideas!

Bonus Tip

My song notebook organization system.

Organize Your Hook Book

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