Songcraft: Found Sound Songwriting

When I first began writing songs, I pretty much felt new musical ideas could only be discovered with guitar in hand, sitting at the piano or, if lucky, via a melody I might have found myself absentmindedly humming.

As time went on, I started to realize that little bits of sonic inspiration were actually everywhere, waiting for me to scoop them up, if I just kept my mind open to the prospect. I found by implementing that small mental adjustment, I could make a sizable increase in the amount of source material available to me as a songwriter.

Now the rhythmic clicking of my car’s turn signal was no longer background noise but a makeshift percussion loop I could vocally riff over while waiting at a light.

Suddenly the beeping tones generated by that delivery truck as it backed up my street weren’t merely part of the urban cacophony but repeating musical figures waiting to be harmonized and expanded upon.

Harry Nilsson, the great singer/songwriter of ‘60s and ‘70s fame, once confided that his hit song “One," with its opening repetitive electric piano chord, was inspired by none other than (and sorry if this reference is lost on the children of voice mail), a telephone busy signal. Pretty cool, right?

As mentioned earlier and illustrated above, song ideas or the seeds of such are, indeed, all around us if we choose to acknowledge and absorb them. By simply cleansing ourselves of preconceived notions and redefining what we categorize as legitimate musical inspiration, we allow ourselves access to a veritable treasure trove of new and interesting audible opportunities.

And with that very thought in mind, I’d like to leave you with a silly, impromptu jam my young son and I worked up the other day with, and inspired by, a little-known artist by the name of Maytag.

Mark Bacino is a singer/songwriter based in New York City. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists or composing for television/advertising via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark also is the founder of intro.verse.chorus, a website for songwriters dedicated to the exploration of that wonderfully elusive activity known as songwriting. Visit Mark on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

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