Songcraft: The Sonic Sketchbook

Much has been said amongst songwriters regarding the merits of keeping a lyric notebook, i.e. a stream of consciousness record of any and all lyrical ideas/stanzas that spring to mind, but to my knowledge little has been said in regard to keeping the musical equivalent.

The Sonic Sketchbook

If your lyrical snippets and song title ideas are worth getting down, shouldn’t your random musical ideas, riffs and chord patterns be worthy of the same treatment? Why not keep a sonic sketchbook? As discussed in a previous Songcraft post, today’s technology can make capturing song ideas easier than ever.

Here are some thoughts on harnessing that science for the purpose of sketching sound:

• Create a new folder on your laptop or home computer’s desktop and name it “Music Sketchbook 2012” (or some similar nomenclature that makes sense to you).

• Whether we like it or not, the one item we always seem to have on our person these days is our cell phone. Most phones, smart or standard, come equipped with some type of audio/voice memo recorder and a means by which to transmit an audio clip via email or a text-to-email type function. When the muses visit, play or sing your riff for that cellular audience of one and promptly send that musical thought to yourself in a email (an important step as phones die, get lost, run over by buses, etc).

• Later, when next at your laptop or home computer, download you emailed musical idea and save the audio file to the aforementioned “Music Sketchbook” folder.

No different from jotting down lyrical seeds, if you continue the practice of recording, shipping and saving your musical fragments you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised, over time, by the amount of quality ideas you’ll amass without really thinking too much about it. Ideas fresh for expanding and pairing with those from your lyric notebook, ideas that will hopefully transform into great songs when you sit down to write.

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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