On Songwriting | Musings On How To Write a Song

Oh No… Not an Original!

Oh No… Not an Original!

Have you ever been in the following situation?

You’re in a jam where the other musicians don’t know you very well. It’s an equal opportunity jam where lead solos pass from player to player in an orderly clockwise manner. Nobody’s talking much, except for the predictable banjo quip that everybody predictably groans at.

Not only do solos pass around the circle clockwise, so does the right (obligation?) to call the next song when it’s your turn. All of the previous players have called familiar cover tunes, and as long as their choice wasn’t “Rocky Top” or “Fox on the Run,” everybody nodded in agreement and so began the song.

Then it’s your turn. You’re a songwriter. You would much rather introduce the group to one of your own songs than play yet another cover.

After all, these are fellow musicians, right? If anybody can relate to the creative process, it’s other musicians. Right? Sometimes yes, but not always.


There are plenty of times when folks automatically associate the word “original” with “complex” in the context of songwriting. That’s because they’ve been in other jams where an original song turns out to be a total jam buster. Too many chord changes. Too hard to follow.

To be sure, sometimes we can reach too far to be original by composing unlikely chord changes or odd melodic structures. Hey, I’ll bet nobody’s thought of that sequence before!

But the beauty of an original song is seldom an “original” chord change or contrived melody. Simpler is almost always better, and it’s usually the story, the hook or the overall balance of the song that makes it memorable.

Next time you’re in a jam, best to save the science experiment that includes every chord change known to mankind in favor of an easy-to-follow original song that has good words and a logical structure.

When the song’s over, if you’re lucky, you might get beyond a “Whew, that wasn’t so bad” to a “Wow, who wrote that song?”