Caleb J. Murphy

How To Write Songs That Think Outside The Box

There are millions of songwriters out there. So how can you make your songs stand out?

photo via Lynda.com

Now, I am in no way claiming that any of my songs think outside the box. But below are some methods I’ve picked up from other songwriters.

Write From The Opposite Perspective

I wrote a song called “Step Right, Step Left,” in which it appeared I was scathing somebody else for not speaking their mind or communicating clearly.

“If you’re gonna step right, step right / If you’re gonna step left, step left / I can’t keep up with you, no”

But I realized the song was actually about me. I was scathing me from the point of view of someone else.

Try it — write a song from someone else’s perspective and see what happens.

Write About A Situation In Which You’ve Never Been

Writing about something you have no experience with can easily come off as fake, especially if your listener knows your backstory.

But it’s your job to make it relatable, both to the listener and to yourself.

For example, I can’t really write about a bad breakup because, well, I’ve had one girlfriend/wife in my life. But I can tap into the feeling of tension because (as any married person will tell you) disagreements happen.

So try writing about a foreign situation but find a way to make it relatable to you and the listener.

Become Another Character

Sometimes it’s fun to pretend to be someone else. I mean, actors do it for a living every day.

I’ve written a handful of songs (especially in my earlier days) where I’m singing from the perspective of a character.

I wrote a song called “Northbound Trail” where I’m apparently a slave escaping to the North.

I wrote a song called “Davy Jones” where I’m a third party witnessing Long John Silver challenge Captain Smollet.

I wrote song called “Son of Sin” from the POV of God.

Give it a shot. You might be surprised.

Use Your Second (Or Third) Choice Of Instrument

My first instrument is the acoustic guitar, but I also own a piano, a banjo, an electric guitar, and a ukulele. If I want a change of pace, I’ll go to one of those other instruments.

Doing this can lead to a totally different type of song. A few examples of that:

My point is, you can get a very different song depending on the type of instrument you use.