“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” - Pablo Picasso
Having difficulty writing a song or even knowing where or how to start?
Here is a great writing exercise to help kickstart your song writing process. Use a Ghost song. This will provide constraints to free up your songwriting creativity.
What is a ghost song? It is a known song used as the guide to create something entirely new. A Ghost song provides structure, chords, rhymes, length, rhythm, and tempo as a starting place.
The technique given above is a basic outline on how to use a Ghost song. This can be riffed on in an infinite number of ways:
- Grab the chord progression from a song, or just the pre-chorus.
- Love the internal rhyming scheme, try to emulate it in your new creation.
- Change the original’s length, tempo, or time signature.
- Copy only the drum pattern.
- Noodle with the chord progression.
- Build on a small melodic segment.
- Simply use the structure.
We don’t advocate theft. However, building on the work of others has a long and storied history. In the folk tradition many songs were not even copyrighted but reused, reworked with new lyrics, and relearned by a new generation*. Using music that you love as a springboard is a powerful way to quickly create something new and unique. A Ghost song removes the blank page syndrome and provides a low effort way to get writing. You will only need to worry about being sued if your song becomes a massive hit.
Use a Ghost song to prevent procrastination, grab inspiration wherever you find it, and make your own creation that is unrecognisable from the original.
*Our blog post Start Songwriting: Melody gives a great example of the folk tradition doing this.