Ghost Song

“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.


Basic Technique:  

ghost song

 

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: 

  1. Grab the chord progression from a song, or just the pre-chorus. 
  2. Love the internal rhyming scheme, try to emulate it in your new creation.
  3. Change the original’s length, tempo, or time signature. 
  4. Copy only the drum pattern. 
  5. Noodle with the chord progression. 
  6. Build on a small melodic segment. 
  7. 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. 

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