Pick An Anchor For Your Songs

2014 Jan 17, 2014

What your next album or EP will sound like is largely influenced by the type of music you love and what has shaped you the most over the years. But that hodgepodge of musical styles and artists doesn’t always bring out a clear sound in your music. One simple way to ensure your next project has some cohesion and focus is to identify one anchor for your songs and then create from there.


Via David Blaikie Flickr

Sound, Lyric, or Instrument

I’m not suggesting you need to have an album of songs that sound like carbon copies of each other, and I’m not agains variety and eclectic artists. But to avoid having a schizophrenic EP that leaves your listeners confused about what kind of artist they are engaging with we need to have some stability. And the simplest three areas we can stabilize are sound (i.e. style or genre), lyrical content, and instrument choice.

Are you writing a bluegrass album? Great keep it bluegrass. Are you writing an EP of love songs? Perfect, stick with that lyrical theme. Are you writing songs with lots of synths? Then commit to the synth my friend. The concept is so simple, just pick one of those things to anchor your songs around and then everything else is up for grabs.

One Limitation That Helps Your Creativity

Here’s what’s so powerful about picking an anchor for your songs: it acts like a limitation of sorts that then opens up so much freedom to create around it. It actually helps you be more musically creative. All artists need a set of boundaries to act as our canvas. Once that canvas is determined we are free to create within its confines.

To help you write your songs, determine your canvas (sound, lyrics, or instrument) and then get to work within it’s boundaries. You will be protected from entertaining too many ideas: like having a hip hop/rock/orchestral/folk/jazz album, or trying to blow peoples’ minds with all kinds of different lyrical content and themes. Save some of your other ideas for other albums, but for this one, set an anchor and go.

A Practical Example From Me

If none of this is making any sense, here is how picking an anchor works out practically for me. Write now I’m writing my new EP and when I sat down I had no idea what style of music I wanted it to be or what I wanted to write about lyrically. Both of those were up in the air. I can’t get anywhere without any direction or vision.

So I committed to the acoustic guitar as my anchor. I anchored my songs around an instrument, one single instrument to be exact. No writing on piano or electric guitar, or even using loops. Each song on this EP has been written by sitting down with an acoustic guitar (that’s my canvas) and then seeing what comes out both musically and lyrically.

Other times I’ve anchored my songs in musical function: for example when I’ve written Christian worship albums. These songs were intended to be sung by a large group of people together in a church service. That one anchor was a canvas that gave me defined boundaries (i.e. simple melodies that are singable by most people), from which I could create anything that came to mind.

Pick Your Anchor And Go

The idea isn’t to overthink this. Simply decide what is the one boundary you can put in place, the one limitation you can commit to for these songs. It’s only one. Then within that framework start getting to work and being creative. I promise you’ll find your writing sessions more fun and more fruitful.

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