Making good music isn’t only about going to a recording studio or getting into a vocal booth. Nor is it about that line, hook or verse that is stuck in your head and keeps reverberating in your subconscious. The first step is writing and to write you have to decide what you want to write or sing about, the emotions you want the listener to feel or experience when they listen to the song and who your target audience is.  Sometimes it’s spontaneous other times it’s carefully thought through.

The recording process varies for different artistes; some make notes and write down their ideas or thoughts which they later string into meaningful lines, lyrics or verses to make a song. Some keep notes but only in their head not on paper and when they have a clear outline they put it down on paper prior to voicing in a studio. Others write it down on paper from the get go and edit or modify it as the ideas or inspiration flows and will only put it down in a booth when they have a clear picture or direction in which they wanna go with the song. Some others record/freestyle first on a beat and then go back to write and expand on their ideas of the song.

Sometimes a song can be about the emotions an artiste or the writer of the song is going through at a particular time like pain, love, joy, happiness or betrayal etc.
Sometimes it is about social or cultural issues close to the writer or artistes heart. But most times it is always about feelings or state of mind or the environment in which the writer or artiste is in at a particular time or period in their lives. But the fact remains that for every artiste the mood or mindset at any given time determines the direction of His/Her lyrics and in turn the music they write or make at any given time.

In Africa because we do not have the framework and machinery found in the westernised countries which ensures that everyone who participated in making and bringing a song to life from the writer to the studio engineer/producer as well as the artiste earns income or royalties from the song, most artistes want all the credit for themselves. So they force themselves to write or produce songs that are below par. In western nations like America some earn royalties as just songwriters, some producers or sound engineers while some as both.

In every sphere of life no matter what you do we all keep notes or write down things we don’t wanna forget. We write down thoughts or ideas we wanna explore at a future time so we can revisit them at a later time to compare or contrast. Back in school we all had jotters or blotting pads or notes for all our ideas in class or during lectures and we all go back to read and study these notes during exams period. These days with the advancement of technology we now have these on our tablets, laptops or smartphones.

Most famous paintings and pieces of artworks we know or read about started as mere thoughts and visions in the artistes head/mind. Some of the most famous painters like Davinci and Picasso started some of their greatest masterpieces on blotting pads as mere sketches before it was transferred to canvas and brought to life.

Even clothes designers have sketch pads where they scribble and draw their ideas as they are inspired. So also most great musicians have their journals and notebooks too.

Two of the most famous orators we know like Winston Churchill and Dr. Martin Luther King have been known to scribble down key notes and points in their speech on paper before developing it to full blown speeches.

So it goes also that to make meaningful songs that will outlive or outlast an artiste’s career or even life span, an artiste has to embrace the culture of writing and keeping notes too because most great songs start out as mere thoughts in the writers head or mind and sometimes when you don’t put those thoughts or ideas down on paper you lose the flow, inspiration or direction.

In their opinion every artiste makes good music, but for an artiste to make great music or sing great songs, He/She has to learn to write or be written for. Even the greatest artistes had songs written for them by others. It doesn’t really matter who writes the song after all most times nobody knows the writer of a song, the singer is the one who gets all the lime light.

Free styling will help you set outlines or the direction which you want to go with a song or an album just like jotting or making notes on a blotter, but to make songs with meaning you have to decide what you want to talk about, how you want to do it and your target audience.

Most times artistes target the younger generations but it is a known fact that most of the greatest songs ever written, recorded or sung were the ones that transcended all age/peer groups and crossed over to different social peers, tribes and cultures.

[An example of such songs are “ONE LOVE by BOB MARLEY and WE ARE THE WORLD by various artistes” both songs have strong messages embedded in them too.]

These songs were written over 2 decades ago yet are still very much relevant today. The older generation feel pride knowing the songs were recorded in their lifetime while the younger ones also enjoy and know the songs. And even though some don’t know much about the artistes they know every line/verse of the songs.

A few artiste have the special gift of a photographic memory and this enables them to master the art of free styling. Some hone this art from engaging in freestyle battles and open mic sessions.

Artistes like Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Eminem etc are all good at free styling but also know that writing gives more options than a freestyle can ever give you so they still write and jot down their thoughts and ideas on paper and develop it later.

As an artiste when you write,  you have the luxury or exploring different topics, you can change your lines, your hooks, verses or even the direction of the song. You also have the gift of hindsight so you can go back at anytime to craft and recraft your lines in such a way that it will elicit particular emotions from the listener or a fan. With writing your borders and boundaries are expanded with probabilities and it gives you room to try out different methods and styles.

Some will always make a case for free styling but every true artiste knows that to write is the beginning of making a classic song.

So my humble advice for everyone not just artistes is this, whenever you have a thought or idea no matter how absurd or crazy it may seem or sound put it down on paper, jot it down, write it down and go back to it later to develop or discard it.


#DearArtiste TALENT is not enough, show business goes beyond just being talented. Your talent is just a springboard not a guarantee of success.


TRY (Words, Rhymes & Reason)

I know am not good enough for you
So I will always try to be better for you
I know for sure that you are too good for me
So sometimes I wonder what’s in it for you

Some days it will seem like the nights are longer
When you stay awake all night and ponder
Some nights it will seem like the days are shorter
When you meet someone who makes them sweeter

Sometimes even trying won’t be good enough
Just do your best and hope it will be proof enough
Sometimes it won’t always be in your favour
But do good and it will always bring you favour

Sometimes it seems like the sun won’t shine
And the clouds seem all dark and gloomy
But as long as you have God in your corner
When life backs you into a corner He is always around the corner

Words by T.A.Y ®©2014

All written articles and pieces are all original works of Toks Asher Young except the quoted excerpts.

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