My Cellphone - A Trusted Songwriting Tool

Used to be I would plunk down in front of the piano with a piece of music paper and a pencil, start improvising and scribbling down whatever I liked. And  if I got lucky I would end up with a song at the end of my writing session. Most times these efforts didn't amount to much, and I would end up discarding 9 out of 10 songs after revisiting them a few days later and deciding that they were utter garbage.

I still write lots and lots of crappy songs. Songs that I toss off in order to de-clutter my mind, or ideas I play around with; ideas that I might revisit sometime later. Usually though, those ideas end up in a folder, never to see the light of day again.

Then there was the period when I slept with a notebook by my bed, in case an idea struck in the middle of the night. Trouble was, sometimes I would dream of the most beautiful song, and a part of my mind would urge me to wake up and write it down. But another part would calm me down and encourage me to stay in dreamland. Surely a beautiful concoction such as this song would stay with me far into the waking hours. Wrong - unfortunately. These dream songs were lost to me the minute I opened my eyes the next morning. All I had left was the aching beauty of them, an ephemeral echo of a thing so tender it could not be captured.

So, no more journals next to my bed.

And sometimes ideas for songs, phrases, hooks would hit me at the most inopportune moment. At the gym, in the steam room or shower, while walking down a busy street with not a shred of paper on me, let alone a pen. Or at a party. Those songs, too, were lost to me. Funny thing, the memory of songs. It doesn't work, at least not for me. Once an idea passed me by and I didn't grab it by its tail and smite it onto the page it would float away, probably on to some other poor soul in search of inspiration. 

Lately though, with the advent of the oh so smart cell phone, I have been able to hold on to my ideas by recording them right away. Even if it was just a line that I liked. Nowadays I don't really care anymore if people look at me funny when I walk down the street, singing into my phone. It's always with me, and it dutifully saves all my ideas - the good and the bad.

I have also taken to recording everything I write on the piano. Unfortunately the fancy cell phone is no substitute to showing up for songwriting duties and tickling the ivories. But again my phone is by my side, and when I have a groove, or a chorus, or a verse done, I record it. Because, people, nothing is more frustrating than to revisit a song the next day, only to discover that you don't remember how it went, because you, lazy being that you are, only scribbled down the words and chord changes. No rhythm, no bars, nothing.

So, here's a shout-out to the creative potential of the smart phone! It has become a vessel to my ideas, the pensieve (thank you, J. K.) to my thoughts. I still have to write charts in the end, because I do work with other musicians. But at least I can wait with that until the last minute, until I'm sure I actually like what I have written and played it about 100 times. By then the song has either made it into my set or not. But it exists, it is there, in my phone. It is real.

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