After working with many talented songwriters over the years (and being a “songwriting hack” myself), I know that writers never know when or where a great song idea will materialize. To paraphrase one extremely talented writer I know, “Songs are just floating in the air and you have to grab them when you can.” Don’t count on remembering the next morning that perfect hook that comes to you in a dream. Take a tip from the Boy Scouts and “be prepared.” Commercially successful writers understand this concept very well.
Back when I still had delusions of writing that one big “evergreen” song and retiring to an island, I kept digital voice recorders (I know, I'm old) in my car and briefcase so I could capture my song ideas in an instant. Today, savvy songwriters can take this concept several steps further by establishing a multi-step digital songwriting workflow. Apple iPhone or iPad users can capture the basic elements of a song “on the fly” in the iOS version of GarageBand and later transfer the project to GarageBand or Logic Pro X on a Mac for more detailed production and sweetening. I have heard some impressive demos (and even released singles) that were produced in GarageBand, but the real power of this workflow is the ability to move files from the capture device to a more robust DAW ("Digital Audio Workstation," for those following along at home). Exporting GarageBand iOS projects into Apple Logic Pro X is a very streamlined process. Moving complete projects to other DAWs (e.g., Pro Tools) might involve a few steps, but is a far superior alternative to being forced to recut every track in the studio. Of course, DAWs also are available on non-iOS devices. It is a good practice to check the export functionality on any smartphone based DAW before download.
There are many resources available to take even the most technologically illiterate composer from "zero to demo" and beyond in no time. The point is, when that song comes into your head out of thin air, you need to get it down so you can remember that original inspiration. It might be enough to just jot on the back of your hand “that song about mountains,” but probably not. Having a way to record the nuances of your inspiration will make finishing your song much easier.
L. Kevin Levine is the founder of L. Kevin Levine, PLLC (go figure), a boutique entertainment, copyright, trademark, and business law firm in Nashville, Tennessee. A lifelong musician who grew up in his family's music store, it was inevitable that Kevin would build his legal career in entertainment and business.