Let your brain have free rein - Brain 1 and Brain 2 in songwriting
Dr. Seuss, "Thing 1" & "Thing 2"   

Let Your Brain Have Free Rein

In this post, we will explore how to let your brain have free rein to become a better songwriter. Here is a fascinating fact: we can access two different brain states to help us in creating music. To simplify, let’s call them Brain 1 and Brain 2. (Thank you, Dr. Seuss.)

Brain 1

Brain 1 can be thought of as the feel good place, the dreamy space, even the “spaced out” space. You know when you are on a long drive in open country and you suddenly regain full attention? Yeah, that brain. In this state, we daydream, conceptualize and brainstorm. Brain 1 is our generator and has no qualms about spewing ideas – good, bad or ugly. We could refer to Brain 1 as the “laid back” brain, as it does feel more expansive and relaxed.

Brain 1 loves to daydream

When in the Brain 1 state, embrace it all and allow lots of time in this space to develop your songwriting ideas. This is often where those “aha!” moments and seconds of pure genius come from, so you don’t want to check out too early. Prepare a recording device of some sort; pen & paper, pocket recorder, phone app or digital recording device. Get comfy, too. Concern yourself only with accumulating ideas without judgement. Keep in mind, though that Brain 1 must let go at some point and allow the next stage to take place. The filtering, organizing and editing of ideas comes later with good ol’ Brain 2.

Brain 2

Brain 2 is the “sit up and pay attention” brain which facilitates a focused and fully present mind state. Sounds like your 3rd grade teacher? Rightly so, since this brain is the one we employ to do daily tasks that require organized and conscious thought. Indeed, things like filing papers, scheduling your calendar or studying can require minimum or maximum “brain energy”. It is Brain 2 that will filter through your song ideas like a sieve to find the best concepts. In this brain state, you will find clarity on song themes and supporting ideas, while zeroing in on the hook and chorus, and placing other parts into verses.

Brain 2 helps us with tasks that require focus, organization and decision making.

Brain 2 is also the one that sometimes bugs you with mind chatter. It wants to organize your life and therefore judging and criticizing is its natural talent. The frontal lobe focus of our executive brain excels in decision making. Though it may feel harsh at times, Brain 2 knows when to file some ideas under “G” and save others for future development.

However pleasant or unpleasant it may be, you need this brain to organize song structure, tweak your perfectly coupled verses, and put the final logistical arrangements in your song. Appreciate Brain 2. Just don’t let it come in too soon! Brain 2 must learn to take turns with Brain 1.

How are you doing so far? If your brain states are not flowing with ease, try flipping over to how music can heal your brain.


If you guessed that Brain 1 and Brain 2 come and go in cycles as you write your song, you would be right! As songwriters, we experience both ease and frustration throughout the process, no matter how experienced or successful we may be. This is because creating music shares space with other heady tasks. For a deeper understanding of our duel brain system, we can take a page from Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow”.

To summarize, different brain states command different functions. We can get into our two “brains” to channel our emotions during the songwriting process. Now that you understand the natural cycles of your brain, it’s easier to embrace the ups and downs of songwriting and maximize your flow state. Flow baby, flow! Get into a whole pile of mischief with Brain 1 and Brain 2.

Help your flow state by getting into mischief. Brain 1 and Brain 2 want to have fun.

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