Dan Hough

How I find musical inspiration in Reddit posts

Published 20 November 2018 in London, UK (~8min read)

Hello! 👋 Since July 2018, I've writing songs based on interesting comments and posts from Reddit, then recording them and putting them on YouTube and SoundCloud. I've done fifty so far, and I intend to keep on going! This article is about how it started, how I do it and some of my favourites.

On the /r/AskReddit thread, “Dear Redditors. If someone is shy and going on a date for the first time, what should he/she have in mind?”, a user called /r/The_Barman suggested that one should be very polite:

Be polite. Thank everyone. Especially the waiter when he says 'enjoy your meal'. Remember to reply 'you too'.
Be polite. Thank everyone. Especially the waiter when he says 'enjoy your meal'. Remember to reply 'you too'.

Anybody as overly polite as I am from time to time can probably relate to this slip of the tongue. So naturally, I wrote a song about it. Here it is on YouTube.

It was very well-received, and over the next few hours the song was played thousands of times on YouTube and Soundcloud, and one generous Reddit user “gilded” my comment to show their appreciation.

How it began

A few weeks earlier, on the /r/AskReddit thread, “What was the most epic comeuppance you’ve ever seen a spoiled kid get?”, a user called /u/not_todaysatan responded with a story about a job they had at a pony camp attended by loads of rich kids.

It was an interesting, entertaining story of privilege, entitlement and schadenfreude. So, naturally, I wrote a song about it in the style (vaguely) of Belle and Sebastian.

This was the first work I’d done for this new musical (and to an extent, comedy) project, /u/song_of_ur_comment. As of the 20th November 2018, I’ve written & recorded fifty (50!) of these songs.

I’d had the idea years ago, inspired by Reddit “novelty” accounts like the famous /u/poem_for_your_sprog and /u/Shitty_Watercolour. I’m not a poet and I’m not that interested in watercolour, but I am a songwriter and over the past 15 years I’ve written songs about some very niche topics. There were so many interesting stories out there which I could either re-tell or embellish, in order to practice songwriting, try new styles, improve my mixing skills, or - if it turned out well - find a bigger audience for my particular brand of music.

So, I wanted to give this a go. After years of thinking about it, one night on the 8th of July, I jumped onto /r/AskReddit and started looking for interesting stories. I started by setting the scene, came up with a simple melody, and then re-told the story that /u/not_todaysatan had told but, basically, with more rhymes. It went down well, so I carried on.

At one point, I even found an /r/AskReddit question that I could directly reply to with a song.

This one was a big hit too, and the only instance where I’ve told my own story in this entire project so far.

You might notice after listening to some of these that the recording quality varies pretty wildly between the different songs. This is due to a few factors. One: my microphone has an analogue dial for pickup volume, which I change a lot because of different sources. Rarely consistent, but I’m getting better. Two: depending on the time of day, I might be doing this loudly or quietly. Quietly, of course, if I’m trying not to disturb my neighbours.

My equipment

At first it was literally just me, my acoustic guitar, and my consender microphone. I didn’t even multi-track. But after my initial go at it I realised I could get the song recorded quickly even if I record the acoustic guitar and my voice separately and mix them with different settings.

Soon, I bought myself a tambourine to add a little bit of structured rhythm to it, then I started layering in some harmonies.

After about 15 songs somebody suggested making better use of stereo so I experimented with panning a little bit, which helped give the songs a sense of depth.

But soon after that, I started to long for something playing in the background which wasn’t just a guitar being strummed or tambourine being hit - something more droning which could tie together various notes. In my mind, a violin would be perfect. But I can’t play the violin. I tried with harmonica, but I only have a harmonica in one key and I’m not very good at it. That’s when I decided to buy a melodica. I’ve only used it in a couple of songs so far, but it’s helping a lot. Already some of the songs seem fuller and more layered.

What follows is a little showcase, plus a little bit more about my process and the difficulties of doing this.

Favourites, process, and challenges


On the /r/AskReddit thread, “Travelers of Reddit, what’s a place everyone should visit at least once in their life?”, a user called /u/theofiel refused to tell anybody the place they thought everybody should visit:

I’m not gonna tell you, it’s already too crowded there.

They captured a feeling I’m sure we’ve all felt before while holidaying in supposedly serene getaways. I was entertained and inspired, so naturally, I wrote a song about it. Click below to give it a play.

This one went down really well, and it’s easily one of my favourites. It’s silly, kinda angry and a little bit absurd.

I try to get at least a couple of different “moods” in each one. They’re short songs, so I want to stuff as much emotion in as I can, which means little time for building up suspense or tension.

This is the reason I also tend to start singing immediately in each song.


On the /r/AskReddit thread, “What is about to become popular that most people are unaware of?”, user /u/NotoriousTNT suggested that pay-to-ride scooters are due a sudden surge in popularity, because they’d seen them show up in their city. They gave a sort of… “warning” vibe in their comment. I took that idea and transformed it into something more akin to a revolutionary song.

This one was ludicrously fun to do. I finished uploading and posting it a few minutes before leaving for a holiday to Eastern Europe, so my final moments in my home in the UK were spent shouting “JOIN THE FLEET!” as loud as I could. Pity my poor neighbours.

Smiling at Strangers

On the /r/CasualConversation subreddit, user /u/bmanfromct created a post and told every member of that community, “I really really like it when I smile at a stranger and they smile back.” As a fan of this phenomenon, I could relate. I decided to write a song about it.

This one took just under an hour. By the time I was almost done, it sounded very sweet and sensitive. But, because I’m a 30-year-old child I couldn’t help but put some silly backing vocals like “Don’t be weird to the strangers” to make it a little comical.

Sometimes, I’ll reply to a thread which isn’t getting a lot of attention despite being (in my opinion) really interesting. Here’s one of my favourites, sadly not heard quite as much as the others.

Irritating Guys

On the /r/AskReddit thread, “Women of Reddit, what do most guys do that really irritates you?”, user /u/Delicious_Delilah shared a couple of their pet peeves regarding dating. Again it resonated with me, so I wrote a song about it.

This is one of my favourites, but sadly it didn’t get heard by many people.

One of the key challenges of this project is getting timing right. Sometimes, I know a comment song isn’t going to get a whole lot of visibility, but do it anyway because it’s inspired a really good song. But as I said, part of this is about getting finding an audience. Creating things is fun, but it’s a lot more fun when you know that people are enjoying it or being moved by it in some way.

Because of this, I need to work fast and, sometimes, find threads which seem like they’re going to be popular. This means potentially sacricificing a little bit of quality.


But I think I got the balance right on this next one. On the /r/AskReddit thread, “Drive-thru window workers of reddit, what’s the strangest thing you’ve seen in someones car?”, user /u/_Vinyl recounted a story about their dad’s bizarre behaviour reversing into a drive-thru Starbucks (classic USA) to avoid having to personally make an elaborate coffee order on behalf of _Vinyl’s mother. This story tickled me and it made very good fodder for a song.

This story was already quite funny, all I did was add a little bit of flourish.

Here you can hear what I think has become a bit of a signature sound in some of them: a fairly low-key verse with a short build up, then a big chorus which then ends fairly abruptly, to wrap it up. Wrapping it up can be a real challenge with shorter songs, but I try not to let it drag on.

I’ll end the list there - those are some of my favourites. I hope I’ll continue to have the enthusiasm and creative energy to write these songs for a long time because right now I’m really enjoying it.

For now, they’re all in a playlist on Soundcloud, and a smaller playlist on YouTube, so listen if you wish.

The only question is: what will happen to these songs? Do they get upgraded into full-length tracks? Do I start performing them live? Will I put them on Spotify or sell them on Bandcamp? I’m not sure about the last bit, but I think a couple of them could form the bases for longer, unrelated songs. There are some nice melodies in there.

As for performing them: I’m thinking of doing a bit where I explain the premise of the project and audience members decide which subject sounds most interesting and I perform the song for that one. In this, I’d only reveal enough information to make the lyrics the right amount of revelatory and surprising. We’ll see on that one.

If you wanna hear stuff as it’s written, you can follow on one of three platforms:

Heckle me on Twitter @basicallydan.