FAWM 2014 Is Just Around The Corner – Are You In?

FAWMlogo

I reckon one of the best ways to stimulate your songwriting process is to have some sort of goal, challenge or deadline to achieve and one of the best known online songwriting challenges around is the FAWM Songwriting Challenge which again will be happening at the beginning of February (not too far away now).

FAWM stands for February Album Writing Month and the challenge here is that you need to write “14 songs in 28 days.”

There is a website with a very supportive and active community of songwriters from all walks of life and skill levels ready to help you in your quest to chase down the muse rather than just wait for inspiration to come to you.

I’ve been a FAWMer (as we like to call ourselves) since 2008 and not once have I reached the target however, this year I reckon I might just do it.

For me, it’s time to put everything that I’ve learnt about songwriting to the test. It’s time to practise what I preach on this site.

So what about you… Are you ready to take on the FAWM Songwriting Challenge. Do you reckon you could write 14 songs in 28 days?

Go to www.fawm.org and at least have a look as to what they offer. Joining the challenge is 100% free and who knows, you might make some new friends and write some songs along the way.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

What Are YOUR Songwriting Goals For 2014?

goal

In my quest to make 2014 my best songwriting year to date I decided to start working out what my songwriting goals would be for 2014 and then share them with you all to remain accountable.

In doing this exercise I also wanted to throw the question open to you.

“What Are YOUR Songwriting Goals For 2014?”

A good place to start working out your songwriting goals is a recent Robin Frederick article that I came across on her My Song Coach blog called “Set Your Songwriting Goals” in which she outlines four main goals to aspire to.

  1. Give yourself time and place to be a songwriter
  2. Study success to be successful
  3. Collaborate
  4. Challenge old habits

Robin also gives us some handy tips on how to write down your goals. One of the best tips I found in her article was that we should…

“…pick goals that are achievable. Make sure they’re something YOU have control over.  Avoid vague goals like “I’m going to write a hit song.” Instead, make them specific, break them down into small steps and create a timeline.”

In general people tend to start a brand new year with a series of non-specific resolutions and goals for all facets of their lives (health, work, relationships, money etc) and this tends to overwhelm the individual so making sure your songwriting goals are specific and broken down into bite sized chunks is very, very important.

As I’m still formulating my own songwriting goals, I don’t have much to show you at this stage but thanks to Robin Frederick and her “Set Your Songwriting Goals” article I certainly have been given a good foundation to start from.

Now, that question again for you… “What Are YOUR Songwriting Goals For 2014?”

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Will 2014 Be YOUR Songwriting Year?

chequeredflag

After a very long absence (and a very stressful 2013) I’m now ready to start writing for this blog again and what better way to start than to throw down a challenge to everyone.

Let’s make this year YOUR songwriting year.

Together (you, me and this blog), let’s make 2014 the year you write more, create more, record more and perform more of your songs than you ever had before.

It’s by no means a race because we all have our different ways of expressing our songwriting process but it is a challenge that you can have with yourself.

I mean, how many songs did you complete last year? How many songwriting ideas did you jot down? How many works in progress did you record?

Just think, this year is THE year to really step up to the plate, get some runs on the board and to kick some much needed songwriting goals.

Don’t worry, as I’m writing this I’m also challenging myself to do the very same thing.

I mean, I haven’t touched this blog since April 2nd, 2013 however, I’ve also made the same commitment to myself to write more songs, collaborate with more songwriters, network with more musicians and create more opportunities for my songs to be heard.

How am I going to do this? Well, this is the very reason why All About Songwriting was created in the first place.

This site is a collection of songwriting tips, songwriting ideas and songwriting help in one songwriting resource and I’m very excited to be resurrecting it again for 2014.

Let’s take this songwriting journey together and help each other be the best songwriters that we can be.

You know the drill with blogs such as this… I’ll post, you read, you ask questions, I’ll answer, I’ll challenge, you respond, you make comments, I’ll reply and together, we’ll all grow as songwriters, creators, musicians and artists.

How cool will that be? I know I’m looking forward to what this year will bring.

Let’s get this show on the road with a question… What do you want to achieve with your songwriting in 2014?

I’ll let you know my answer very soon.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Inspire Your Songwriting Process With Quotations

quotationmarks

Quotations are those little gems of wisdom that people come up with regarding any topic that you can think of.

I love them.

I’ve always thought of quotations as condensed forms of insight that songs could be created from. I’m sure there have been many songs that were inspired by a choice quote or phrase.

As songwriters, our craft is in the dealing of both words and music so therefore it makes perfect sense to immerse ourselves in these things. Reading a book of quotes is a great way to get a songwriting idea.

Instead of condensing information from a story into a song (something big into something smaller) you’re taking something very condensed and creating a story which then becomes the song.

Heres how I would do it:

1. Find a quote that catches your eye.
There will be a lot of quotes that you will just gloss over but every now and then you will read something that will make you sit up and take notice.

For some reason it has struck a chord in you.

When this happens write the quote down.

2. Start analysing the quote.
Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers. Why did the quote stop you in your tracks?

What images flashed through your mind when you read that quote? Is there a story or event that comes to mind from reading the quote?

Start brainstorming some ideas. Perhaps use a mind map.

3. Start putting all of the pieces together.
By now you will have a longhand version of you thoughts, feelings and memories inspired by this quote.

Look at what you’ve written as a jigsaw puzzle waiting to be put together. If you find that there are missing pieces then make it up.

You’re a songwriter, use your imagination.

My favourite place to be inspired is MusicThoughts, a website created by CD Baby founder Derek Sivers as a place where quotes regarding music, songwriting and the creative process can live and be discovered by all who seek to be inspired

However, there are some other great quotation directories on the web which I turn to from time to time just to see if I can be inspired by someone else’s pearls of wisdom. Sites such as…

With a little bit of web research under your belt you’ll find that most of the sites you come across will allow you to search quotes via keyword, such as songwriting or music so have a look and see what you can come up with. I wonder how many songs can be created.

I’m also giving this songwriting technique a shot and I’ll let you know how I go.

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Song Demos – Be Prepared And Organised

blueprint

You know, a song demo can be used for many things.

It can be the basis of what you introduce to your band at a rehearsal, it can be the means in which you secure the gig or the song placement you were applying for or it can be what a prospective fan hears before they decided whether to come to see your show or buy your CD.

It’s very important that you get your song demos right, the first time.

This is definitely what I get from reading the latest article from Cliff Goldmacher of Educated Songwriter called “What To Do Before You Record Your Song Demo”

Here it is below for your enjoyment…


What To Do Before You Record Your Song Demo
By Cliff Goldmacher (www.EducatedSongwriter.com)

As a result of recording and producing literally thousands of demos, I’ve learned that it is always better to “prepare and prevent” than to “repair and repent.” Here are a few steps you can take to help make your demo recording experience more successful.

Song Preparation
It may sound obvious but make sure your song is FINISHED. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had clients come into the studio only to start rewriting a part of the lyric or melody. It is significantly less stressful (and quite a bit less expensive) to write a song when you’re not paying the studio an hourly fee.

You can also benefit from trying a few rough recordings at home before you get to the studio. The simple act of listening back to a song instead of performing it will reveal any weaknesses or issues that need to be dealt with before the studio clock is running. The last of these rough home recordings will become the definitive work tape.

The Rough Recording
This is any simple, inexpensive recording that you do into a hand-held recorder, laptop or even your smart phone. Generally a piano or guitar plus a scratch vocal will do the trick.

The key here is not a perfect recording but rather an accurate representation of the song structure. In other words, it doesn’t have to sound great as long as the chords, melody and lyrics are correct. The purpose of this work tape is to provide the demo vocalist and session musicians with a final version of your song that they can learn from.

The Players
Let’s start with the demo vocalist. It’s always a good policy to get a copy of the work tape and the lyrics to the singer a week or so before the session. There are several reasons for this.

First of all, the singer can let you know what key the song should be in to best suit their voice. This way, if you end up recording instrument parts before the singer does their part, you’ll know the correct key. Secondly, the more time the singer has to learn the song, the less time he or she will take to sing the song when the studio clock is running.

When you get to the session, it’s wise to have printed lyric sheets for the engineer, musicians and vocalist. The lyrics should be typewritten and have each chorus written out in full.

The reason for this is that you’ll be using these lyric sheets to mark spots that need fixing (or spots on certain takes that you like) and having “Repeat Chorus” written for the second and third choruses won’t allow you to take good notes.

The better the notes you take on the lyric sheet while the vocalist is recording, the easier it will be to tell the vocalist what works and what needs to be fixed.

The session musicians do not need a rough recording in advance. They will be learning the song from your work tape when they get to the session. You can save a little time by writing a chord chart of the song if it’s something you’re comfortable doing.

If not, the session musicians should have no trouble doing it for you quickly using the work tape you bring to the session.

Conclusion
After that, it’s up to the singers and musicians to bring your song to the next level. There’s nothing more fun than listening to world-class musicians and vocalists record a song you’ve written. The more you prepare in advance, the more you’ll enjoy your studio experience.

Good luck!


About The Author

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Go to http://www.educatedsongwriter.com/webinar/ for more info.

Cliff’s company, http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.

You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going to http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/ebook.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/EducatedSongwriter
Twitter: edusongwriter


Essentially what Cliff is saying in this article is to just be well planned, prepared and organised when it comes to recording your song demos. It never ceases to amaze me how much time is wasted in the pre-production and the recording of song demos.

All it takes is a little bit planning, preparation and organisation to ensure that the song demo recording process runs as efficiently and creatively as possible.

What have been your song demo recording horror stories? Have you experienced something directly? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Some General Songwriting And Lyrical Advice For You

wordsandmusic

The online world is an amazing place. You can find information on absolutely anything, even songwriting.

With this in mind, I’m constantly on the lookout for the best information on writing songs, creativity and the music business in general online and what I’m highlighting today is a great example of this.

Recently I came across this simple article by Jason Bridges called “Lyrics and Songwriting Ideas” which outlines some general principles to writing lyrics.

While I was reading this article I realised that what he was saying reflected my opinions exactly. Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re on the right track.

Here is the full article for your enjoyment


Lyrics And Songwriting Ideas
By Jason Bridges

A song is totally based on its lyrics and melody.

Writing lyrics for a song may seem difficult at first. Some people think it takes years of formal training to write good lyrics and become a decent songwriter.

I believe it’s quite the opposite though. Lyrics are all around us every day, if we just be observe. You have to develop a lyrical mindset. Songs can be written about anything.

It is easy to get ideas for writing lyrics by listening to conversations in day to day life and by observing activities going on around you.

Inspiration can be found everywhere, in magazines and newspapers, on the radio, and even in your workplace. Some songwriters start out composing their thoughts as a story, and then putting these ideas into lyrics and rhyme.

When you get your lyrical ideas down on paper, you refine it and start searching for words that will make your lyrics rhyme. However, you don’t always need your lyrics to rhyme.

Don’t just add words to a song because they rhyme, if they don’t make sense in the song. Also, if you can’t get the last part of the lyrics to rhyme, you can try to think of combinations of words that would rhyme. Whatever you do, you want your lyrics and rhymes to flow naturally.

Don’t worry about trying to finish an entire song in one sitting. That just isn’t practical most of the time, although sometimes someone can feel really inspired and write whole songs worth of lyrics at once.

Really though, you should just write the lyrics down as they come to you, and you will eventually be able to take the best lines and best phrases to complete the song with original lyrics.

As with everything else, practice makes perfect. The more you write, the better you will become. Besides just jotting down lyrics as they come to you throughout the day, try to schedule a regular time each day and think about how to compose those lyrics into a meaningful song.

Some people find early mornings to be the best time, when they feel refreshed and get better ideas.

Today, there is even songwriting software available on the internet to help aspiring lyricists. You may want to look at some of the songwriting software on the market.


About the author

For more songwriting tips, as well as music and lyrics information, make sure you visit http://www.lyricspimp.com


You would’ve noticed that there were some really good points raised here.

1. A song is totally based on its lyrics and melody
That’s right. A song is made up of 2 parts. Everything else is arrangement and aural packaging.

2. Lyrics are all around us every day
Lyrics are words and words are used to communicate every thought and feeling we have. Put yourself in the middle if a city and listen to the conversations around you and (if you let it) you will hear hooks for songs all over the place.

3. Songs can be written about anything
Amen to that!!

4. Inspiration can be found everywhere
Again, only if you allow yourself to be inspired. Give your inner critic some time off from his/her duties and immerse yourself in inspiration.

5. Whatever you do, you want your lyrics and rhymes to flow naturally
Forced rhymes aren’t very nice to listen to. Your lyrics don’t have to rhyme if the lyric doesn’t want to. Concentrate on the rhythm of the words as well.

6. Don’t worry about trying to finish an entire song in one sitting
Let things happen organically and naturally. This is not a race here. As long as you devote some time every day or few days to writing songs you’ll be fine. Sometimes you can’t choose when a song finishes.

7. The more you write, the better you will become
Like with any craft or skill that one learns. Practise makes perfect.

Is there anything there that catches your eye? If there is let me know.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Get Inspired By Learning Another Instrument

ebonyandivory

Over the last six months I’ve been really getting stuck into playing piano, practising at least one hour a day on average, stumbling my way around the keyboard and getting acquainted with all of the different piano chords and their variations.

The main purpose of me doing this is to add piano onto my list of instruments that I can write songs with, and perform in a live setting with confidence.

Now, the piano is something that I’ve held a long fascination about playing fluently for a long time but I’ve always felt “intimidated” by the instrument.

Over the years I would dabble with the rudiments of playing piano but after a few days I would give up because the intimidation factor would create a barrier to my learning a new skill.

In my latest intensive piano study experiment however, I decided to smash that learning barrier and because of this I’ve been able to gain more confidence as a musician, silence my inner voice which was telling me that I couldn’t play piano and, most importantly…

It’s given me the gift of songwriting inspiration.

For me, the piano is another sound palette that I can draw on as I’m creating a song out of nothing. It’s given me an opportunity to add something new to my life and coupled with the FAWM 2013 songwriting challenge I’ve created perhaps my most piano driven song yet.

It’s called “Fall In Love With Me” and it’s about two people finding each other for the first time and the awkwardness that goes along with that.

Here is “Fall In Love With Me.” Enjoy


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Fall In Love With Me
© C. Stewart 4/2/2013

I am looking your way, so careful not to be seen
But to my surprise you’re smiling back at me
This wasn’t part of my plan, this can’t be happening to me
Because this smile of yours has complicated things

I just don’t know what to do at this moment
Oh, can someone tell me please
How can I get this woman fall in love with me

Towards each other we move, you’re eyes are fixed upon mine
I got swept up in the moment, I feel like I could fly
But as you came a little closer, gliding across the floor
I can see you’re more beautiful, than I ever thought you were

I still don’t know what to do at this moment
Oh, can someone tell me please
How can I get this woman fall in love with me

Instrumental

I stand in front of you and you stand in front of me
The silence between us seems like eternity
I hold out my hand and you place yours in mine
There’s no need for words, the stars have all aligned

I now know what to do at this moment
You can now stop telling me
How I have made this woman fall in love with me


This song is a great example of what happens if you work at something (that seemed very foreign) long enough towards a single minded goal. There’s many more to come.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

The Differences Between Songwriting In New York And Nashville

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Here is another quality article from Cliff Goldmacher this time outlining the main differences between writing songs in New York and Nashville and how those differences can work to your advantage as a songwriter.

It always amazes how two cities can have a very different feel culturally and musically and Cliff has obviously experienced both first-hand.


The Differences Between Songwriting In NYC And Nashville
By Cliff Goldmacher (www.EducatedSongwriter.com)

As a transplanted songwriter from Nashville to New York City, I’ve had the chance to observe, up close, the approaches to songwriting and the songwriting communities in both cities. While there are of course many similarities, there are also quite a few differences.

By the way, I feel I should mention that the following observations are really more my impressions than hard facts.

1. Differences Within the Similarities
In this article, I’ll start with a similarity between New York and Nashville as it’s readily apparent and then explain how, within that similarity, one city differs from the other.

One of the first similarities is that both cities have huge songwriting populations. The depth and breadth of talent in both places encompass many more genres that the obvious country music for Nashville and pop and rock music for New York. There are great pop writers in the suburbs of Nashville and extremely accomplished country songwriters living in Greenwich Village.

2. Finding the Songwriters
One difference between the two songwriting communities is how easy they are to locate. Because Nashville’s artistic community is predominantly made up of singers, songwriters and musicians, it’s much easier to find the music/songwriting community there.

New York, on the other hand, has a wonderful songwriter population, but it’s mixed in with the countless other artists and creative types that live there and is thus less obvious. In other words, it takes a little more effort to find the songwriters in New York, but believe me, they’re there.

Before moving from Nashville to New York, I’d taken several writing trips a year up to New York and, by a process or trial and error, I found a core group of NYC songwriters that became my go to people on every trip. This way, when I eventually moved to New York, I felt like I was instantly part of the community even though I had to discover it little by little.

I highly recommend this approach for anyone considering a move to New York as it eases the transition and makes the entire process much less overwhelming.

3. Co-writing
Although both New York and Nashville have large numbers of songwriters, co-writing is much more a part of the day to day routine in Nashville. It’s not unusual for a Nashville writer to have five co-writing appointments in a week where they meet with a different cowriter every day in a publishing company office on Music Row.

This happens for several reasons. First of all, as a hired staff songwriter for a Nashville publishing company, you are given a yearly quota of songs that you need to fulfil. The more songs you write, the more quickly you’ll fulfil your quota.

Publishers make a real effort to connect songwriters they think will work well together and go as far as to set up co-writing appointments for their writers. As a result, it’s fairly common in Nashville to be set up on a “blind date” cowrite.

Secondly, even though you’re only credited with half a song for a cowrite, it’s easier to motivate yourself to write if you’ve got someone to collaborate with. The act of scheduling appointments and being expected to show up significantly eases the stress of having to create on a schedule.

This approach seems odd to a lot of New York writers who are either artists themselves and used to writing with their own bands or are songwriters used to working with artists whose schedules are much less predictable.

4. Lyrics
Staying with the generality that you’re writing country in Nashville and pop or rock in New York, I’ve noticed that the rules of lyric-writing between these genres and cities differ significantly.

In Nashville, the story is king. This means that the lyric has to make perfect sense, the images are concrete and the story has a logical flow from beginning to end. There’s not a lot of room for poetic, impressionistic lyrics that don’t have the arc of a story.

New York, on the other hand, while it certainly has its share of great songwriter/storytellers, has a broader tolerance in its pop and rock genres for words that “feel” and “sound” good together.

Please don’t misunderstand. It takes just as much skill to write a great pop lyric where the words convey the emotion of the song and carry the nuances of the melody as it does to write a great story in a country song, but it’s a different skill set. I’ve found that switching from one approach to the other can be creatively liberating and quite a bit of fun.

Also, it’s interesting to see how one city’s lyrical approach can bleed into the other’s. In this way, you can end up with country lyrics where the words in the story sound good next to each other or pop lyrics with the arc of a story to them.

5. Labels
Speaking of artists, another similarity in the two cities is that they are both home to major record labels and their signed artists. This alone attracts a huge number of songwriters to both cities. The difference here is that country music artists are still largely dependent upon outside songs for their projects.

In New York, bands tend to write their own material and it is less common for these artists to go looking for outside songs. Occasionally songwriters will be paired with these bands/artists in New York allowing the writers to end up with cuts on these acts. Of course, all of these distinctions are lessening as more country artists write and cowrite their albums as well.

6. You Can’t Lose
At the end of the day, both communities are great places to work and create. Ironically, after living in Nashville, working as a staff songwriter and writing for the country market for twelve years, my first cut was with a New York writer and was recorded by an Irish tenor on Universal Records named Ronan Tynan.

In my opinion, it was the blend of our New York and Nashville songwriting sensibilities that came together to create that song. What I mean by this is that somewhere between the soaring melody more suited to pop and the lyric that had more of a country attention to detail, we came up with a classical crossover song.

So, if you’re a Nashville writer thinking about working in New York (or vice versa) I’d highly recommend it. Sometimes it’s the differences that create the best art.

Good luck!


Authors Bio

cliff

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA.

Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including a brand new video series available at the link below.
http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/video-podcast-series

Cliff’s company, http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.

You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going to http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/ebook.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/EducatedSongwriter
Twitter: edusongwriter


I hope to be featuring more of Cliff’s articles in the future on All About Songwriting so watch this space.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

FAWM 2013: Two Songs Done, Twelve More To Go

fawmlogo

It’s amazing what a deadline can do for your creativity. Over the weekend I penned two songs for FAWM 2013.

The first one called “Alright Now” is a song about everything turning out ok even if life doesn’t seem that way at the time and the second song “Don’t Ever Waste Another Minute” is about embracing the life you have no matter where it takes you.

I’m really proud of both tracks as it’s given me an opportunity to learn a lot more about using my home recording studio plus it’s given me a reason to practise playing the piano, an instrument I’ve forever wanted to master but was always intimidated by.

By posting these songs up here I’m feeling that I’m putting my own advice to good use. Talk about learning a new instrument being beneficial to your songwriting process…

Here are the MP3′s of the two songs. If you want to read the lyrics you can follow the links to my FAWM pages.


Alright Now

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Don’t Ever Waste Another Minute

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That’s two songs down, twelve more to go.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

The Relationship Between Polishing Silver Bowls And Writing Songs

SilverBowl

You wouldn’t think that a story of polishing a silver bowl would have anything to do with the craft of writing songs but that is what Pat Pattison, a Professor at Berklee College Of Music, has done with his article titled “Songwriting Tip – Polishing The Silver Bowl.”

His mantra throughout the article is made of 12 words…

“Don’t sweat the small stuff until the big stuff is cleaned up.”

He tells the story of finding a silver bowl and while cleaning it he finds that the attention to detail becomes finer and finer the more he delved into cleaning it. He then compares this experience with writing songs.

Sort out the big picture first then refine, rewrite and refine again.

You can read the full article here and while you’re doing that, have a think about your songwriting experiences of late.

Are there any songs that you may need to dig a little deeper on to get the best out of them?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting