All About Songwriting

Your #1 Songwriting Resource

Month: May 2012

Songwriting Tip – Never Be Afraid To Ask Questions

Someone once told me that the only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask.

Knowledge is gained through experience and by asking lots of questions. I would love to have a go at answering whatever question you may have about songwriting.

Go on, just ask me 🙂

The music industry is built on networks and networking with others is one of the most important skills (outside of writing good songs) that a songwriter needs to acquire.

One of the main reasons I created All About Songwriting was to share my knowledge and skills from over 25 years of being a performing songwriter.

I want everyone to benefit from all of the mistakes I’ve made in the past with my own songwriting.

I truly believe that we are all in this songwriting thing together and that there is plenty of room for everybody so, instead of looking at this business as a competition, lets offer our hands to each other and lift up as many of us as we possibly can.

Whatever question you have on songwriting, the creative process, the music industry, any article suggestions or anything else that you want to know, just let me know.

If I don’t know the answer I will personally find out the answer for you.

These posts that I write and the quality articles that I curate are only really scraping the tip of the iceberg of all the knowledge that can be gained by pursuing some sort of mastery of the craft of songwriting.

Yes, songwriting is a craft, a craft that needs to be constantly practised, utilised and improved upon each and every day.

We are all apprentices of this craft no matter how successful we are. I am certain that even songwriters like Diane Warren would say that she still has a lot to learn about her chosen craft.

All of us are works in progress so don’t be scared, ask questions and lots of them. You can never, ever stop learning. It’s how we grow as songwriters

There are many, many songwriting resources and organisations out there either online or in the real world, with dedicated people in them wanting to help you.

We, as songwriters owe it to ourselves and the music industry to write the best songs we can, so get out of the stands and get onto the field and start playing the game.

Just remember, we are all in this songwriting thing together so let’s help each other out. Let me know what you want to know

Until next time, keep on writing

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Sting And His Songwriting Process (Pt 2)

Here is another video (as a follow on from this one) of one of my favourite songwriters, Sting outlining his songwriting process but this time it’s on an 1997 Australian TV program called “Access All Areas” which was hosted by Australian Jazz legend Paul Grabowsky.

In the video I love Sting’s explanation of how he initially creates a song.

He states that “… a song begins with an idea that encompasses the song before you’ve written it.” He also goes on to explain that there are rules in songwriting and that “… if you obey those rules you enter a state of grace.”

Oh, and by the way, Sting loves Middle 8’s.

Here is the video, enjoy…

PS: The first “Sting And His Songwriting Process” video can be found here.

Until next time, keep on writing

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

How To Finish That Song That You’ve Been Working On Forever

I must say that I’m one of those songwriters that is an expert at starting off songwriting ideas but really ordinary at finishing them off into completed songs. It’s one of those things that I personally need help with in my own songwriting process.

Here is an article by well known producer, author and songwriter Cliff Goldmacher outlining five different approaches that you can take to finish off those songs that you’ve been working on forever.

It certainly gave me some food for thought…


How To Finish That Song You’ve Been Working On Forever
By Cliff Goldmacher

Sometimes songs come easy. You sit down and the whole thing pours out of you almost as if you’re simply transcribing it as it’s handed down to you from the heavens. Those songs are great but I’ve learned you can’t always count on it working that way.

The other side of the coin is when songwriting more closely resembles the extraction of a particularly reluctant wisdom tooth, without an anaesthetic. This article is about how to deal with those songs. I’m going to offer five different approaches to get you un-stuck and get your song finished one way or the other.

1. Make a Rough Recording of Your Song

Sometimes all you need is a little perspective. Often when we’re writing a song, we’ll go around and around singing it to ourselves sometimes playing an instrument as we do it. This is a necessary and essential part of the writing process and although it’s helpful while we’re writing, it doesn’t provide us with the listener’s perspective.

Whether it’s a song you’ve just been working on or one you’ve played live hundreds of times, if you’re not sure it’s finished, then do a rough recording. By a rough recording, I mean simply sing (and play if you’re also an instrumentalist) the song into your computer, hand-held recorder or even your cell phone and listen to the playback of the recording without playing your instrument or singing along.

This simple act of putting yourself in the audience, so to speak, will give you perspective on what is and isn’t working in a way that is impossible while you’re actually singing the song yourself. I’d also suggest printing out a lyric sheet and keeping it in front of you to make notes on as you get ideas from listening to the rough.

Finally, I’d recommend the process of making a rough recording, tweaking the song and then making a new rough recording, until you end up with a version of the song that you feel good about. This final rough recording can then do double duty as the version of the song you’ll provide the session musicians and singers so that they can learn your song for the demo session.

2. Play It For Your Songwriting Group

Still stuck? Sometimes it takes another set of experienced ears to hear the things you’ve been missing. Songwriting groups can be great for this but if you don’t have a songwriting group, not to worry, most cities have songwriting organizations, open mics and even local coffee houses with live music where you can meet other songwriters.

Once you’ve found a few other songwriters whose work you respect, you might suggest getting together once every week or two and showing each other what you’ve been working on. This is a great way to get suggestions on how to refine your material.

I’d recommend making a pact to stay constructive. There’s never a point in being unduly negative. You’re all trusting each other with songs that are still in their vulnerable early and unfinished stages. Mean-spirited comments or unnecessarily harsh criticism can cause a potentially superb song to be abandoned on the spot.

It’s important to remember that songwriting is still a subjective process and not every suggestion you get will feel right to you. That’s fine. If you get a single suggestion that makes your song better, then the process is working. By the way, if you’re looking for a songwriting organization in your area, the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) has chapters all over the country and even overseas.

3. Submit Your Rough Recording to a Critiquing Service

Songwriting organizations like the Nashville Songwriters Association, The Songwriters Guild of America and Taxi.com offer song critiques to their members. This can be a safe, entry-level way to try out new material on experienced industry ears without risking poisoning the well if the song comes back with a less than glowing set of comments.

These same organizations also offer “Play for Publisher” or “Play for A&R” song screenings. I’d highly recommend waiting to submit to these events until you have a song (and, just as importantly, a recording) you feel confident is completely polished. You only have one chance to make a first impression with a publisher or record executive so I’d suggest taking your time, making sure your song is finished and that you have a totally professional demo before you head down that road.

While a pro critique can yield some terrific insights, it’s important to remember that songwriting is a subjective process. In other words, take all comments (good and bad) with a grain of salt.

4. Bring in a Co-Writer

If you feel you’ve got an exceptional idea but truly can’t seem to figure out how to finish it, then maybe it’s time to bring in a co-writer. Many co-writes begin from scratch which is a great way to share the effort of creating a new song but, sometimes, co-writes happen when one writer brings a partially finished idea to another.

For example, if it’s the melody that’s got you stuck, then I’d recommend working with a co-writer who has a melodic gift. If it’s the lyric, look for a strong lyricist. The key to co-writing is to find someone who’s strong where you aren’t (and vice versa) so, together, you can come up with something better than either one of you could have created on your own.

5. Put It Away (maybe forever)

If you’ve tried everything and your song still just kind of lies there, then it’s time to put it away, maybe even forever.

The key to staying productive as a songwriter is not getting too bogged down on any one song. Sometimes songs are meant to be started simply to get you to the next song. Don’t be afraid to leave a song behind and start on something new.

Sometimes you’ll come back to it months or even years later and sometimes you won’t. The more songs you write the easier this will become. Promise. While songwriting can certainly be a challenge at times, it shouldn’t have to hurt. It’s up to you to decide whether a song needs one more good effort or an express trip to the circular file.

I’ll leave you with a final random thought. Often the days you’re dreading working on a song are the days when you make the biggest gains. Always give yourself the benefit of the doubt and sit down and try. If it isn’t happening pretty quickly, then let it go, but if it is, you’ll be doubly glad you made the effort.

Good luck!


About The Author

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter/engineer/producer/author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” is available as a free download from his site at http://www.cliffgoldmacher.com/ebook

Cliff is also the owner/founder of http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, a website that provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.


One of the things that struck me about Cliff’s article is how he mentions playing your half finished song to a songwriting group and putting up your work in progress to a song critiquing service.

These are things that I’m interested in setting up on this site in the very near future and maybe then I’ll be able to finish off my own (ever growing) list of incomplete song ideas.

In the meantime, how do you finish off your songs?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Paul Kelly Talks About His Songwriting Process

Here is a two part video featuring one of Australia’s most treasured singer/songwriters Paul Kelly talking about what songwriting means to him, how he writes his songs and a little bit about his life along the way.

Fascinating and very insightful indeed… Enjoy!

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting