All About Songwriting

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Month: August 2012

Songwriting Process – Getting Out Of Your Own Way

At the end of the day, writing songs can be as easy or as hard as you want to make it.

One of the main reasons why songwriters find the songwriting process difficult is that they get in their own way by placing a pre-determined outcome to their process.

There are a lot of songwriters that have an inability to let go of the outcome and just allow themselves to write.

For example, while writing, a songwriter may say things to themselves like:

  • This song must be a good one
  • This song must be original
  • I can’t sound like anyone else
  • This song can’t be bad
  • I must be inspired when I write
  • I don’t have anything to write about

Let’s bring this back to you now.

If you were experiencing all of this negative dialogue while you were trying to write a song, do you think you would be able to finish it?

I don’t think so.

Creativity in any form exists because its creator, is free from all distraction. Learning to let go enables you, the songwriter to become free.

Allowing ourselves the freedom to create without any prejudice or pre-conceived notions is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to ourselves.

Next time you start writing a song try this.

As you start writing, think of nothing else but writing. Don’t worry if the result is going to be a good or bad. Better still, don’t think of any result at all.

Just write… Treat writing like it’s a meditation.

As you write you will hear your inner voice start to rant. When this happens, write down the rant on another piece of paper and allow it to pass through you rather than let it rattle around inside your head.

Treat these negative rantings as if you’re a matador allowing a feisty bull to run past your red cloth.

You never know, at the end of your songwriting session you might have finished a song plus have the beginnings of another and it’s all thanks to letting go and getting out of your own way.

What are the things that your inner critic says to you that creates a barrier between you and your songwriting?

What can you do to break it down and set you free?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Contests – My Own Personal Observations

You know, I love a good songwriting contest.

A songwriting contest brings out the best in songwriters because it gives us something to write for, a deadline to achieve some sort of end result.

You also get to see and hear some unearthed talent out there too.

I have been fortunate enough to be one of the judges for SCALA’s FOOM Songwriting Competition for a number of years now and I have made a list of the most common flaws in the songs I have listened to.

Please don’t take this list as the absolute truth. These points are only observations that I have made, followed by some suggestions on how to address these flaws. That is all.

Here are the five main flaws in no particular order:

1. Lots of cliches and platitudes in the song lyrics
It amazes me that, even though we are all unique, special and different individuals with different histories and experiences, we still tend to write a song about love for instance, using the same words and cliches.

We as songwriters need to quieten our minds and listen for the true essences of ourselves. Only then we can write a song from our own unique, and different perspectives.

Always try to write a song that comes from you and you alone.

2. Clumsy lyrical delivery
When the rhythm of the lyrics and melody are all jumbled up, the natural flow of the song disappears.

The reason why this happens is that the songwriter is trying to cram as many words and ideas into the song which automatically creates an aural barrier for the listener.

Remember, a song is at its most effective when you are dealing with one concept or idea at a time. If you find you have too many ideas in a song then pick one to run with and write another song (or two) with the leftovers.

3. Not enough attention paid to the song format
There have been many a time where I have been listening to a song and I have said to myself ‘there should be a bridge here’, or a chorus has been written that just doesn’t stand out enough.

It pays to have an idea of what a verse, chorus, pre-chorus and a bridge does and how you can use them.

4. The song go on for far too long
A lot of songs I hear in songwriting contests go on way too long. They’re the songs that have long introductions or, they have an anthemic phrase that is repeated over and over and over and over again.

There is nothing wrong with a lengthy song as long as the journey and the story is there for the listener to follow. If, say after three and a half minutes you are starting to repeat things and your idea runs out of steam then it’s likely that the song needs to end there.

Maybe you don’t need to reapeat the chorus ten times just because you like the way it sounds. Try putting on the ears of your listener from time to time as you’re writing your song.

5. Past, present and future tenses are all mixed up
Be careful that you dont mix up your tenses when you are telling the story in your songs. This sends a mixed and confusing message to the listener.

People want to be taken by the hand and led on a bit of a journey, unless you are the songwriting equivalent to Quentin Tarantino you should be aware of how the story of your song is going chronologically.

There you have it, a small list of things to consider.

Practice, practice and practice your craft, have fun with it, share it with others and when a songwriting contest comes around put your best foot forward and have a go.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Benny Blanco Talks About Pop Songwriting

Here is a short documentary on Grammy award winning songwriter and producer Benny Blanco which really gives you a behind the scenes view of how pop songs are written.

Benny is the the man behind hit songs for Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Taio Cruz, Britney Spears, Wiz Khalifa, Mike Posner, Justin Bieber, Maroon 5 and Sean Kingston.

An impressive resume in anyone’s language…

Even though the songs featured on this video are not songs that I would normally get into, I was really, impressed with the love and passion Benny has for his craft.

He candidly admits to not knowing anything about the technical side of music and how his songwriting process is all trial and error. he literally just tries things out to see what happens.

The video also features his home studio setup which has a real DIY feel to it plus his love for old synths.

For someone so young and with a fair bit of success under his his belt, it’s refreshing to see someone like Benny Blanco keeping it real.

What do you think?

Using Poetry To Transform Your Lyrics

There have been a few instances where lines of poetry have inspired a song or two inside me and with that in mind, I came a cross an article written by songwriter Anna Dagmar called “Transforming Your Lyrics From Poetry To Personal Truth.”

She mentions at the beginning of the article after discovering that her lyrics had changed stylistically from her first album in 2001 to her latest album in 2012:

“… when I began writing songs at about age twenty, I had a lot of emotions that wanted to come out somehow, but I was very shy about revealing myself too much. So, I turned to poetry. I turned to the world around me and looked for symbols or metaphors to describe the way I felt.”

What grabbed me about the article were two things:

1. The eloquent way she deconstructs some of her lyrics to illustrate some of the points she makes

2. Her “Handful Of Tricks For Expanding Your Lyric Writing Process” list that she mentions halfway through the article

She ends the article with yet another piece of great advice, saying that lyricists should:

“… read and write as often as possible. Be true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to share detail, whether about yourself or another person. Try to dig deeply to find ways of describing the world more eloquently than we do in daily conversation.”

What I’ve found through my online research into all things songwriting, is that a lot of information is out there about the music, arrangement, collaboration and the business side of songwriting but not necessarily enough about the things lyricists have to go through to make themselves heard.

I hope that you find this information as helpful for you as it was for me. You can find the full article “Transforming Your Lyrics From Poetry To Personal Truth” here.