All About Songwriting

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Month: November 2012

Songwriting Process – 6 Steps To Beating The Blank Page

I’m constantly on the lookout for information online that is relevant to songwriters no matter where it comes from.

A great example of this is an article written by Robert Peters that I discovered today on one of my favourite blogging/online marketing blogs Copyblogger.

His article is called “6 Tips For Beating The Blank Page” and it’s all about the writing process of author Roald Dahl who wrote “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” amongst other things.

Through his visit to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Robert distilled Dahl’s writing process into 6 steps.

1. Capture Every Idea
2. Create A Place To Work
3. Create A Routine
4. Use The Right Tools
5. Perfect Your Writing
6. Do The Work

The bottom line to the whole article according to Robert is that…

“… it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing stories for children about Oompa-Loompas, or sharing your knowledge by publishing content to market your business — collecting ideas, creating a space to work and a routine, redrafting your content and getting it published are crucial.”

I couldn’t agree more. What do you think?

You can go to the original article “6 Tips For Beating The Blank Page” HERE

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting – The More You Know, The More You Need To Learn

In order to master the craft of songwriting you must first embrace the fact that there’s always something to learn about it.

The more you know the more you need to learn.

I know of some songwriters that are either bored or restless with their craft. They complain that everything that they do all sounds the same and therefore they feel they’re not expanding and growing as songwriters.

However, in life, there are people that do things and people that don’t. Which category a songwriter falls into is not determined by genetics or how far the moon rises in Uranus.

It’s all determined by their attitude and as a songwriter, how you master your chosen craft is determined by you and you alone.

One of my ongoing goals is getting advanced musical theory and guitar lessons. I’ve mentioned this to a select number of friends and they all ask me “why?”

My reply is “why not!”

I have been playing music and writing songs since I was 12 and besides learning clarinet and studying music theory and composition in high school I have not had any other tuition in my life.

I am mostly a self taught musician.

It would be arrogant of me to think that I have nothing else to learn so I’m going to find out where my learning gaps are and I’m then going to fill them in with some new knowledge.

Doing this can only make me a better songwriter and musician.

My advice to anyone regarding learning an instrument to help you with your songwriting is threefold:

1. If you’ve ever considered learning an instrument then consider no more, start learning. Don’t believe the rubbish that some will tell you about being too old and things like that.

2. If you already play an instrument consider getting lessons no matter how proficient you are. The more proficient you are at your instrument the more important your choice of tutor will be.

3. If you already get lessons, make more of an effort to practise, learn to love it and find the time to do it. Challenge yourself with the lessons, try to feel your mind expand with the knowledge you gain from it.

Seek out books on songwriting, buy them and read them. Take notes and do what is needed to assimilate the new knowledge into your songwriting process.

Go onto the web and sign up to songwriting resources, forums, and communities. Ask lots and lots of questions.

In your research you’ll come across people you feel comfortable communicating with, keep in contact with them. Network and expand your relationships.

If you want to contact me and ask questions feel free to do so, just contact me through this blog and I will get back to you.

In short, get out of your comfort zone.

If you feel you have been spending precious energy complaining and not enough energy doing then stop, re-evaluate and change your attitude towards your songwriting.

It can be done, I know because I have done this for myself.

Reward yourself (and your songwriting) by embracing new knowledge and you will never, ever look back.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

The Importance Of Making Time For Your Songwriting

As a songwriter, have you ever finished your day saying to yourself “Man, where did that day go?”

Did you ever feel that you always run out of time to spend it writing songs?

Well Gary Ewer from the “Essential Secrets Of Songwriting” blog may have the answer.

He suggests that you actually build in songwriting time into your day rather than try to find time after the fact. In one of his latest blog post titled “The Importance Of A Songwriting Schedule” Gary mentions that…

“…many songwriters treat the writing of music with the same level of importance that they treat picking up a chocolate bar. If you find yourself frequently suffering from writer’s block, the lack of a daily schedule is probably one of the most likely causes.”

He then says (and this is the important part)…

“…when your day is done and you’re crawling into bed, do you usually know when you’re going to be doing songwriting the next day? If not, you should.”

Reading this post really made me think about how much more attention I should be paying to my own songwriting schedule. I’m sure that it will make you think about how much more songwriting you could do too.

You can find the original blog post here

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Process – Behind The Scenes With Dave Stewart And Joss Stone

Here is an intimate video snapshot of Dave Stewart and Joss Stone writing a song called “I Don’t Want To Be Your Landlord Anymore” at about 3am in the morning feeling the worse for wear after a few drinks.

This video shows me that no matter who you are, the process of writing a song is very similar. Everyone has to start from somewhere, even world renowned songwriters/artists like Dave Stewart and Joss Stone.

It kind of reminds me of some of the late night songwriting sessions that I’ve been involved with.

Enjoy…

Songwriting Tip – Six Ways To Improve Your Song

This post was directly inspired by a recent Bobby Owsinski article called “Six Traits Of A Badly Written Song.”

The six traits that constitutes a “badly written song” that Bobby outlines in his article are as follows:

  • The song is too long
  • The song has no focus
  • The song has a weak chorus
  • The song has no bridge
  • The song suffers from a poor arrangement
  • The song has no intro/outro hook

Now, I wanted to do something a little different and write the opposite to what Bobby wrote about in his article and from that premise, “Six Ways To Improve Your Song” was born.

Here are my six ways to improve your song (based on Bobby Owsinski’s article):

1. Shorten your song
There is nothing worse for a listener than to have to sit through an extended intro, outro, guitar solo or, overly repeated choruses that go nowhere.

Unless the length of the song is part of the context or story of it, consider cutting some of the padding out.

2. Create some focus for your song
Nothing confuses a listener more than a song that tries to do far too much with the limited amount of time it has at its disposal.

If you can maintain a “one song, one idea” principle to your songwriting then you’re winning half the battle.

3. Enable your chorus to be strong and proud
The part of the song that underpins everything is the chorus. It’s what listeners remember most about your song and it’s almost always the part of the song that the listener relates to the most.

Your chorus needs to be as strong as it can be to maintain the listeners attention.

4. Consider adding a bridge to your song
This was probably the only point in Bobby Owsinski’s article that I didn’t agree with. Not all songs need a bridge in them however I do concede that there is a trend to include a bridge to facilitate some point of difference in the song.

If you feel that your song is sounding a little repetitive then perhaps a bridge is the answer. A really good example of a songwriter who uses the bridge to perfection is Sting.

5. Make your arrangement work for the song, not against it
When you take your song further from the simple demo stage you’ll need to take into consideration the overall “song arrangement” meaning the incorporation of other instruments and production layer to your song.

When recording a full song arrangement, don’t let lost in all of the technology and the temptation to include all of the bells and whistles in your recording.

Always keep the simple essence of your song in mind and work from that.

6. Include an intro/outro hook
A intro hook (whether it be a riff or a unique sound/chordal sequence) enables the listener to have something to grab onto.

A perfect example of this is “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. As soon as you hear the opening riff you know what song it is and this is what makes this song a timeless work of pop art.

What do you think improves or detracts from a song? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and while you’re at it, go to the original article “6 Traits Of A Badly Written Song.”

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting And Your Creative Environment

Did you know environment can really affect your songwriting and your creativity?

It does with me…

Personally, if I get up in the morning and the house is in a state of chaos then I’m feeling like that inside. If it’s all tidy and organised then I feel that way too.

My songwriting output varies depending on how organised or disorganised my life and home is.

How does your environment affect you?

Almost a couple of months ago now my partner and I bought a house and I’ve been noticing how my motivation levels tend to wax and wane in accordance with the overall state of the house at that moment.

In the previous house I lived in (which being full of mould was making me sick all the time) my motivation levels kept dropping the longer I lived there however, now that I’m in a newer, cleaner and more organised environment my motivation and inspiration levels have increased dramatically.

I’m finding that I am at my most motivated straight after giving the house a good clean from top to bottom.

I’m a great believer that the state of the place where you live is a good indicator to how your life is at the moment. This is because I can focus my attention more on the task of writing songs instead of doing something else.

If you want to develop your songwriting process then you need to sort out your creative environment.

Your life and the world around you is just as much a creative environment as the studio or your home. Tidy up your environment and you will become inspired and motivated towards writing more songs.

Besides the house, another area of my life that I need to tidy up was my fitness. I have just started paying more attention to what I’m eating and walking about 30 minutes every day and I’m feeling much more empowered.

I’m even getting song ideas while I’m walking. The voice memo part of my iPhone is getting a good workout I can tell you.

Ask yourself, what areas of your life do you need to tidy up so you can get more out of yourself? Some areas in your life that you could look at might be:

  • Home
  • Designated Songwriting Area
  • Relationships
  • Work
  • Spiritual
  • Fitness

How you feel about work, can affect how you feel about yourself, which in turn affects your relationships, which then demotivates you from tidying the house, which leaves you feeling tired and restless meaning, NO SONGS.

Phew! Can you see how this works?

Take one part of your life or your environment and do something about it. Watch the positive chain reaction follow and watch how many more songs you’ll begin to write.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Creating Lyric Ideas By Journaling

It’s a known fact that winning the conversations that you have with your inner voice on a daily basis is one of the main keys to getting the most out of your songwriting process.

For me, writing down my thoughts by keeping a journal is one of the best strategies I’ve found to keep my inner voice in check.

I’ve also found that there needs to be some conditions attached to this exercise to enable it to work effectively and those conditions are:

1. A journal entry has to be done every day – Believe me, the appointment you make with yourself to write in your journal will be the most important one in your day.

2. Set a minimum word (or page) target – My minimum personal writing target is one A4 page and with practise, I achieve this goal easily. What’s one A4 page? You’ll be able to do that too.

3. Grab a coffee and start writing anything that comes to mind – Allow your writing to be good, bad or indifferent. Let go of any need for the writing to be perfect.

4. Pay attention to what your inner voice is saying to you as you write – I try to incorporate my inner voice in my journal entry which then enables me to look forward to these daily arguments with myself.

5. When you have reached your word (or page) target, STOP – You’ve achieved your goal… Well done.

6. Go onto something else – Get on with the rest of your day knowing that the most important thing you’ll do for the day is done.

You’ll find that as you start writing your inner voice will begin to chatter away in its attempt to distract you from the task at hand.

It’s amazing what it will say to stop you from being creative however, instead of succumbing to the temptation to stop what you’re doing, just keep going and plough through the noise.

Believe me, it will be very difficult at first but you will eventually free yourself of self doubt and in its place will become a flow of ideas, confidence and inspiration.

I should know because I’ve been doing this myself.

I have been journaling and now, blogging for years but it wasn’t until I started reading “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron (a must for any songwriter) that I realised the power of writing down my thoughts on a daily basis.

In the book the first thing she talks about is a concept called The Morning Pages.

The Morning Pages are three A4 pages of automatic writing that you do (preferably) first thing in the morning and boy, what a powerful tool it is for collecting lyrical ideas.

It is important to note that, to also gain the most benefit from this exercise, it must be done every day.

Writing songs is a craft, a discipline that require the songwriter to let go of any outcomes and become at one with the words that they write.

“So whats next?” I hear you ask.

Well, let’s start a little experiment shall we? My suggestion is to start writing down your thoughts today and keep writing them for a period of seven days. It can be on paper or on your computer, it doesn’t matter.

If you like, you can treat yourself by buying a really nice notebook for this experiment. You deserve it.

After a week of putting down your thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations and inner conversations, have a look at what you have written.

Chances are you’ll see a lot of crap but I guarantee you, hidden away in all of that crap will be some amazing lyrical ideas that will jump out at you and demand your attention.

Sometimes you have have to dig through the dirt to find the diamonds in your own backyard. Let’s see how you go with the experiment.

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Some Songwriting Resources To Get You Started

The craft of writing songs is something that you never stop learning from and it’s important that as a songwriter, you keep up with all of the latest songwriting information and resources around.

Now, there are far too many songwriting resources to list in a post such as this however, here is an outline of the types of songwriting resources that are available plus some links to start you off on your own songwriting journey.

The number one thing I would suggest you should do before you start is to type the word “songwriting” into Google and just see what comes up.

You’ll find that there are over 47 MILLION search results for the word songwriting. If you narrow it down and type in the phrase “songwriting tips” you’ll still find over 32 MILLION search results.

That’s how much information about songwriting is online at the moment… It’s massive

Here are some songwriting resources that I use put into different categories to make things easier for you to seek out. Hopefully this will inspire you to do your own research into more online songwriting resources.

1. General Songwriting Resource Sites
These are sites that are formed for the songwriter by songwriters.

You’ll find information on everything to do with songwriting and a whole lot more that you didn’t even know existed.

Some have more info than others and a great example of a site that has an amazing amount of information for songwriters is Muses Muse but I don’t know how long it will be up for as the site will no longer be updated. My suggestion to you is that you better get in and have a look before it disappears forever.

Some other wonderful songwriting resource sites include the following:

2. Personal Songwriting Sites
Same as a general songwriting site but it’s showcasing a particular songwriter.

A good example of such a site with a lot of great songwriting tips included is the website of Canadian singer/songwriter Irene Jackson.

Some others include:

3. Songwriting Organisations/Associations
As soon as you can find the songwriting organisation in your area, join it. These organisations are invaluable resources in themselves.

You will be able to meet other songwriters in the area, showcase your material, go to songwriting workshops and get your songs onto radio. It all depends of course on what services your songwriting organisation provides.

I belong to an organisation called SCALA (Songwriters, Composers and Lyricists Association). You should check them out.

Some others include:

4. Songwriting Blogs
Just like this one. Created by songwriters or people interested in putting forward their views for the sake of getting information out into the world wide web.

Feel free to sign up for All About Songwriting and get up to date tips, thoughts and feelings from yours truly.

Some others include:

5. Songwriting Forums/Message Boards
Works on the same principle as a newsgroup. Type in ‘songwriting forums’ into Google and start visiting them. Some are really good and some are a bit thin on information.

A good example of a cool songwriting forum would be the on the Reddit website.

Some others include:

6. Songwriting Competitions/Contests
Even though these particular sites are all about the songwriting competition or contest that they’re promoting, you’ll still find some really good tips and articles about all things songwriting.

An example of such a site is the USA Songwriting Competition.

Some others include:

7. Songwriting Newsgroups
I know that this is a bit old school but… If you are wanting to network with other songwriters around the world then joining a songwriters newsgroup is an absolute must.

The big daddy of them all is the rec.music.makers.songwriting newsgroup.

Here you can ask questions and get your stuff critiqued by some pretty understanding people but make sure you read their FAQ first.

Phew, there you go. Hopefully I have pointed you in the right direction. If you like something that you see, bookmark it and use the resource as often as you can.

What are your favourite songwriting sites? Let me know so I can check them out as well.

Until next time, happy writing

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting