All About Songwriting

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Month: January 2013

Songwriting Process – Reading Books For Lyrical Inspiration

 

We have so much information around us these days yet I still hear so many songwriters complain that they can’t find anything to write about.

The way that I look at it, there’s so many ways in which a songwriter can be inspired that it’s almost impossible to not find anything to write about.

Personally, one of the ways that I’ve found which really gets my creative juices flowing is immersing myself in the many forms of media that I’m exposed to every day, such as newspapers, TV and magazines.

It’s not what type media that has the potential to inspire, but how it’s used and today, I’m talking about books.

Now, I’ll admit it. I don’t read enough. In fact, we as a society don’t read enough and there are many reasons for this but let me tell you, when I start reading a book I start feeling guilty.

It’s very strange I know, but when I read a book I start getting feelings that there’s something else that I could be doing besides taking time out for myself, sitting in a comfortable chair and reading.

This is a great example of my inner critic hard at work.

I was talking to a songwriting friend of mine about this some time ago and he made a suggestion that was remarkable in its simplicity.

He said to me “why don’t you use reading a book as part of your songwriting process.”

I never thought of reading a book in that way but the more we discussed the concept the more excited I became about it. I knew that this was going to open some doors for my own songwriting.

Simply put, use books as a reference library of words, phrases, quotes, statements and sentences that you can use for your songs.

Now, I’m not talking about plagiarism here, just a shifting of your perspective by using other peoples words to form newly created perspectives in your own mind. It’s from these new perspectives that you write your songs from.

I’m going to start experimenting with this technique and here’s what I’ll be doing.


1. I start off with my book, a writing pad plus a highlighter pen (only use the highlighter it if the book is yours).

2. I read one chapter at a time rather than as many pages as I can in one sitting.

3. As I’m reading, any phrase, words or sentence that either jumps out at me or I feel some affinity with, I write it down or highlight with my pen. I then re-read the sentence so I don’t lose track of the story.

4. If there’s a passage that moves me I stop and write down what I’m feeling at the time. Some questions I’d be asking of myself could be:

  • How do I relate to this?
  • Is there a story for a song in this?

5. At the end of the chapter I write a synopsis of it in my journal.

6. If one of my captured lyrical ideas has a melody attached to it, I then get my guitar out and start formulating something with it.


At the moment this experiment is purely theoretical. It is not perfect by any means but if I can read my favourite book and gain songwriting ideas at the same time that’s got to be a good thing.

I’ll let you know how I go with this.

As with any songwriting process, one songwriters way of doing things will be different to another. All I can do is try it out and see what happens.

However, if you have any suggestions on how I can improve this fledgling songwriting technique or, if you want to try this experiment yourself, let me know and we can start comparing notes

I’m excited…

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Four Worthwhile Songwriting Goals For This Year

I know that we’re almost halfway through January already and chances are that any new years resolution that you’ve made for yourself has already been broken, but here are four very worthwhile songwriting goals from Cliff Goldmacher who runs one of my favourite songwriting websites Educated Songwriter.

In his article “4 New Years Resolutions For Songwriters” Cliff says that “…there are so many facets to life as a songwriter that there’s always something we can do to move the ball forward” and in a nutshell the four songwriting goals that will move all of us songwriters forward in 2013 are:

  • Write down a song title every day
  • Find a new (or your first) co-writer
  • Write a song in a genre that’s new to you
  • Don’t give up

Personally, I can relate to all four goals and will be making a huge effort this year to

  • Expand on my possible song titles list daily
  • Find some more songwriting collaborators
  • Write some more piano songs
  • Keep up the positive attitude towards my own songwriting.

Have a read of the full article here and while you’re doing that, have a go at working out what your songwriting goals for this new year are going to be. You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

4 Ways To Find A Songwriting Collaborator

When I first started to write songs I was co-writing a lot.

This was mainly out of necessity because I wasn’t playing guitar back then but nevertheless, I had no trouble finding someone to give me a hand.

However, after I started learning to play guitar I realised that I could write songs on my own, so I did for a fair chunk of my songwriting life but in recent times, I’ve been making a real effort to collaborate with other songwriters again.

I’ve been really enjoying just letting go of the need to keep all of my songwriting ideas to myself and started sharing them with other talented people.

For me, writing songs by yourself was good for a while, but I did miss the collaborative aspect of co-writing. Finding a songwriting collaborator was my way of changing my routine, to inject fresh new ideas into my songwriting process.

Now how you find a songwriting collaborator all boils down to how well you network and communicate with other songwriters, musicians and other related organizations.

Here are some suggestions on how to get you started finding a collaborator.

1. Ask your friends to collaborate with you.
Let your friends know that you are writing songs and that you’d like to work with them.

That’s what I did when I started. I had a friend who taught me my first chords on a guitar (I think it was an A chord) and we started jamming. All of a sudden we were writing songs.

The more chords we learnt and the more knowledge we gained we put it all into our songwriting. We would spend hours on it.

I still remember those days very fondly (I have them on tape too) and we had a lot of fun.

2. Join a songwriting organisation.
Besides asking your friends, the best way to find a co-writer is to associate yourself with other songwriters that are of a similar standard and are of similar experience to you. Where do you find these people?

At your local songwriting organisation.

I can’t stress enough the importance of a songwriting organisation to your growth as a songwriter. You’ll meet new people and new networks, you get an opportunity to perform your songs (if you are a singer/songwriter) and get them critiqued as well.

However, the most important function of a songwriting organisation is to bring songwriters together.

The organisation that I belong to is called SCALA. It’s based in Adelaide, South Australia but it services a membership that spreads all over the world.

If there’s a local organisation near you then join it and start networking.

3. Use songwriting forums/newsgroups and message boards
I think it goes without saying that the internet is the best networking and researching tool ever.

If you’re having no luck with your friends or you local songwriting organisation then hop on the web and go to a few songwriting forums and ask if anyone wants to collaborate with you.

More often than not these forums have a special section where songwriters looking for collaborators can post a request in hope of finding a co-writer.

It’s always good to have a co-writer that is close to home. You can meet up personally and jam away ideas around each others kitchen tables (or recording studios).

If someone who is on the other side of the world wants to work with you though, it might be a bit challenging but not impossible and besides, technology like Skype has really made the world a smaller place.

4. Go to open mic nights
What better place to go to see and hear songwriters and musicians of all standards and experiences than your local open mic night. There are plenty of opportunities to introduce yourself to others and even a chance to perform your work to a performer-friendly audience.

I’ve experienced first hand the networking magic that open mics can create. I run one myself every Wednesday night for this very reason.

The benefits of an open mic night are many and numerous. So much so I’ve written a blog post about it called The Benefits Of Open Mics For Songwriters.

Give these four suggestions a try and see what you come up with. You have nothing to lose and great songs to gain.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

My Songwriting Process – How I Cultivate My Songwriting Ideas

Well, seeing that for a while now I’ve been putting together a songwriting blog called All About Songwriting, I thought it was about time I revealed to all of you how I get my songwriting ideas.

Now, my songwriting process may work for some but not for others but hey, if you want to give my method a go you have my permission to do so.

Before I start, let me just say that for me, writing a song is like fishing and my songwriting process is the equivalent to baiting the hook to get a bite.

So, with that in mind, let’s go fishing. Here’s how I do it…

1. Have a tape recorder/smartphone plus notepad and pen ready to go.
By getting your songwriting tools together at the ready you’re now baiting your hook and throwing the line in but you better be ready when the songwriting idea bites.

2. Pick up your instrument of choice, and start noodling.
What I mean by noodling is, don’t play anything in particular, just improvise. Let your creative juices start flowing and let your mind wander wherever it wants to go.

Don’t worry if what you’re playing sounds like something else and especially don’t worry if you are playing your stock standard, tried and tested favourite chords.

Just enjoy these bonding moments between you and your instrument. You’re fishing the sea of infinite songwriting ideas.

If you feel like singing but you don’t have anything concrete in mind just sing some improvised, non-sensical lyrics to accompany your noodlings. Engage yourself in the rhythm of the words not the meaning of the words.

3. Pay attention to what you play and be prepared to go off on tangents.
The more you noodle the more you’ll notice that what may seem familiar at first will become less so. If you stumble across something which makes you say to yourself “ooh, that sounds nice,” run with it, explore it.

This leads to the next step.

4. Stop noodling and start exploring – You’ve just got a bite!
A songwriting idea has taken your bait and now is the time to reel that sucker in and make some sense out of it. Play what you’ve discovered over and over again and get a little familiar with it.

What you’re doing here is formulating a skeleton structure for the newly discovered songwriting idea.

5. Record the songwriting idea and (if you can) write down the chords on paper
Once you’re familiar with the songwriting idea start recording it, nonsensical gobbledigook lyrics and all. If anything, recording your songwriting ideas will enable you to tell one idea apart from another.

6. Leave it alone and start noodling again.
Once you’ve recorded the idea go back to the beginning of the songwriting process.

What you’ve recorded is not meant to be a completed masterpiece. It is only the concrete beginnings of a songwriting idea and there’s plenty more where that came from. The time to refine the idea is not now, it’s later.

Getting back to comparing this process to fishing, when you finally catch a fish you don’t then stop everything to prepare the fish to be eaten don’t you? You store the fish and continue.

It’s the same with songwriting ideas.

Rinse and repeat as many times as you like… How long you want to keep fishing is totally up to you (or as long as your schedule allows).

This is the main way that I gather my songwriting ideas. It may not work for everyone but it works for me. I would be interested what people think of it so if you have any questions and/or feedback then feel free to let me know.

And another thing, don’t be concerned with getting a result straight away. If you start noodling and all you do is noodle then that’s fine. You can always try again next time.

Practice makes perfect but the most important thing about this exercise is that you’re perfecting your songwriting process, not the end result at this stage.

Turning your songwriting ideas into completed songs comes later (but I will cover that at another time)

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Developing A Songwriters Mindset

“Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new” – Og Mandino

The above quote beautifully sums up what I would call a songwriters mindset, a powerful skill to master in 2013.

Just think about it, if songwriting is all about capturing aural snapshots of our lives and what’s happening around us then, to get the best out of our songwriting we have to develop a certain attitude towards our lives.

Let’s explore this further.

If we are to work at our chosen craft to the best of our ability, gathering songwriting ideas, refining our creative processes and perhaps gain some inspiration along the way then, we, as songwriters need to look at life in general differently to how others would see it.

I believe that there are three stages to writing a song.

1. Mindset – What this blog post is about
2. Process – The nuts and bolts writing of the song
3. Result – Song completed

The songwriters mindset is one of letting go of any preconceptions about the world around you and taking everything in at face value.

It’s about embracing life for what it is, a wonderfully personal human experience that’s different for everybody. Your songs need to be recorded/performed and shared with everyone.

Develop an almost obsessive yearning to experience as much of life as you possibly can (whether it be good or bad) so you can write a song about it.

It’s about not being afraid of what others might think and telling the world about your thoughts, feelings, observations, dreams, questions and answers. It’s all about facing your fear and doing it anyway as the well known cliche says.

Having a songwriters mindset is all about becoming a receiver for the songwriting ideas that are floating about in the ether and when you successfully receive, it’s about being open to what you have received.

As Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones says:

“Songs are funny things, they wake you in the middle of the night and say “I go like this”. They control you until you’ve done the right thing by them.”

It’s about being more aware about what is happening in the world, what people are doing and saying and being prepared to write down what you feel, hear and see.

It’s about finding out what is the essence of you and attempting to put that onto paper so that no matter what you write it will always be from your own unique perspective.

I could go on and on and on but hey, it’s all about allowing ourselves to be a songwriter. Allowing ourselves to explore the grey areas of life and finding the light and shade.

Allowing ourselves to ask “what would happen if..?”

To develop and eventually master the songwriters mindset you have to question everything around you and nurture a childlike curiosity for the world.

As the beginning quote says “… never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.”

As we’ve started off a new year ask yourself this question “what does a songwriters attitude mean to me?” Then write it down because that will become your first songwriting resolution

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting