All About Songwriting

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Month: May 2014

Songwriting Tools – The Capo

I reckon the capo is one of the most overlooked songwriting tools that there is.

Recently, I went out and bought myself another capo as my old one finally snapped its spring after 12 years of faithful service.

It actually prompted me to think about why I use one and how much of an influence it had on my songwriting.

(In this post I’m making some assumptions that you, the reader knows what a capo is and what it looks like. If you don’t know what a capo is then I suggest that you go here. It’s very interesting stuff)

The capo is either loved adoringly or hated intensely by the guitar community.

In the hate camp the opinions range from “it encourages laziness in playing technique” all the way to the nonsensical “you’re not a real guitarist if you use one.”

I, on the other hand sit well and truly in the love camp. I love the capo is because I find it greatly helps my songwriting. Heres how…

Capo’s are used to change the key of a chord progression whilst still playing the same chord shapes at the same time. As part of my songwriting process, one of the things that I like to do is to take a chord progression of a well known song and transpose it up to say three semitones.

Once I start playing the chord shapes again I change the strumming and the rhythm and start humming some other melody just to see and hear what would happen.

Of course if nothing comes of the exercise that’s perfectly okay but most of the time by doing this I get some flash of inspiration which propels me forward onto another songwriting idea altogether.

This is where the fun starts.

Now I don’t see anything wrong with adopting a new idea from an old source (apparently Bob Dylan has said in interviews that he does this a lot in his songwriting too). Capo’s are a great songwriting tool for making this easier.

Capo’s also take the headache out of transposing a song to another key especially crucial if you are working with another singer.

If you are a songwriter/guitarist and you have been resisting using a capo then don’t resist anymore. Go out and get yourself one (at least for your songs sake) and start experimenting with the different keys, harmonic possibilities and open chord shapes on offer.

You’ll be very surprised where the capo journey can take you.

Until next time, keep on writing

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

The Technology VS Humanity In Songwriting Debate

“Is this the end of art as we know it?”

No, it’s not a parody of an REM song but the title of an article from Myles Wakeham, studio engineer and producer who is well known in Adelaide, Australia and Los Angeles, USA through his Troubled Clef Studios.

In his article he brings up some interesting points on the technology vs humanity in songwriting debate…

For me, technology is a tool for nurturing creativity, not the sole means for creativity to exist. Using technology can enable a songwriter to see and hear their song from a different angle.

Sometimes looking at something through different eyes and hearing through different ears can change your perspective on your songwriting greatly.

In his article, Myles talks about the overuse of technology taking away the human-ness of the songs that are written today and cites this overuse of tech as one of the possible reasons why music from past decades are still so very popular and the bands that performed those songs (Myles talks about the Blue Oyster Cult) are still in very high demand.

I found this proposed connection to be very thought provoking, so much so it sparked off a lightbulb moment in me. He writes about the humanity in the song being the very thing that is contagious about music in general.

Take the humanity away and you take away a songs power to connect people.

I’m fortunate enough to have put together a really nice home recording studio for myself. It’s a place where I can put down my songwriting ideas or, to use as a tool to enhance any song collaborations that I am involved with.

Coming across this article was timely reminder for me that technology is good if it is used correctly not as a means to cover up a songs limitations.

Myles Wakeham’s article is not an article that bashes technology it merely brings home the fact that no matter how much technology you have at your disposal, the humanity of the song and its writer technology will never be replaced by it. As Myles says in the last paragraph of his article…

“… delve deep inside of yourself and find what’s human. Not what is fabricated or eased because of a damn computer. I want to feel your pain, not be protected from it.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Read the full article “Is This The End Of Art As We Know It?”

6 Ways To Develop Your Songwriting Process Further

Any songwriting process needs to breathe, it needs to organically grow and develop so it can eventually gain its own momentum and function under its own steam.

The creation and maintenance of ones songwriting process is an ongoing, lifetime commitment.

For a songwriting process to truly serve the songwriter it needs to do the following:

  • It needs to grow legs and crawl before it can walk and walk before it can run
  • It needs to be constantly worked, tweaked, analysed and improved upon
  • It needs the songwriters patience, dedication, passion and focus
  • It needs the songwriter to be brave enough to try new things, get out of their zones of comfort and even to make mistakes
  • It needs the songwriter to allow themselves the time to learn from those failings
  • It needs the songwriter to let go of their ego and allow themselves to create without prejudice

I’ve always believed that a constantly developed and refined songwriting process is the most important asset that a songwriter can possess and it all starts by asking yourself the following question…

“How do I write my songs?”

Your songwriting process becomes your answer, an answer that will last a lifetime.

Now, let me ask you the question… How do you write your songs?

Do you have a set way of doing things or, do you approach your songwriting from different angles depending on what ideas come to you first?

Let me know how you do it and I’ll let you know how I do it and therefore together, we can develop our songwriting processes with each other.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting