All About Songwriting

Your #1 Songwriting Resource

Month: October 2017

Songwriting Advice – Too Many Ideas Will Spoil The Song

Let me ask you something… Have you heard of the KISS principle?

It stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid” and it’s a good rule of thumb for when you’re writing songs.

We human beings are really funny creatures, we get bored with simplicity really quickly, so we try to complicate things so we can remain interested in whatever it is we’re doing.

As songwriters, one of the main assumptions we make with our songs is that, how we feel about them is how everybody feels about them.

This is simply not the case.

Making a song more complicated may be of interest to you, but chances are it may lose your audience, so be very, very careful.

A great song is like a great soup. If you put too many flavours into the it, the soup becomes too overpowering for the palette and you become unsure of what type of soup you’re eating.

You see, a song is made up of two essential components:

1. Melody
2. Lyrics

Put simply, a song without words is an instrumental and a song without music is a lyric or a poem. All are just as important as each other however, as songwriters we need to make these distinctions clear in our own minds.

If you don’t pay close attention you’ll end up with a song that, while it might be great for you to listen to, it may have too many ideas in it for its own good.

Too many songwriting ideas in one song tends to do is overshadow the melody which restricts the listeners opportunity to be engaged in a musical journey through the songs lyrics.

Any hooks that the listener can grab onto become lost in the mess.

In keeping things simple, you’re allowing your songs to breathe and develop organically. A great song has just as much space as well as substance in it and as songwriters we are the scales that allow the balance between these two elements to exist.

Musical arrangement, counterpoint and harmony are very, very important in songwriting however, look at these components as things that you use mindfully, knowing full well that too many ideas can do to your song.

Always remember, never be afraid to keep things simple.

Simplicity is neither bad or boring, it’s the best way to get your message or intention across to the listener and besides, we could all do with a bit more simplicity in our lives don’t you think?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Song Lyrics – Making Mountains Out Of Molehills

If you’re like me, then part of your songwriting process is to be constantly on the lookout for more and more songwriting ideas because, it’s from these ideas that the next song is born.

However, in the process of doing this you’ll end up having a whole lot of song lyric snippets, possible song titles and miscellaneous lines and phrases floating around the place either in your head or loosely organised on pieces of paper or, files on your computer.

After a while you start to ask yourself the question “what do I do with all of these songwriting ideas?”

One songwriting technique that I use a lot is to write a short story using one of your collected random songwriting ideas as its inspiration and then, once finished, condensing the whole story down into a working song lyric.

All you need to do is to pick one of your random songwriting snippets and without thinking about it, start writing.

Make lists, use a mind map, do whatever you need to do to explore every conceivable angle that come to mind from that single songwriting idea.

It’s amazing how much you’re able to write if you let yourself go. From one line a sentence is formed, from a sentence a paragraph is formed and from a paragraph a short story is formed.

When I do this exercise, I try to fully exhaust all of my options in one sitting. If, at the end of the session I have ten pages of writing then so be it.

For me, I find it best to begin this editing and elimination process a day or two after I’ve written the story, to ensure I have fresh eyes and ears but nevertheless, this is where the fun begins.

Once you’ve finished writing your short story, have a look at what you’ve written and start eliminating all of the non essential bits of the story and with what’s left over, mould a song from that.

You’ll find that by doing this songwriting exercise it’s much easier to write down far too much information and then take things away, than to write too little and have to add things in afterwards.

It just goes to show that in songwriting, it pays to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Learn The Rules Of Songwriting In Order To Break Them

When I was studying music in High School some years ago, I remember having one of my many intense conversations with my music teacher Mr Morgan about the so-called “rules” of music  and why I had to learn them.

I remember saying to my Mr Morgan defiantly, “well, if anything goes in music, why are we having to learn all these rules and structures?”

Now, being a very knowledgeable and insightful chap his answer was simple and straight to the point. He said to me in the calm and measured voice of a Zen Master that I must “first learn the rules in order to break them.”

I was blown away by the answer and from then on, everything just made sense. My insatiable appetite for learning all about music suddenly doubled (no, tripled) right there and then.

What I’m outlining here is that even though the music industry seems to be only wanting young, good looking pop singers who can sing songs of little or no substance, someone will always come along and break the rules.

The music industry is indeed a constantly changing and dynamic beast with a voracious appetite for great songs. It’s always good to remember that the music industry would die a slow and horrible death if there were no more songs to be written.

Just think about it… The songs we write today could potentially shape the music industry of tomorrow so learn all the rules you can so you can then be that songwriter that makes a difference by breaking those rules.

When you’re honing your craft, perfecting your process, increasing your songwriting activity and researching your art, you’re not doing this to find some magic formula that will make you millions upon millions of dollars.

You’re doing all this work to exponentially multiply the amount of sonic colours that you can paint with.

Don’t use the songwriting tips, ideas, techniques and rules that you pick up along your creative journey as a means of corralling your songwriting output in a certain way under the misguided promise of finding some sort of songwriting holy grail.

Use that information as some sort of point of reference so you know how you’ll do things differently next time. Change your direction from time to time, challenge yourself and don’t ever be just content with where you’re at right now.

Nurture your desire to keep learning because in a world full of similarities, it’s the little differences that make you and the songs that you write, stand out the most.

I hope that in some small way All About Songwriting helps you to learn all the rules you’ll need so you then know which ones to break first.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Smashing Songwriters Block, One (Bad) Song At A Time

Songwriting is the creative process of joining together lyrics, melody and music, and this process requires focus, time and patience.

However, all creative people have their own personal nemesis buried deep inside them waiting to wreak some havoc and put a spanner in the works.

It’s called your inner critic but really, it’s another name for your ego.

You know what I’m talking about, we’ve all been there, it’s that little critic inside your head that tells you that you have “nothing to write about” or that you’re “not good enough” or that you’ve got “no time to write” and so on.

If writing songs requires a certain level of activity then to write more songs we need to increase that activity, and one of those ways is to consistently win the battle with your inner critic.

As songwriters we need to be open to fresh new ideas, thoughts, feelings, experiences and observations and keeping that momentum going requires a steady flow of words from brain to paper.

If we lose the daily battle with our inner critic then the songwriting idea valve gets shut off by our own negativity, reasons and excuses and we simply dry up.

Hence the songwriters block.

Songwriters stop writing songs not because of their reasons and excuses but because they have let their inner critic talk them into believing that those reasons and excuses are the truth.

We need to find ways to distract, pacify or perhaps make friends with our inner critic and make it work for our songwriting, not against it.

I’ve always found that the best and most direct way to cure a dose of songwriters block is to just write anything no matter how corny and cliche the outcome may turn out to be.

Hell, I’ve written a lot of “bad” songs in my time from doing this very thing, but I don’t see anything in the rulebook that says that every song you write has to be heard by other people.

The next time you’re sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper and nothing seems to be coming out try this songwriting exercise, just write whatever comes to you and keep going until you fill the paper with words.

As you’re doing this really listen out to what your inner critic is telling you, accept that it’s not the truth and keep on writing and maybe, just maybe you’ll write a song about how you defeat your nemesis.

Hey! It might even be a good one 🙂

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Ideas Are Infinite And Sacred

My first piece of advice that I would give to any beginning songwriter is… “Never throw anything away, EVER!”

Just think, that piece of paper that you’ve thrown in the bin with some half finished lyrics penned the night before might have contained the ideas for THE song that defines you as a performer, artist or songwriter.

All it might’ve needed was a few re-writes either by yourself or, maybe with a collaborator (or two).

As a songwriter you must keep all of your scraps of paper, nonsensical ramblings on your phone and your audio snippets on your computer because songwriting ideas are infinite and sacred all at the same time.

Just hear me out here…

First of all, songwriting ideas are infinite because they are absolutely everywhere. You just have to allow yourself to be open and perceptive to them.

One songwriter may see a falling leaf and not think twice about it while another songwriter may see that same leaf as a metaphor for freedom and write a song about it.

If you take the view that songwriting ideas are infinite then you cease being protective of the songs you have already written. You then allow your songs to truly breathe, and come into being which will then lead to those songs being listened to and performed.

It also stops yourself having the view that everything that you write has to be perfect.

Remember, if you write a song that you are not sure of, don’t throw it away, just leave it and go onto something else because you’ll always think of another songwriting idea (if you allow yourself that is).

Secondly, songwriting ideas are sacred because they come from you and only you.

That alone is a reason to keep everything you write because, when you think about it, throwing away a songwriting idea is throwing away a part of you.

You should always be proud of what you create whether you feel they are good, bad or indifferent.

The good songs are the ones you perform as they are a gift from yourself to yourself.

The not so good songs should be acknowledged as the stepping stones that they are and besides, you can always go back to them later. Maybe with some more life experience under your belt plus a fresher set of eyes and ears (or maybe a collaborator) a song you’ll be proud of, will come from it.

It’s okay to write a song about world peace. It’s okay to write a song about love and it’s also okay to write a song about a falling leaf.

As long as it comes from you that’s all that matters.

Besides, if you allow yourself to be truly receptive of the world around you, you’re never going to run out of songwriting ideas.

Exciting isn’t it?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting