All About Songwriting

Your #1 Songwriting Resource

Month: March 2018 (page 1 of 2)

Songwriting Tools – The Rhyming Dictionary And Thesaurus

It’s a known fact that the world is full of words and for me, writing lyrics can be a challenge in itself and I reckon that any tools that make it easier for me to put down my songwriting ideas from head to paper need to be adapted into my songwriting process.

The two online tools I use when I need a bit of help with my lyrics are a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus.

These tools enable me to expand my vocabulary and put down my ideas in a much more original and descriptive fashion.

Writing lyrics is all about making sure that the story I’m trying to tell or the concept that I’m trying to describe is told in a way that is totally, 100% me.

To do this requires a broad understanding of the language at my disposal, hence the importance of the rhyming dictionary and thesaurus

If you go into a good bookshop you’ll be able to purchase these important songwriting tools but there are also some really good online versions available for you to use for free.

I have chosen the most popular of each version for a brief discussion.

Rhyming Dictionary

Of course when you spot a tool like this for free, it normally means that it’s a demo or sample of the commercial version. This is not like that.

This tool is an amazing database of…

  • End rhymes
  • Last syllable rhymes
  • Double rhymes
  • Triple rhymes
  • Beginning rhymes
  • First syllable rhymes

All you need to do is type in the word you want to find rhymes for and off you go. It gives you a fantastic list of results.

The way I find a rhyming dictionary useful is that I see words that I probably would not have thought of as words to end a line with.

When I spot one of these words I immediately see a whole new line flash before me and that is all I need to start writing again. I am always amazed how just one new word can launch a whole new tangent.

Of course you need to be open to the possibilities in the first place.

Thesaurus

This tool is so valuable to a songwriter no matter how experienced they are. This site is both a thesaurus and a dictionary in one so you are getting double the value from the site.

Quite simply a thesaurus is a book of synonyms. These are words that have the same or nearly the same meaning as another word.

For example, if I type the word SONG into the thesaurus I would get these results:

  • Anthem
  • Ballad
  • Chant
  • Chorus
  • Lullaby
  • Lyric
  • Melody
  • Tune

The thesaurus enables me to describe stories, concepts and situations much better. It allows me to put a new twist onto the same old phrases and cliches that I tend to fall back on when I get a stuck on something.

My challenge to you is this. Adopt both of these tools into your songwriting process and see what happens.

If you are stuck, use the tools to brainstorm ideas and let your mind become open to whatever possibility appears before you. Once the possibility is realised then run with it.

Sometimes not knowing where you are going can be a really fun thing to do.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tips – 10 Of The Best From David Foster

When accepting his BMI Icon award in 2010, songwriter David Foster gave a speech which was more like a ten commandments for all songwriters to live by.

Here are those ten tips in a nutshell:

  1. Save your money
  2. Don’t get married
  3. Learn an instrument
  4. Don’t be too precious about your songs
  5. Be genuinely happy for someone else’s success
  6. Phone people back
  7. Give your career everything that you have
  8. Be on time
  9. Make every creative decision as if you have a million dollars in the bank
  10. Save your money

Enjoy 🙂

I especially liked numbers 3, 4 and 9 on the list. Which one(s) resonated with you?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

10 Tips To Improving Your Songwriting Process

You might have gathered by now that I am a huge believer that the ongoing and never-ending improvement of your songwriting process will enable you to write better songs regularly and consistently.

By evolving your songwriting process (through constant practise) into something that works for you and your way of doing things, gathering ideas for your next song will, in time become an automatic thing, leaving you more time to actually write.

Personally, I’m obsessive about having to get what is in my head out onto paper so for me, improving my own songwriting process is a very important part of my creative life.

Based on my own experiences and some good old fashioned research, here are 10 tips that can improve your own songwriting process:


1. Have the right tools available
You can use the latest computer technology and software to gather your songwriting ideas but at the end of the day, nothing beats a beat-up tape recorder and an A4 writing pad and pen. The simplest songwriting tools around.

2. Make a regular time to write
Even if it’s 15 minutes a day between finishing breakfast and going to work. Make the time!!

3. Have an open mind
Be open to anything that comes your way. You don’t know where the next songwriting idea will come from.

4. Let yourself go
Don’t become preoccupied with past or future. For the amount of time you have set for yourself to write you will need to be totally “in the now.”

5. Develop a single-minded focus
If you decide that an idea is worth developing into a song and you’re happy with it so far, then focus your attention on creating a song from the idea.

6. Remember, perfection does not exist
It doesn’t have to be perfect. If you need to re-write the draft then do it because it needs it not because you have to.

7. Ask lots of questions
Writing lyrics is all about exploring a story or a concept. Asking lots of questions like “does this new idea need to be in this song?” will keep you on track.

8. Walk away if need be
If it’s not flowing, just walk away and come back to the song at a later time. There is no rule that says a song needs to be finished in one sitting.

9. Practise, practise, practise and then practise some more
Any process needs to be repeated to be made automatic. Practise often.

10. Have fun
Go off into tangents, run with a songwriting idea to see where it leads you. If it leads nowhere then reflect on the journey anyway.

Either way, have fun doing what it is you love doing… Writing songs


Your songwriting process can be whatever you want it to be however, if you’re serious about having the ability to write good songs regularly and consistently, you need to start looking at how you organise yourself and your time.

I hope these ten tips have been helpful to you. Is there anything that you’d like to add to the list? If so, let me know because I’m always on the lookout for ways to make my own songwriting better.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Performing Songwriters: Rule #1 – Never Apologise

One of the first pieces of advice that I received after my very first solo performance was this…

“Never, ever say sorry. If you have to apologise for what you have done on stage then you shouldn’t be up there in the first place.”

I can’t remember who said it to me now but whoever you are, I am forever in your debt.

Performing songwriters who say sorry about their performance while they’re on stage is a real pet hate of mine (the saying sorry part, not the songwriter themselves).

I mean, I’m in the audience listening to a songwriter give their all and at the end of their performance they say something like “oh, sorry about that.” By saying sorry about their performance they’ve just ruined a special moment for me.

Unfortunately this happens a lot, even with experienced performers who should know better.

I really don’t know why I feel that way when it happens but, I do know that apologising for what you’ve done on stage is an unnecessary and unprofessional thing to be do.

We have all heard the phrase “you only get one chance at a first impression” before but it’s so very true. The last thing you want to do is put off your audience by proving to them that you’ve no confidence in your performance.

Here are three reasons why you never apologise on stage:

1. It’s not the mistake you make but how you get out of it that matters.

I have made some gigantic mistakes in my time as a performing songwriter but the greatest test of a true professional is the way you recover from your mistake. Audiences genuinely love it when a performer takes a mistake and turns it around to their advantage.

2. More often than not, the audience wouldn’t have noticed the mistake anyway.

As a performing songwriter, you are playing your own music so the audience has no point of reference as to how your song should sound. Any mistake that you make could sound like part of the song to someone who has never heard it before. Unless you are playing to an audience of anally retentive musicians you don’t have anything to worry about. By saying sorry you have bought the potentially unnoticable mistake to the audiences attention.

How silly is that?

3. It doesn’t promote a healthy attitude towards making a mistake.

We are human beings and therefore we will make mistakes. A lot of great ideas come from mistakes and little glitches here and there. Embrace your mistakes, learn from them and laugh it off, or at least smile. The audience will be right there supporting you every step of the way and besides, awkwardness is not a feeling that you want to leave your audience with at the end of the night.

So remember, embrace your mistakes, learn from them and keep the performance going.

Until next time, happy writing (and performing),

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Process – When Doing Nothing Is Still Doing Something

Writing songs is a cyclic process.

Sometimes a song will appear to you  and you can get it down with the greatest of ease and sometimes writing songs is like trying to pull teeth out of the mouth of an angry crocodile.

I know that this piece of advice is going to sound counter-intuitive but if you find yourself in the middle of a period where nothing is coming out and because of that, your motivation is very low, the first thing you should do is to stop worrying about it.

We have all been in that same situation (I know I have).

No matter how hard you try there’s still a blank piece of paper staring at you. It makes you feel all angry and stressed inside because you think you should be writing SOMETHING.

Someone said to me early on in my music career that instead of forcing a song that doesn’t want to come out, the best thing to do is to do nothing at all so that’s what I do when I find myself in these situations.

I do NOTHING.

I just find something else to do. I go for a walk, visit a friend, clean the house, read a book, anything that will take me away from the process of writing songs.

The last thing I would want to do is to get all frustrated and upset that nothing is coming out. Doing that will just make the problem worse I mean, how can you be motivated if you’re stressed out all the time?

My advice to you is that in times such as these you need to give yourself a break.

Cut yourself some slack, take some time out to do other things and please, don’t set a time limit on it because the last thing you want to be doing is putting more pressure on yourself to get back into your songwriting.

If writing songs is your passion, you will eventually come back to what you love doing the most. All roads eventually lead to the next song to write

Sometimes the other things in your life need your attention and taking a break to sort those things out is probably just what you need to do at that time.

As John Lennon so eloquently put it “…life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

So, if life does get in the way, don’t try to resist it. Just let it pass by and go with the flow of it because once you are clear to write again, you will do it with a renewed sense of vigour and gusto. I guarantee it.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Give Yourself Permission To Write Songs, Especially The So Called “Bad” Ones

I remember a few years ago where my songwriting was at a very, very low point. The problem was that I wasn’t writing anything at all.

I found myself with a huge case of songwriters block and it was stopping any and every form of creativity coming out of me. I became scared of writing, just in case I wrote a “bad” song and this made me very sad indeed.

Sad to the point of being depressed about the situation.

I eventually realised that not every song I write is going to be something I perform live and that I’m 100% in charge of everything that I do, so with that in mind I started to give myself permission to start creating again regardless of how I felt about the outcome.

Once I did that, the songs started to appear to me again. All I had to do was get out of my own way and write them.

Let me ask you this… How many times have you sat down to write a song, only to have your inner critic talk yourself out of it? All of a sudden doing the housework or putting out the rubbish seems to be a better thing to do with your songwriting time?

It seems that we would rather not write at all than write a so called “bad” song.

If this has happened to you, then take comfort in the fact that you are definitely not alone. I have been there many times and I’d personally would love a dollar for every other songwriter in the world that has experienced the very same thing.

Julia Cameron in her book Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity says that in life we need to “always be willing to be a beginner.” What this means is that we need to be able to be venerable enough to make mistakes, to be willing to learn again and again.

Just remember, every song that you write has the potential to be a powerful learning experience about yourself and the world around you. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to learn just because the end result might be not what you expect it to be.

You do have something to say, your opinions are important and you certainly deserve to be a creative being, a SONGWRITER.

So, get out of your own way, tell your inner critic to take a well earned rest and give yourself permission to write songs whether they end up being good one or bad ones.

Learn from every song you write and be prepared for some mistakes along the way because YOU, and you alone are in control of your songwriting process, not your inner critic.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Reading The Newspaper For Songwriting Ideas

If writing lyrics is all about manipulating words onto paper, then to be a good lyricist you would need to develop a healthy respect for the English language and how it can be put together to tell a story, describe a scene or, to put across a point of view.

It would also be handy to become very mindful of what you read, speak, see and hear around you. This would seem like an easy task as words are all around us yet we don’t really see them do we?

We take words for granted.

Actively seeking out words does not mean getting out the dictionary and reading it from cover to cover but it does mean increasing the amount of reading that you currently do now.

If you’re like me, you’d be saying to yourself that you have no time to read. My answer to that excuse is “who says you don’t have time?”

As songwriters, we just can’t afford not to have the time to read. We need to slow our lives down a bit so we can pick up on what is happening around us. We might just miss out on a songwriting idea if we don’t.

One of the ways that you can increase the amount of reading with very little effort on your part, is to start having your local newspaper delivered to your door.

At the start of every day, get your newspaper and a cup of your favourite beverage and start reading it, taking note of what you read and the pictures that you see. What you’re doing is looking for something that captures your attention, something that jumps out at you and compels you to write a song about it.

A headline may make a great title for a song, a quote may make a good line for a chorus and an articles theme may make a great song story but a word of warning here, newspapers are notoriously full of bad news so don’t get sucked in by all of the negativity.

You’re looking for songwriting ideas, not an excuse to feel sad.

If you’re one of those songwriters who only writes when they’re feeling angry or passionate about something, then reading a newspaper every morning will be the equivalent to finding a vein of gold for you.

For the rest of us its a good opportunity to just take some quiet time out, grab a notepad and pen and allow the ideas to enter us from the freshly printed pages of your daily newspaper.

Until next time, keep on writing (and reading),

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Mind Mapping Your Songwriting Ideas

You know what… I love mind maps.

I love them because I’m a visual person, and developing a songwriting idea by using a mind map really helps me write my song lyrics more clearly and effectively.

Right now though you’re probably asking “what the hell is this mind map?” Well, according to Wikipedia a mind map is:

“…a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing”.

This mind mapping exercise is a simple, but a very effective way of fleshing out the body of a song from a single idea, phrase or a word. It shows that from one single idea, many ideas will form.

Here’s how I do it.

1. I take my idea, phrase or word and write it in the middle of a piece of paper and draw a circle around it.

2. From that circle, I branch out five lines in different directions. At the end of those lines I write a word that is associated with the central word or phrase. These words could be the basis for your verses and choruses.

3. From each of those five words I start writing five other words that relate to it.

4. I then rinse and repeat the process as many times as I need to.

If you follow the above steps, by the time you have had enough (or you run out of paper), you will have a whole song laid out in front of you. Start from the central theme and work outwards, following the word paths you’ve created.

Can you see what phrases you can come up with from doing that. All you then have to do is collate that information into a song format.

Be careful not to have too many initial branches springing out from your central theme. This will turn your mind map into a complicated mess of too many ideas pulling against each other.

Up to five branches is plenty to work with.

You dont have to use all (or any) of the words you have written down, this is another way of opening your mind to new ways of generating songwriting ideas.

Most of us are visual people. As mentioned before, I personally access information the best this way. I can tell you having a whole song mapped out in front of me makes the job of formulating a song so much easier.

Give it a go and see what happens, you’ll be amazed at some of the paths and tangents you create.

Let me know how it works for you…

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Let Writing Songs Flow Naturally, Don’t Force It!

Okay, let’s clarify something here. Having a songwriting process does not mean that you have to force yourself to write songs.

Nothing gets done if you force things. It goes against nature itself.

In nature, changes happen in their own time and at their own pace. Things grow, evolve, breathe and become whatever they are supposed to be.

The problem with us human beings is that we try to hurry things along because we feel that nature moves too slow for us and it’s the same with songwriting.

With a songwriting process, all we’re trying to do is facilitating a set of activities with the end result being a constant flow of songwriting ideas. We achieve this flow by writing without concentrating on the end result.

When we engage ourselves in our songwriting process we are already moving towards the completion of a song. This is automatic.

Have you noticed that when you sit down in front of a blank piece of paper and say to yourself “I am going to write a song now” you immediately put yourself under pressure to do just that.

The pressure you’ve placed yourself under then triggers off your inner voice to say things like “ok then, start writing but, it better be good” or “are you sure you have something to write about” or “don’t you have something more important to do right now?”

More often than not we give into our inner voices and we find the reasons NOT to write. This is where the songwriters block cycle starts.

If you look at each day of your life as a means of creating possible songwriting ideas you’ll more easily incorporate writing songs as a part of what you do in life, just like getting up in the morning.

If, in your day to day songwriting activity you become inspired to finish a song then great. If nothing comes from the activity then, great. You’re still doing what you love.

Can you see where I am going with this?

Don’t force your songs to come out, get out of your own way and let them happen and they will appear soon enough.

It doesn’t matter WHAT you write, what matters is THAT you write. Doing this will allow your songs to breathe, grow and evolve from the songwriting ideas that you initially come up with.

Remember, you are a songwriter and writing songs is in your nature so do it, live it, breathe it and BE IT.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Inspiration Can Come From Self Imposed Limitations

One of my favourite songwriters is Paul McCartney and I found a video of him on the Parkinson show describing how he wrote a song after being inspired from a Picasso print hanging up at the hospital where his first child was born.

The painting by Pablo Picasso is called The Old Guitarist which depicts an old man playing a classical guitar by a window.

Paul mentions in the interview that after a week of staring at this picture while waiting for his wife Linda to recover, he had the urge to try and work out what two fingered chord the old man in the painting was playing.

From that idea he decided to see if he could write a song by limiting himself to using only two fingers on the guitar at all times.

Here is the video of his interview with Michael Parkinson…

This really shows the genius of Paul McCartney at work and how through setting your own limitations, you can create your own inspiration.

On further research I discovered that the song in question became When the Wind Is Blowing an unreleased song from around the time Paul McCartney’s RAM album was recorded in 1970…

Have you ever set up some self imposed limitations as a way to write a song?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Older posts