All About Songwriting

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Month: April 2018

Songwriting – Making The Time To Write Is Essential

Most songwriters say that the hardest thing about writing songs is finding the time to write and as we live in a world that tells us we have no time to do anything, how do we overcome this?

We overcome this situation by not buying into the fact that we have no time to write.

I think it was Zig Ziglar who once said that a “…lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”

Every day, through every type of media, we’re bombarded with words and images promoting the latest time saving device or yet another solution to the “problem” of life just being way too busy.

It seems that society is cleverly turning us into obsessive time freaks and for what? So we can be sold the latest and greatest time saving device?

Now, I realise that this is a blog post about the gentle art of writing songs, not a forum about the ills of our western world but I wanted to give you all a bigger picture of what we, as songwriters, are up against.

Making time to write songs is essential for being a songwriter. The trick is to know that it doesn’t matter how much time you devote to your craft, but that you at least devote some of your time to your craft every single day.

Let’s do some simple math shall we…

So, starting from today April 28th, 2018, if you devoted one hour a day to your songwriting, by the end of the year you will have have spent 247 hours honing your songwriting craft.

That’s 10 days and 7 hours of continuous songwriting time. How many songs do you reckon could you write in that time?

Or, let’s be even more generous. Even if you devoted just 30 minutes everyday, you’d still have a little over five days of continuous songwriting time at your fingertips.

Making time to do anything requires some sort of an evaluation of what you’re doing with your time right now. Ask yourself the question “What am I doing now that can be let go of or, made more efficient so I can fit in my songwriting?” 

Now, the answer to that question is going to be different for everyone but the way you come to that answer is pretty much the same for everybody.

Try this exercise, do a time audit.

For the next seven days (say, start on a Monday), write down everything that you do plus the times you do them. I’m talking about when you get up, when you go to work, go to sleep, have meals, watch television and everything else in-between.

To make this time audit work it’s important to be brutally honest with yourself here.

By the end of the seven days, you should be able to see some activity patterns emerge. Maybe you need to stop watching TV so much or get up an hour earlier to fit some songwriting into your day.

Once you can see your life from a different perspective, it’s easier to make the changes needed. If you start making the time to write now, the rewards will become self evident down the track.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

What I’ve Learnt About Writing Songs By Playing Covers

Personally, I love learning covers in my own unique way almost as much as writing and playing my own music and the main reason for this is that by learning to play covers that have been proven to be hit songs themselves, I know I’ll learn how to write my own songs better.

Here are some ways I reckon that learning covers has helped my own songwriting process:

  • I learn different song formats, song structures and chord patterns.
  • I expose myself to singing different melodies, and lyrical ideas.
  • I spice up my guitar practice regimen.
  • I maintain my musical theory knowledge by learning a song by ear.
  • I get to know my favourite songwriters more by learning their songs.
  • For every song I learn other ideas come up for my own material later on.
  • The trick with playing covers is that you don’t do them like the original.

Now, I don’t like hearing a cover done in exactly the same way however, if I hear someone do a cover in their own way and in their own style, I get hooked into their version every single time.

Some performing songwriters I know feel that playing covers is just selling out but, I don’t agree. I mean who is going to say that Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen was a sell out on his part? I mean, it’s one of the most beautiful performances of any song I have ever heard.

Of course, your goal as a performing songwriter is to play your own songs as much as you can because there’s nothing more satisfying than people actually being touched, moved and inspired by what you are playing and singing that has come from inside you however, an amazing thing happens when you add the occasional cover song into your repertoire.

The audience becomes much closer to you.

I cant tell you how many times a quiet gig became a much greater gig after I play a well chosen cover (in my own style of course). Every other song I play afterwards becomes music to their ears.

For me, the term “selling out” is generally used by people who wish they were in the same position as the other musicians they were commenting on. Jealousy rears up its ugly head in the music industry all the time.

If you keep focused on writing your own music and at the same time learn a few covers (at the very least for research purposes) to break up your songwriting process from time to time, you will have better gigs, become a more well rounded instrumentalist and (most importantly) you will be a real hit around the odd campfire or two 😉

I believe playing covers affects your ability to write your own songs only if you allow it to.

Have you had any experiences where learning the odd cover or two has enhanced your own songwriting? Let me know about it.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

12 Ways To Enhance Your Songwriting Process

I realised a long time ago that when it comes to the songwriting process there’s no such thing as the perfect way of writing songs, it can always be improved upon.

Listed below are twelve ways in which I think you can enhance, improve and eventually master your songwriting process.

Even if you implement just one of these suggestions you will be well on your way to writing more songs and generally being more creative with your life.

Here they are in no particular order of importance:

1. Always keep a journal
I cannot stress enough the importance of documenting what happens in your life and how you think and feel about it. This always creates the foundations of some great songs

2. Always make time for you
If I ask a songwriter why they haven’t written as much as they would like, the reason of not having enough time almost always comes up.

True, to get a song down from mind to paper requires a certain amount of “free” time however, if you make that time every day to write something or play something you are going to feel much better about yourself.

3. Use all of your senses in your song lyrics
We have five senses (see, hear, taste, touch, smell) which we use to experience anything that happens in our lives. Why don’t we use them in our writing as well.

Pay close attention to your senses, be mindful of them in your writing.

4. Become perpetually curious with the world
I have a theory that songwriting is life. Songwriting is our way of making sense of the world around us. If we become perpetually curious with the world around us we will have more to write about. Some ways in which you can do this:

    • Always ask ‘why’ either out loud or in your own mind
    • Go out of your way to experience life to the fullest
    • Take some risks
    • Do something different every day
    • Become open to learn new things

Life is about experiences, so go and find new ones and write them down in song.

5. Tame your inner voice
Most of the time your inner voice attempts to prevent you from doing what you know you should do as a songwriter. This is your ego talking and even though it has good intentions (to ‘protect’ you) what it says to you does not further your cause.

Next time you hear your inner voice mumbling inside your head as your about to do something, try to ignore it and do it anyway.

6. Don’t be afraid of your own writing
Remember, it’s okay to write a ‘bad’ song (whatever that means) and the more ‘bad’ songs you write the closer you are to writing a ‘good’ song. Don’t be afraid of the outcome, just immerse yourself into the songwriting process and marvel at whatever come from it.

7. Listen to lots of music/read lots of books
This is another exercise in making time for yourself. Listening to music attunes your mind to different musical structures and melody combinations and reading books exposes your mind to different word phrases and lyrical snippets that you can use in your own songs.

8. Learn other peoples songs
I am not asking you to become a cover musician however if you learn songs that you have a real affinity with you will begin to really understand why you love that song so much and with that knowledge you can then apply that to your own writing.

If you don’t play an instrument at least know the lyrics and melody of your favourite songs.

9. Find and know thyself
Commit to the concept of finding out who you really are. When you know this you’ll be able to write a love song for instance, and not have it sound like one big cliche because the lyrics will come from you and not an interpretation of what every other songwriter has said.

10. Don’t throw anything away… EVER!
Whether it be on paper or on your computer, don’t throw anything away, don’t delete anything from your hard-drive that pertains to your songwriting process. What you may think is rubbish now could be treasure later on. Our moods change day by day and so does our outlook on what we write.

11. Join a songwriting organisation (or two)
The best way to learn more and to gain confidence in a skill is to experience the input of others. At the very least you will not feel so alone in your songwriting endeavours. Seek out and join one (or more).

12. Find a songwriting collaborator
Two heads are better than one at times. A good collaborator makes you write better, will inspire you to come up with more ideas, will allow you to ask questions, bounce ideas and share ideas much more freely.

Every songwriter should have at least one collaborator in their contacts list.

Phew! There you go. If you have any experiences after applying any of these suggestions (positive or negative) or, you have other suggestions that need to be added to this list, let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Expand Your Songwriting Ideas With Mind Mapping

In one of my previous posts titled Songwriting Tip – Mind Mapping Your Songwriting Ideas, I introduced the concept of mind maps as a way of brainstorming different lyrical combinations for your songwriting ideas.

Below is a video in two parts that shows songwriter Zosia Boczanowski using a variation of a mind map to create her hit song “Monday” which went on to have some success being placed on the MTV show The Hills.

Personally, I think this video series is one of the best around about the subject of the songwriting process. What do you think?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Keeping Your Songwriting Simple – One Song, One Idea

As songwriters we should always be looking for ways to express what’s inside our minds and our hearts plus, what we observe externally from ourselves.

We also have to balance this need to express ourselves with the fact that we also want others to listen to our songs and relate to, embrace and make those songs a part of their lives.

Right?

So, in saying that, why do we then have the tendency to complicate the messages or statements that we’re trying to convey in our songwriting?

It should be obvious to anyone that by making things too complicated in our songs, how should we expect our listeners, our audience to relate to them?

Songs are generally between three to five minutes in length so there’s only a small window of opportunity to create a lasting impression with your listener.

The best thing that you as a songwriter can do is:

1. Create an environment in which the listener can immediately understand and relate to what you are trying to say.

Use this as your songwriting mantra…

One song, one idea
One song, one story.
One song, one point of view.
One song, one image.

2. Allow the listener to focus on your song, not be bamboozled by it.

If you try to introduce more than one idea into the song you start creating mixed messages for the listener. The last thing you want to is to confuse your listener into turning off from your song.

We live in a world in which information is instant. People today demand the information that they receive to be concise, to the point and easy to understand.

Songs, as a medium to convey information and concepts are no different.

3. Hold the listeners hand through your song and take them on the journey.

Once you have established the point/story/message of the song you have a certain amount of time to really explore that with the listener. This is where the fun begins, this is where your creativity as a songwriter comes into play.

The balance between words and rhythm becomes very important here otherwise the song becomes clumsy and hard to understand.

Here is a songwriting tip for you. Go through your songs and for each one, write down all of the points you are trying to make.

Really analyse your songs to see if you are putting too many messages in them.

If for instance you have a song in which there are three distinct message that you are trying to convey, separate the messages and write three songs about each of them.

For me, if there’s a song in which for some reason I can’t finish, it’s normally because I’m trying to say too much in it. Once I strip it back, the path which completes the song magically appears before me.

Lets see if that happens for you. If it does, let me know.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting