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Month: March 2020 (Page 1 of 2)

Writing Songs – It Doesn’t Matter Where You Start, As Long As You Start Somewhere

Sometimes writing songs is a linear experience.

You come across a possible song title that jumps out at you and after writing the first line of the first verse, a first draft is suddenly completed from start to finish.

Sometimes writing songs is a puzzle solving exercise.

You take a piece here, a song title there, a bit of a verse here and a half written phrase there and, after discovering the common thread that connects everything, a song is eventually completed.

Sometimes writing songs is like incubating an egg.

You finish writing a chorus but find you can’t go any further however, after leaving the half finished song for a period of time something triggers in your mind and the song magically completes itself.

Sometimes you start writing from the beginning and work forwards, sometimes you start from the middle and work outwards and sometimes you start at the end and work backwards.

But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start somewhere.

What do you think?

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? What was it? Let me know.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

The Roles Of Different Song Sections (Plus Examples)

Today, I found the perfect accompanying article for my recent 6-Part Series On Song Formatting that I wanted to share with you all.

It was written by Benjamin Samama (a former teacher from the Berklee College of Music) for the very popular SonicBids blog and the article is called “Songwriting 101: What’s The Purpose Of All The Different Song Sections?”

I found this article most useful for two main reasons:

1. It defined the different song sections clearly and concisely
Reading these definitions made me understand a little bit more the precise interplay between a verse and a chorus, or a chorus and a bridge.

2. It gives at least two video examples for every song section
Having the video examples on hand to listen to really drove home to me the reasons why different song sections exist. It also sharpens your ear when you listen other songs as part of your song formatting research.

Benjamin’s goal of his article is to give us a well rounded understanding of the different types of sections that can appear in a song form. He writes…

… I’ll give you an overview of the different sections of a song, and the purpose each one of them serves. I’ll be using mostly pop music examples, since it’s straightforward and easiest for illustrating these kinds of concepts.

You might not like the songs used in the examples but they do help you understand the different song sections better.

Have a read of the article “Songwriting 101: What’s The Purpose Of All The Different Song Sections?” And as always, let me know what you think.

I’d be interested to see your take on how you use the different song sections in your songwriting.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Words First Or Music First? Does It Really Matter?

In my experience, one of the first questions a songwriter will ask about the songwriting process is “What should come first? Words or music?”

Well, there’s really no right or wrong answer to that question but I’m sure that if you asked 100 songwriters you’d definitely get 100 (slightly) different answers.

First of all let’s look at the definition of what makes up a song.

I’m an Australian songwriter so my songs are registered with an organisation called APRA (Australasian Performing Rights Association) and the definition that I use is loosely adapted from theirs.

According to APRA, a song is comprised of two main things:

  • Lyrics – The words in a song.
  • Melody – How the words of the song are sung.

Everything else that wraps around those two things such as the chords, format and dynamics, is  the arrangement of the song.

It took me many years to figure out that a song is not necessarily defined by the chords that are played, but by its lyrics and how it’s sung .

For instance, if a well known song is covered by another artist, more often than not the songs arrangement will have been changed but the integrity of the melody and the lyrics would still be intact.

The reason for this is that the covered song still needs to be recognised by the listener and if the listener sings the words and hums the tune then the song has a better chance of being remembered.

Generally the average listener doesn’t worry if there was a G chord or a G major 7 chord in the arrangement or not. In fact, they probably couldn’t tell the difference.

I use to write most of my songs by fitting lyrics and melody around a completed song arrangement but nowadays, I generally write the other way around. I fit my guitar arrangements around a melody inspired by a set of lyrics. I’m finding that by doing this I’m writing more songs than I used to.

You see, at the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong way to write a song but the question of whether the music or words are written first should not concern us as songwriters.

It doesn’t matter whether words or music come first, what matters is that the words and/or music come at all and by immersing yourself into the activity of writing songs as they come to you, you’ll notice your songwriting process becoming more of a personal thing that eventually integrates itself into your day to day life

So what do you think? How do you start off writing your songs? Words first or music first… Does it really matter? Let me know what you think as I reckon this would make a very interesting discussion topic.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting 101 – #6: The Hook

This is a series of posts about song formatting and structure. Every couple of days I’ll be writing about the different individual elements that make up a song.


Go to #1 – The Chorus

Go to #2 – The Verse

Go to #3 – The Melody

Go to #4 – The Bridge

Go to #5 – Intro’s & Outro’s


Please bear in mind that these are my definitions and interpretations of the different parts of a song structure. There are no hard and fast rules determining which part of a song goes where.

However, there are generally accepted guidelines. Think of this Songwriting 101 series as the “nuts and bolts” of putting your songs together.

You’ve been refining your songwriting process and you’ve come up with some great ideas and now you are ready to put them all together.

Your journey starts now…


In this the last post in the Songwriter 101 series we’re going to talking today about the HOOK.

The hook is the most important aspect of song construction. It’s the very thing that captures the attention and the imagination of your listening audience the most.

It’s that certain something in a song that enables your brain to keep remembering it long after the song has stopped playing.

Think about it, have you ever had a song spinning around in your head that you just can’t get rid of? Has anyone mentioned a name of a song and all of a sudden you’re humming along a section of it in your head?

If this has happened to you (as it happens to me all the time) then you’ve been influenced by the almighty hook.

In the first instance, the songwriter determines what the hook is but then what the listening audience determines as the hook of the song may be a completely different thing however, if you write a hook that both you and your audience gravitate to then you’re halfway there in creating a song that people want to listen to over and over again.

According to an article written by John Braheny on the TAXI website there are four types of hooks.

  • Structural
  • Instrumental
  • Story
  • Production

For me, reading this article opened my eyes a little bit more to song construction as a whole and I’ve been writing songs for years. As John says in his article…

“… hooks are essential in commercial music. They are points of reference that keep us interested and focused on the song. They’re devices that help us remember and an entertainment in themselves.”

It just goes to show that we are never too old to learn anything new.

The reason why I say that the hook is the most important aspect of songwriting is that as songwriters we want our creations to be remembered, played and listened to over and over again.

The hook is the very thing that will achieve this goal for us. If you give your listener something to remember your song by, it will be with them for a very long time.

A hook can be the chorus line that is repeated many times for effect or a really cool bridge section that makes the listeners ears stand up and take more notice of your song.

A hook can be a lyrical or a musical motif that once heard will never be forgotten or it can also be something that is added to in the studio as the song is taking shape.

Sharpen up your hooks and catch a few listeners with them. Can you think of any great examples of a killer hook. Feel free to let me know.

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting


PS: Read John Braheny’s article here

Songwriting 101 – #5: Intro’s And Outro’s

This is a series of posts about song formatting and structure. Every couple of days I’ll be writing about the different individual elements that make up a song.


Go to #1 – The Chorus

Go to #2 – The Verse

Go to #3 – The Melody

Go to #4 – The Bridge


Please bear in mind that these are my definitions and interpretations of the different parts of a song structure. There are no hard and fast rules determining which part of a song goes where.

However, there are generally accepted guidelines. Think of this Songwriting 101 series as the “nuts and bolts” of putting your songs together.

You’ve been refining your songwriting process and you’ve come up with some great ideas and now you are ready to put them all together.

Your journey starts now…


If you break a song down to it’s most basic structure you’ll find it’s just like any other type of writing. There is a beginning, a middle and an end.

How a song starts and finishes is just as important as what happens in the middle (especially if you’re performing your song live).

Today I want to write about INTRO’S and OUTRO’S. Let’s start off with the introducton.

The introduction sets up the vocal melody and the primary musical arrangement of the song. It shouldn’t be too long otherwise it will ‘overstay it’s welcome’ with the listener.

An average song intro is four to eight bars in length.

There are of course exceptions to every rule. Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” has a sixteen bar introduction however, this is needed to map out the complex (and timeless) musical arrangement of this epic tune.

The introduction motif for your song can happen only once at the benning or can appear a number of times.

It can double as the breathing space between verse and chorus, it can form the basis of your bridge section or, it can be the bridge between a major and minor tonality.

For instance, your introduction maybe in A minor and your verse is in it’s relative major key which is C.

Now for the Outro.

An “outroduction” (not sure if this is a real word or not but I like it anyway) is a section that signifies the end of a song is approaching.

It can be as simple as a repeating of the chorus, of the hook-line or it can be just like a bridge, a departure giving the listener one last surprise before the end of the song is upon them.

An example of an outro would be the repeated “sending out an SOS” line at the end of “Message In A Bottle” by The Police.

It’s always good practise to let the listener know where the beginning, middle and the end of your songs are. Intro’s and outro’s are a good way to let the listener know where their ears are taking them.

Do you have any other examples of really good intro’s and outro’s? Feel free to let me know.

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting 101 – #4: The Bridge

This is a series of posts about song formatting and structure. Every couple of days I’ll be writing about the different individual elements that make up a song.


Go to #1 – The Chorus

Go to #2 – The Verse

Go to #3 – The Melody


Please bear in mind that these are my definitions and interpretations of the different parts of a song structure. There are no hard and fast rules determining which part of a song goes where.

However, there are generally accepted guidelines. Think of this Songwriting 101 series as the “nuts and bolts” of putting your songs together.

You’ve been refining your songwriting process and you’ve come up with some great ideas and now you are ready to put them all together.

Your journey starts now…


Today I’m going to be talking about the BRIDGE and let me tell you, I do love a good bridge.

There’s something about how a bridge takes you to somewhere else in a song and then gently back to the familiarity of a verse or chorus that makes it a very important piece of your songwriting armoury.

Good bridges are hard to find and are even harder to write. It’s not enough to just write a departure from what you’re creating with your verses and choruses.

The departure has to be purposeful. It needs to have some sort of meaning and reason behind it.

Lyrically a bridge can introduce another point of view, be an extension of the song story or even be a devil’s advocate to it.

Musically it can be whatever you want it to be however there are a couple of things to consider:

1. Make sure the entry and exit points of the bridge are seamless.
Take into consideration the melody, rhythm and flow of the song. This is what I mean about the bridge being purposeful

2. Don’t make the bridge too long.
This is not a time to introduce a second movement to your song. Generally bridges are between eight and sixteen bars in length (if its eight bars in length it can also be called a ‘middle eight’)

Bridges add character and uniqueness to your songs. They break up monotony and pleasantly surprise the listener or possibly prepare them for a key change.

A great example of a great bridge is the one in “Every Breath You Take” by The Police.

Sting is a master at writing bridges and in this song he switches tonality and presents a 10 bar bridge that lyrically shifts the perspective of the song while at the same time seamlessly moves from one tonality to another.

Here is the song for you to listen to. The bridge starts at at 1:23

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMOGaugKpzs

If you want your songs to spring into life, now is the time to start learning the art of a good bridge.

What other examples of bridges or middle 8’s do you consider to be masterful. Feel free to let me know.

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting 101 – #3: The Melody

This is a series of posts about song formatting and structure. Every couple of days I’ll be writing about the different individual elements that make up a song.


Go to #1 – The Chorus

Go to #2 – The Verse


Please bear in mind that these are my definitions and interpretations of the different parts of a song structure. There are no hard and fast rules determining which part of a song goes where.

However, there are generally accepted guidelines. Think of this Songwriting 101 series as the “nuts and bolts” of putting your songs together.

You’ve been refining your songwriting process and you’ve come up with some great ideas and now you are ready to put them all together.

Your journey starts now…


Today we’re going to talk about MELODY.

In a song it’s the melody that binds everything together. It’s almost like a song is created to enable the melody to stand out for everyone to hear.

In my experience, a really good musical arrangement has been ruined by a poor melody whereas a great melody has saved many a poor arrangement. That’s how important a great melody is for your songwriting.

It took me a long time to realize that melody is supreme.

The melody is what the listener remembers. It’s what they hum or whistle to while listening in the car for example.

A great melody is something that gets stuck in a listener’s head and gets them frustrated beyond belief. It’s what defines your song as being yours alone (regardless of what instrumentation and arrangement idea you choose to use) and makes your song stand out from the rest of the music that’s being played today.

A lot of songwriters I know get themselves all tied up in knots when trying to come up with an original chord structure or some sort of amazingly inspired riff to get them started on a potential song.

For these songwriters their process becomes a never-ending battle to try and come up with something totally original as they feel that going down the same old paths will bore their listening audience..

I say that if you have a great melody it almost doesn’t matter what chords fit with it, even if it is only three chords. A good melody has the power to bring out the emotions that you want the listener to experience.

As with anything in songwriting there are no hard and fast formulaic rules for coming up with great melodies however the lyrics of a song can give you clues as to where your melody could be going.

In my own songwriting process, melodies come to me in two distinct ways:

1. Little snippets based on a phrase that pops into my head.
The rhythm of that phrase pretty much determines the melody that comes out. I constantly write lists of possible song titles so coming up with a phrase to work on can be as easy as looking at one of my lists.

2. Noodling whatever comes into my head on my guitar.
After the initial spark then the building process begins. Is the song going to be a sad, thoughtful, contemplating or happy one? Is the melody consisting of short notes, long languishing notes or a mixture of both? Is it a soaring anthemic piece or an intimate piece?

One of the best things you can do to tune your ears to good melodies is to start listening to a lot of music. A good exercise is to write down a list of your ten favourite songs and really listen to the melody.

As you’re listening write down what it is about the melody that touches, moves and inspires you. Does the melody send a shiver up your spine? Write it down. What you’re doing is pinpointing what moves you.

This will make it easier to write melodies that make you say “WOW!”

Writing songs can be a juggling act sometimes. You have a lyric here, a melody there, a half finished chorus, a riff that needs a home. However, if you concentrate on the melody of the song you will find that the juggling act becomes a lot easier to manage.

That’s why I say that melody is very thing that binds all of your song elements together.

What do you think about what I’ve mentioned here about melody? Does it resonate with you or, do you have a different opinion? Feel free to let me know.

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting 101 – #2: The Verse

This is a series of posts about song formatting and structure. Every couple of days I’ll be writing about the different individual elements that make up a song.


Go to #1 – The Chorus


Please bear in mind that these are my definitions and interpretations of the different parts of a song structure. There are no hard and fast rules determining which part of a song goes where.

However, there are generally accepted guidelines. Think of this Songwriting 101 series as the “nuts and bolts” of putting your songs together.

You’ve been refining your songwriting process and you’ve come up with some great ideas and now you are ready to put them all together.

Your journey starts now…


Here’s the second instalment of my Songwriting 101 series on my definitions of the different building blocks of a song.

Today it’s all about the VERSE.

In my first instalment in this series I mentioned that if…

“… the chorus of a song is the destination then the verses are the journey towards it.”

Verses set up the foundation for where the chorus sits on top. If you can make the verses of your songs flow towards a killer chorus then you are halfway there in creating a song that people will have no choice but to listen.

Verses lay down the foundation of a song by allowing the songwriter room to tell the story or set the scene of the song. Character development can also happen in the verses too.

If the chorus, being the main focal point of the song, can be likened to the answer of a question, then the verses are the questions themselves.

Verses set up the arrival of the chorus both lyrically and melodically therefore, they’re repetitious in nature. The melody generally stays the same while the lyrics change underneath.

Personally, I like verses to be rhythmically flowing and full of purpose. You don’t want to detract the listener from the build up to a chorus that’s about to arrive.

Verses should create a really good contrast so the chorus will stand out even more. For instance, if you have a chorus that’s anthemic in nature then your verses need to be almost understated.

Creating this contract will enable the listener to inherently know that a chorus is about to arrive. The more anticipation you can build up the better, just make sure that you have a chorus that is able to give the listener the release they’re looking for.

Verses are not meant to be complete in themselves. They are meant to be leading somewhere. It’s important for songwriters to realise that verses and choruses are very different to each other.

I hear many songs that suffer from a lack of distinction between a verse and a chorus. It’s like the songwriter is saying to the listener “This section here must be a chorus because it comes after a verse”.

Songwriters need to understand the relationship that verses and choruses have with each other. Verses are just as important as choruses but a great chorus can be spoiled by a grandstanding verse so the balance needs to be in the writing.

Verses are the roadmaps of your song. Start giving your listener the directions that they need to get the most out of your songs.

What do you think constitutes a great verse or can you name some examples? Feel free to let me know.

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

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