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Month: November 2020 (Page 1 of 2)

Songwriters Block – 11 Tips On How To Get You Unstuck

Songwriters Block… Every songwriter gets it at least once in their career.

It’s easy to find yourself in the midst of it and very difficult to get yourself out of the grips of it however, freedom from it can be achieved.

Songwriter, producer and keyboard player Michael Gallant through his article “Songwriting and Writer’s Block: 11 tips to help the songwriter get unstuck” seems to think so.

About songwriters block Michael writes…

“Creating a memorable song is rarely as easy as just humming a pretty melody and writing down some lyrics, though. And just like writers of prose or non-fiction, even the most successful songwriters hit creative walls.”

In his article Michael lists 11 tips that he’s collected through his own experiences and from a range of experienced songwriters that will help songwriters overcome their creative block.

They are:

1. Start with a title
2. Look and listen everywhere
3. Carry a notebook, voice recorder, or both
4. Keep unfinished ideas
5. Write a lot
6. Identify your own clichés
7. Keep your inner critic at bay
8. Ask for help
9. Write on a secondary instrument
10. Take a break
11. Use your favourite artists for inspiration

Of course the full descriptions and definitions of these tips are spelt out in Michael’s article however, my favourite tip is number four “Keep unfinished ideas.”

Doing this one thing has been the cornerstone of my own songwriting process and it’s something that I feel very passionate about.

Have a read of the full article here and while you’re doing that, have a think about your own songwriting process and the ways that you can improve it. If you have anything to share please feel free to let me know.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Develop A Sense Of Wonder About Everything

“Everyone has at least five great albums in them” – Chris Martin, Coldplay

I remember seeing an interview with Chris Martin and Will Champion from Coldplay on the TV a little while ago and the thing that interested me most about that interview was the discussion about their songwriting process and philosophy behind it all.

Chris Martin said that…

“…the world is an amazing place for many different reasons and that he couldn’t understand why songwriters felt that they have nothing to write about.”

He also went on to say that

“…everyone has a voice, and has a story to tell about something.”

Bravo Chris, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Developing a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around you is one of the keys to keeping your songwriting process fresh and inspiring.

Imagine what it would be like if everything that you perceived, inspired you enough to write down how you felt for the sole purpose of sharing your feelings with everyone else, without the pressure of having some sort of end result happening or, the need of approval from an external source to justify your existence.

It would be a feeling of liberation.

This is what happens when you develop a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around you. I know it’s a big ask but it’s not an impossible thing to do.

Have you noticed how young children look at the world. It’s like they are experiencing every moment for the first time.

That is the feeling I’m talking about.

In developing this skill, the first thing to do is to understand the notion of creativity.

Dictionary.com defines the word creativity as

“…the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods and interpretation.”

To create something means that you cause something to exist or bring into being from nothing.

This is an amazing concept, what wonderful pieces of work we human beings are.

Did you know however that as human beings, this is a talent we all have?

Developing wonder and curiosity in your life takes a lot of mindfulness and practice. You can start by asking yourself the question “what am I feeling right now?” and start writing it down, all the feelings and their descriptions.

While you are doing listen to what is going on inside your mind and I bet you are hearing things like:

  • What a stupid question to ask
  • This is a waste of time
  • This doesn’t mean anything
  • You could be doing something else
  • This is not important

Stop! You are hearing the very reason there are less songs in the world than there could be.

The Inner Critic.

Now that you have acknowledged the existence of your inner critic keep going with the exercise and take note of the chatter getting more and more intense.

Once you feel you can’t stand the chatter any longer, stop what you’re doing and have a look at what’s in front of you. It might look like incoherent nonsense or, it might be the beginnings of a brand new songwriting idea.

Either way, you asked yourself a question and your own innate sense of wonderment and curiosity enabled you to find the answer.

By repeating this exercise in your everyday life, in this form of mindfulness you’ll be able to look at everything that you perceive as a creative possibility of existence from nothing.

If I try to put all this in some sort of formula it might look something like this.

(wonder + curiosity + questions) + action = creativity

There are an infinite amount of songwriting ideas in you and out there for you to write about, all you’ve got to do is to get out of your own way let yourself do it. You do have a story to tell.

What’s your story hiding deep inside of you, waiting to be unleashed into the world?

Write a song about it…

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

The Illusion Of Songwriting Perfection

Recently, I was chatting to a songwriter friend of mine about the pain he experiences while writing songs.

He said that he’s great at starting songs but lousy at finishing them (well, aren’t we all).

He also told me the main philosophy for his songwriting process is, “if the song is not perfect then the song isn’t worth finishing.”

WTF! No wonder he’s experiencing the pain of songwriters block.

I think that the concept of “if the song is not perfect then the song isn’t worth finishing” is something that’s more common among songwriters than we care to admit.

So, allow me to be a little blunt here. This struggle for songwriting perfection kills people.

It kills their creativity, kills their inspiration and sometimes (in extreme circumstances) the drive to perfection can kill a person physically.

There is a huge difference between being driven to write great songs and being driven to write perfect songs.

In my reply to his statement I said “…why don’t you try not to see songwriting as a means to an end (the hit song) but as a way of letting yourself go?”

As songwriters, how much pressure do we put yourselves under? A lot!

Is it worth it? NO!

The notion of songwriting perfection in anything is but a mere illusion. It’s created by the ego and massaged into existence by insecurity, jealousy, doubt, low self esteem and shame.

Songwriting should be a celebration of life, of letting yourself go, setting yourself free and playing around with your creativity. It’s not about reminding yourself how inadequate you are because you compare yourself needlessly to other songwriters.

Always remember that there’s not another one of you on this planet so therefore your experiences, your thoughts, your insights, your feelings, your dreams, your desires, your observations and the way that you question life, universe and everything around it are uniquely yours, and yours alone.

What does that mean? It means that…

1. There is no point in comparing yourself to others as there is no one else but you to compare yourself to in the first place

2. Being the unique creature that you are whatever you say is always very, very important.

The concept of perfection would only exist if there was something perfect to aspire to in the first place.

Now granted, there have been some amazing songs written in the past and there will be amazing songs that have not yet been written in the future, but none of those songs are “perfect” and they never, ever will be.

We, like our songwriting, are all works in progress.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Learn Your Craft By Studying Other Peoples Songs

Let me make one thing very clear… By saying that, as songwriters, we should be learning our craft by studying the songs of other songwriters, I’m not saying that you should be copying another peoples song and calling them your own.

What I am saying is that, by asking yourself what songs you like to hear and then studying those songs to define why you like them and what unique voice you can give to it is a great start towards improving your own songwriting.

Just as a painter goes through a number of drafts from rough sketches to a finished painting, we as songwriters can do the same thing with our songs.

Sometimes its good to play around with other peoples songs just to see what happens. I mean, isn’t the ultimate goal of a songwriter (or any creative person for that matter) is to find their own voice and to share that voice with the rest of the world?

One of the best ways in which a songwriter can find their own voice is through the process of imitation. Imitation is how we developed our own personalities in the first place.

As children growing up, we initially got our cues in life by copying what everybody else was doing. At this time in our lives we were doing everything for the first time.

We had no point of reference of our own to compare with back then so we had to utilise someone else’s.

We were imitating the people closest to us… Our parents.

It’s the same with songwriting. How do we know how special and unique our voices are if we don’t first compare it with others?

Ask yourself three simple questions and you’ll be well on your way to starting your own songwriting study project:

1. Who are my favourite artists/bands?
2. What are my favourite songs?
3. Which artist, band or song is popular at the moment?

With your favourite artists or bands, list the reasons why you are so attracted to them. Is it the emotional content of their songs? Is it the way they play live? Is it their philosophy on life?

By doing this you are finding out what makes you tick on an emotional level.

Your favourite songs might be from your list of artists and bands but then again they might be from others.

Songs are sometimes really funny things. They can get into your psyche and wreak complete havoc or they can allow wonderful memories to never be forgotten. The list of songs that you’ll have in front of you will be the physical and tangible benchmark of where your own songs will be based from.

By looking at what is popular at the moment you’ll have an idea as to what the listening public are tuning into right now!

Your own taste in artists, bands and songs may not be the same but it is still good to put all of your preferences aside and study what is happening now as well as what you like.

Immerse yourself in this exercise, start listening and researching lots of music and keep writing along the way.

If you play an instrument start learning your favourite songs and play them around the house. Notice the form of the song, the chords and arrangement used and the melody and how it fits with the rhythm.

If you don’t play an instrument, that’s fine. Get the lyrics and study how the words fall together to allow you to paint a picture in your mind or to follow a well told story. Sing or hum the melody and try to feel where it is going.

Does it take you on a journey or do you have to work with it to have the song make sense to you?

Once you’ve done that, write a song in the style of your favourite artist or take one of your favourite songs, write out the chords and invert them and see what happens. Play around, experiment with speed and pitch. If you have a capo for your guitar, use that.

But, no matter what happens… Don’t let your inner critic tell you that this exercise is a waste of time.

Always remember you don’t have to promote or perform every song that you write. Some songs will be a stepping stone to the next one. The song you write from this exercise today may be the first draft of another song that you might write tomorrow.

As you’re doing this you’ll discover what works for you and what doesn’t. Eventually the sum total of what works plus your own experiences and emotional triggers will be the beginnings of your own songwriting voice.

Give it a go, creativity is supposed to be fun. Let me know how you go with it

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

What Is The Definition Of A “Bad” Song Anyway?

I ask this question because it seems to me that we, as songwriters are real experts at naming which one of our creations are bad, so much in fact that for some songwriters, it stops them from creating altogether.

Here are some thoughts I have on this subject.

Now, call me strange, but I’ve never looked at any of my songs as being either good or bad. I just allow them to be.

At the end of the day, my songs can be put into one of two categories:

  • Songs I perform
  • Songs I don’t perform

Of course the songs that I perform are the songs I’m very comfortable with sharing with the listening public and/or other musicians

However, the songs I don’t perform go into one of two more categories:

  • Works in progress (for performance)
  • Archived songwriting ideas (for later)

You see, I never throw anything away. Everything that comes from my head is created into something straight away or recycled to be created into something else in the future.

Lets face it, the more songs you write, the more ‘good’ songs you’ll write and for every good song you write there are at least ten ‘bad’ ones lurking in the wings.

So, no matter how much you think your songwriting ideas are bad, write them down anyway. Besides, where does it say in the rules that you have to pitch or perform every song that you write anyway?

If you want to write good songs then writing the occasional bad songs is an inevitable outcome and besides, what really makes a song bad?

A bad song from one songwriter could be another performers treasure. What do you think?

There’ll be some songs you write that are meant to be performed and the other songs will just be the stepping stones towards even more songs.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

When you think about it, the concept of a song being bad is created from a subjective opinion and really, is proclaiming one of your songs as being bad your call anyway?

Here is a exercise to try on yourself. Try deliberately writing a bad song and see how you go. It’s like asking a seasoned musician to play like a beginner.

It’s harder to do than you think. What are your thoughts on this? Let me know what they are.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Process – Getting Out Of Your Own Way

At the end of the day, writing songs can be as easy or as hard as you want to make it.

One of the main reasons why songwriters find the songwriting process difficult is that they get in their own way by placing a pre-determined outcome to their process.

There are a lot of songwriters that have an inability to let go of the outcome and just allow themselves to write.

For example, while writing, a songwriter may say things to themselves like:

  • This song must be a good one
  • This song must be original
  • I can’t sound like anyone else
  • This song can’t be bad
  • I must be inspired when I write
  • I don’t have anything to write about

Let’s bring this back to you now.

If you were experiencing all of this negative dialogue while you were trying to write a song, do you think you would be able to finish it?

I don’t think so.

Creativity in any form exists because its creator, is free from all distraction. Learning to let go enables you, the songwriter to become free.

Allowing ourselves the freedom to create without any prejudice or pre-conceived notions is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to ourselves.

Next time you start writing a song try this.

As you start writing, think of nothing else but writing. Don’t worry if the result is going to be a good or bad. Better still, don’t think of any result at all.

Just write… Treat writing like it’s a meditation.

As you write you will hear your inner voice start to rant. When this happens, write down the rant on another piece of paper and allow it to pass through you rather than let it rattle around inside your head.

Treat these negative rantings as if you’re a matador allowing a feisty bull to run past your red cloth.

You never know, at the end of your songwriting session you might have finished a song plus have the beginnings of another and it’s all thanks to letting go and getting out of your own way.

What are the things that your inner critic says to you that creates a barrier between you and your songwriting?

Let me know what you do to break it down and set your songwriting free?

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) let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Creating Lyric Ideas By Journaling

It’s a known fact that winning the conversations that you have with your inner voice on a daily basis is one of the main keys to getting the most out of your songwriting process.

For me, writing down my thoughts by keeping a journal is one of the best strategies I’ve found to keep my inner voice in check.

I’ve also found that there needs to be some conditions attached to this exercise to enable it to work effectively and those conditions are:

1. A journal entry has to be done every day – Believe me, the appointment you make with yourself to write in your journal will be the most important one in your day.

2. Set a minimum word (or page) target – My minimum personal writing target is one A4 page and with practise, I achieve this goal easily. What’s one A4 page? You’ll be able to do that too.

3. Grab a coffee and start writing anything that comes to mind – Allow your writing to be good, bad or indifferent. Let go of any need for the writing to be perfect.

4. Pay attention to what your inner voice is saying to you as you write – I try to incorporate my inner voice in my journal entry which then enables me to look forward to these daily arguments with myself.

5. When you have reached your word (or page) target, STOP – You’ve achieved your goal… Well done.

6. Go onto something else – Get on with the rest of your day knowing that the most important thing you’ll do for the day is done.

You’ll find that as you start writing your inner voice will begin to chatter away in its attempt to distract you from the task at hand.

It’s amazing what it will say to stop you from being creative however, instead of succumbing to the temptation to stop what you’re doing, just keep going and plough through the noise.

Believe me, it will be very difficult at first but you will eventually free yourself of self doubt and in its place will become a flow of ideas, confidence and inspiration.

I should know because I’ve been doing this myself.

I have been journaling and now, blogging for years but it wasn’t until I started reading “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron (a must for any songwriter) that I realised the power of writing down my thoughts on a daily basis.

In the book the first thing she talks about is a concept called The Morning Pages.

The Morning Pages are three A4 pages of automatic writing that you do (preferably) first thing in the morning and boy, what a powerful tool it is for collecting lyrical ideas.

It is important to note that, to also gain the most benefit from this exercise, it must be done every day.

Writing songs is a craft, a discipline that require the songwriter to let go of any outcomes and become at one with the words that they write.

“So whats next?” I hear you ask.

Well, let’s start a little experiment shall we? My suggestion is to start writing down your thoughts today and keep writing them for a period of seven days. It can be on paper or on your computer, it doesn’t matter.

If you like, you can treat yourself by buying a really nice notebook for this experiment. You deserve it.

After a week of putting down your thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations and inner conversations, have a look at what you have written.

Chances are you’ll see a lot of crap but I guarantee you, hidden away in all of that crap will be some amazing lyrical ideas that will jump out at you and demand your attention.

Sometimes you have have to dig through the dirt to find the diamonds in your own backyard. Let’s see how you go with the experiment.

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

How To Maintain The Flow Of Songwriting Ideas

Your goal as a songwriter is to keep your songwriting ideas alive at all times and at the same time, developing ways to capture those ideas at any given opportunity.

With that being said, my advice to you is to never trust your memory. If you do, you’ll lose more ideas than you gain and at the end of the day, your songwriting process is all about maintaining the flow of ideas.

Our brains are amazing things. They can soak up information and store things away however, as we get older, we start to forget. Our internal filing system starts to break down and it seems that we need to let some of the old stuff go so we can let the new stuff in.

Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way calls this concept the filling of the well.

I liken this concept to the syphoning of liquid. Once you get the initial flow established it then becomes constant. By emptying your mind onto paper or playing your ideas onto tape you’re making space for other ideas to come into being. It’s like you’re creating a vacuum for the new ideas to appear out of the ether.

Your ability to create a constant flow is determined by how much you’re able to accept any songwriting idea that appears before you.

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones said once that he was merely the channel for a song to come into existence.

It’s was like he was the transmitter and through him, the song was able to be received by the listener.

Remember, if at anytime you think of something that could even be minutely used in a song, write it down, record it onto tape or even ring your home phone number and leave the idea on your answering machine (I’ve done that a few times to great effect).

Do anything to keep your songwriting ideas alive. Your future songs depend on it.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Always Be Prepared To Capture Songwriting Ideas

Sometimes songs come from the most amazing places.

I was once asked to facilitate a songwriting workshop with the topic being how to capture songwriting ideas, and in my research for the workshop, one of the questions I asked myself was “where have my songs come from?”

It was one of the first times I really looked at my song archive and traced the origins of my songs in this way and I realised that some of my songs had come from the most unlikely places.

This was most interesting to me.

Doing this research reinforced in me the notion that, as songwriters we have to be prepared to note down everything that is of interest to us because songwriting ideas can come from anywhere.

My research had shown me that I have written songs while sitting in cafes, waiting for and on public transport, having a shower, going for a walk, drinking at the pub and waiting at traffic lights.

I try as much as possible to have my smartphone at hand so I can capture these flashes of inspiration at anytime.

Get into the habit of seeing and experiencing the world as if it’s an infinite songwriting ideas machine.

As a songwriter all you have to do is find your own way to reach out and tap into this amazing resource. Of course doing this takes practice and a willingness to become much more observant and mindful of what’s going on around you.

On a personal note, since making an effort to be more observant and mindful of what happens in my life, I have managed to get more things done and my songwriting output has increased.

Don’t be afraid of what you see and what you feel. Write down your emotions and what your senses are telling you.

Emotions demonstrate to us all what it’s like to be human and embracing what you see, hear and feel on paper will go a long way in developing your own style as a songwriter.

Be brave in the face of the unknown and always be prepared.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

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