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Month: December 2020

The Value Of Open Mics For Singer-Songwriters

One of the largest growing sections of the live music industry in Australia and around the world today is the Open Mic scene.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, an “Open Mic” is a forum for performers to showcase their material in a performer friendly environment.

You put your name on a list and when your turn comes around, you get the opportunity to play a few songs. Simple as that.

These events (held mainly on a weekly basis) have been the breeding ground for talented performing songwriters by creating a space for them. You don’t get paid as such but the exposure for the beginning singer-songwriter is invaluable.

Heres why…

As a performing songwriter almost any opportunity to perform your songs is a great opportunity however when starting out you’re faced with an initial “catch-22” situation.

You see, there are not many gigs for singer/songwriters with no performing experience but how can you get the experience unless you actually perform gigs?

This is where the Open Mic come into the equation.

An Open Mic then becomes the performance forum that a songwriter needs to gain their much needed performing experience from.

Bear in mind, Open Mics are not just for beginners either. From time to time I use an Open Mic to either showcase my best stuff or road-test new material to an audience that is there just for the music.

For me I see an Open Mic as a sonic sampler of my music for the purpose of selling my CD to the audience (that’s if the Open Mic organiser allows this – always get their permission, never assume that you can do this)

For those of you just starting out, here are my suggestions for tackling an Open Mic:

1. Make the decision to show up

It sounds a bit obvious but for someone who hasn’t experienced an Open Mic before you need to build up some courage beforehand. You say you’re ready but then your inner critic tells you not to.

Physically going to an Open Mic session is a major win in the ongoing battle you have with your inner critic. Just do it.

2. Don’t initially put yourself under any pressure to perform

Take your instrument along but never beat yourself up if you don’t perform that night. Sometimes it’s a good idea to soak up the scene, meet with the organiser and network with some really nice people.

It will be the people you meet that will give you the encouragement me to eventually get up and perform.

3. Make sure you are prepared

If you are going to perform make sure that you know the songs beforehand. If you need to use a music stand so you can read the lyrics then bring one. Its ok to do that.

Being musically prepared gives you one less thing to worry about on the night.

4. Make yourself known to the MC

Open Mics have an organiser (the MC) that introduces the acts and keeps the night running smoothly. Get to know them. The more they know you the better your experience will be.

The person who runs an Open Mic is someone who cares about nurturing new talent and is always a good person to have on your side.

5. Allow yourself to be nervous

Nerves are not a bad thing. It means that you care about what you do and you want it to go well.

Personally, I have been performing for over twenty years and I still get nervous. I know that if I stop being nervous before performing then that is the time for me to stop performing altogether as it means that I have stopped caring about myself, my art and my audience.

In time you will learn how to channel your nerves in a positive way however, deep breathing and trying to relax before you go on is still the best thing to do.

Don’t compare yourself to the other performers and don’t think too much about what you are going to do. Just focus on the here and now and do the very best that you can.

6. Enjoy yourself

You’ve waited for this moment to perform and now you are about to do it so try to enjoy the experience and remember, an Open Mic audience is there for the music, they want to be there and they want you to do well, play to them.

I can’t stress enough how invaluable Open Mics are to your development as a performing songwriter. Do yourself a favour and find out where the open mics are in your area and go to all of them.

Check them out, get to know the people involved and most of all, have some fun because you never know where the Open Mic experience might take you.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Process – Reading Poetry For Lyrical Inspiration

“We live in a world of infinite songwriting idea possibilities. All we have to do is go out there and find them.”

I outlined in my last posts “Songwriting Process – Reading Books for Lyrical Inspiration” the concept of reading books as a way of gathering lyrical ideas.

Since then I realised that you can apply this concept to other forms of communication. However, if you’re like me and the thought of reading a whole book is a little bit daunting, try immersing yourself into some poetry instead.

A poem (just like a song) generally has a short space of time in which the reader is given the gist of the story or concept. Most works of poetry are short bursts of observation mixed with pure emotion.

A particular form of poetry that I have been getting into of late is Haiku.

Haiku is a Japanese writing art-form which is very, very constrained in its approach. You have three lines and seventeen syllables (broken into 5, 7 and 5) to get your story or concept across.

An example of some haiku is “Tree, Wind, Cloud and Sky” by a good friend of mine, Garth Dutton.

A lush green of trees
Contrasting with high wind clouds
That whiten, blue sky

Personally, I see haiku as a concise but ready made song synopsis. My challenge to you would be to expand a seventeen syllable haiku poem into a four minute song.

Give it a try and see what you can do.

However, for people who would rather read something less abstract but don’t want to be tied to a book for a long period of time, a collection of short stories are also a great way to gather song lyric ideas as well using the same concepts as my previous post.

Make a date with yourself and go to your local library and pick up a few books of poetry/short stories or, check out some poetry/prose blogs such as the ones I’ve listed below and put yourself up to task.

If you do write some songs using this songwriting technique, let me know about it. I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Process – Reading Books For Lyrical Inspiration

We have so much information around us these days yet I still hear so many songwriters complain that they can’t find anything to write about.

The way that I look at it, there’s so many ways in which a songwriter can be inspired that it’s almost impossible to not find anything to write about.

Personally, one of the ways that I’ve found which really gets my creative juices flowing is immersing myself in the many forms of media that I’m exposed to every day, such as newspapers, TV and magazines.

It’s not what type media that has the potential to inspire, but how it’s used and today, I’m talking about books.

Now, I’ll admit it. I don’t read enough. In fact, we as a society don’t read enough and there are many reasons for this but let me tell you, when I start reading a book I start feeling guilty.

It’s very strange I know, but when I read a book I start getting feelings that there’s something else that I could be doing besides taking time out for myself, sitting in a comfortable chair and reading.

This is a great example of my inner critic hard at work.

I was talking to a songwriting friend of mine about this some time ago and he made a suggestion that was remarkable in its simplicity.

He said to me “why don’t you use reading a book as part of your songwriting process.”

I never thought of reading a book in that way but the more we discussed the concept the more excited I became about it. I knew that this was going to open some doors for my own songwriting.

Simply put, use books as a reference library of words, phrases, quotes, statements and sentences that you can use for your songs.

Now, I’m not talking about plagiarism here, just a shifting of your perspective by using other peoples words to form newly created perspectives in your own mind. It’s from these new perspectives that you write your songs from.

I’m going to start experimenting with this technique and here’s what I’ll be doing.

1. I start off with my book, a writing pad plus a highlighter pen (only use the highlighter it if the book is yours).

2. I read one chapter at a time rather than as many pages as I can in one sitting.

3. As I’m reading, any phrase, words or sentence that either jumps out at me or I feel some affinity with, I write it down or highlight with my pen. I then re-read the sentence so I don’t lose track of the story.

4. If there’s a passage that moves me I stop and write down what I’m feeling at the time. Some questions I’d be asking of myself could be:

  • How do I relate to this?
  • Is there a story for a song in this?

5. At the end of the chapter I write a synopsis of it in my journal.

6. If one of my captured lyrical ideas has a melody attached to it, I then get my guitar out and start formulating something with it.

At the moment this experiment is purely theoretical. It is not perfect by any means but if I can read my favourite book and gain songwriting ideas at the same time that’s got to be a good thing.

I’ll let you know how I go with this.

As with any songwriting process, one songwriters way of doing things will be different to another. All I can do is try it out and see what happens.

However, if you have any suggestions on how I can improve this fledgling songwriting technique or, if you want to try this experiment yourself, let me know and we can start comparing notes

I’m excited…

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Developing A Songwriters Mindset

“Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new” – Og Mandino

The above quote beautifully sums up what I would call a songwriters mindset, a powerful skill to master.

Just think about it, if songwriting is all about capturing aural snapshots of our lives and what’s happening around us then, to get the best out of our songwriting we have to develop a certain attitude towards our lives.

Let’s explore this further.

If we are to work at our chosen craft to the best of our ability, gathering songwriting ideas, refining our creative processes and perhaps gain some inspiration along the way then, we, as songwriters need to look at life in general differently to how others would see it.

I believe that there are three stages to writing a song.

1. Mindset – What this blog post is about
2. Process – The nuts and bolts writing of the song
3. Result – Song completed

The songwriters mindset is one of letting go of any preconceptions about the world around you and taking everything in at face value.

It’s about embracing life for what it is, a wonderfully personal human experience that’s different for everybody. Your songs need to be recorded/performed and shared with everyone.

Develop an almost obsessive yearning to experience as much of life as you possibly can (whether it be good or bad) so you can write a song about it.

It’s about not being afraid of what others might think and telling the world about your thoughts, feelings, observations, dreams, questions and answers. It’s all about facing your fear and doing it anyway as the well known cliche says.

Having a songwriters mindset is all about becoming a receiver for the songwriting ideas that are floating about in the ether and when you successfully receive, it’s about being open to what you have received.

As Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones says:

“Songs are funny things, they wake you in the middle of the night and say “I go like this”. They control you until you’ve done the right thing by them.”

It’s about being more aware about what is happening in the world, what people are doing and saying and being prepared to write down what you feel, hear and see.

It’s about finding out what is the essence of you and attempting to put that onto paper so that no matter what you write it will always be from your own unique perspective.

I could go on and on and on but hey, it’s all about allowing ourselves to be a songwriter. Allowing ourselves to explore the grey areas of life and finding the light and shade.

Allowing ourselves to ask “what would happen if..?”

To develop and eventually master the songwriters mindset you have to question everything around you and nurture a childlike curiosity for the world.

As the beginning quote says “… never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.”

As we’ve started off a new year ask yourself this question “what does a songwriters attitude mean to me?” Then write it down because that will become your first songwriting resolution

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Song Demos – Be Prepared And Organised

You know, a song demo can be used for many things.

It can be the basis of what you introduce to your band at a rehearsal, it can be the means in which you secure the gig or the song placement you were applying for or it can be what a prospective fan hears before they decided whether to come to see your show or buy your CD.

It’s very important that you get your song demos right, the first time.

This is definitely what I get from reading the latest article from Cliff Goldmacher of Educated Songwriter called “What To Do Before You Record Your Song Demo”

Here it is below for your enjoyment…

What To Do Before You Record Your Song Demo
By Cliff Goldmacher (

As a result of recording and producing literally thousands of demos, I’ve learned that it is always better to “prepare and prevent” than to “repair and repent.” Here are a few steps you can take to help make your demo recording experience more successful.

Song Preparation
It may sound obvious but make sure your song is FINISHED. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had clients come into the studio only to start rewriting a part of the lyric or melody. It is significantly less stressful (and quite a bit less expensive) to write a song when you’re not paying the studio an hourly fee.

You can also benefit from trying a few rough recordings at home before you get to the studio. The simple act of listening back to a song instead of performing it will reveal any weaknesses or issues that need to be dealt with before the studio clock is running. The last of these rough home recordings will become the definitive work tape.

The Rough Recording
This is any simple, inexpensive recording that you do into a hand-held recorder, laptop or even your smart phone. Generally a piano or guitar plus a scratch vocal will do the trick.

The key here is not a perfect recording but rather an accurate representation of the song structure. In other words, it doesn’t have to sound great as long as the chords, melody and lyrics are correct. The purpose of this work tape is to provide the demo vocalist and session musicians with a final version of your song that they can learn from.

The Players
Let’s start with the demo vocalist. It’s always a good policy to get a copy of the work tape and the lyrics to the singer a week or so before the session. There are several reasons for this.

First of all, the singer can let you know what key the song should be in to best suit their voice. This way, if you end up recording instrument parts before the singer does their part, you’ll know the correct key. Secondly, the more time the singer has to learn the song, the less time he or she will take to sing the song when the studio clock is running.

When you get to the session, it’s wise to have printed lyric sheets for the engineer, musicians and vocalist. The lyrics should be typewritten and have each chorus written out in full.

The reason for this is that you’ll be using these lyric sheets to mark spots that need fixing (or spots on certain takes that you like) and having “Repeat Chorus” written for the second and third choruses won’t allow you to take good notes.

The better the notes you take on the lyric sheet while the vocalist is recording, the easier it will be to tell the vocalist what works and what needs to be fixed.

The session musicians do not need a rough recording in advance. They will be learning the song from your work tape when they get to the session. You can save a little time by writing a chord chart of the song if it’s something you’re comfortable doing.

If not, the session musicians should have no trouble doing it for you quickly using the work tape you bring to the session.

After that, it’s up to the singers and musicians to bring your song to the next level. There’s nothing more fun than listening to world-class musicians and vocalists record a song you’ve written. The more you prepare in advance, the more you’ll enjoy your studio experience.

Good luck!

About The Author

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site,, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.

Go to for more info.

Cliff’s company,, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.

You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going to

Twitter: edusongwriter

Essentially what Cliff is saying in this article is to just be well planned, prepared and organised when it comes to recording your song demos. It never ceases to amaze me how much time is wasted in the pre-production and the recording of song demos.

All it takes is a little bit planning, preparation and organisation to ensure that the song demo recording process runs as efficiently and creatively as possible.

What have been your song demo recording horror stories? Have you experienced something directly? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting – The More You Know, The More You Need To Learn

In order to master the craft of songwriting you must first embrace the fact that there’s always something to learn about it.

The more you know the more you need to learn.

I know of some songwriters that are either bored or restless with their craft. They complain that everything that they do all sounds the same and therefore they feel they’re not expanding and growing as songwriters.

However, in life, there are people that do things and people that don’t. Which category a songwriter falls into is not determined by genetics or how far the moon rises in Uranus.

It’s all determined by their attitude and as a songwriter, how you master your chosen craft is determined by you and you alone.

One of my ongoing goals is getting advanced musical theory and guitar lessons. I’ve mentioned this to a select number of friends and they all ask me “why?”

My reply is “why not!”

I have been playing music and writing songs since I was 12 and besides learning clarinet and studying music theory and composition in high school I have not had any other tuition in my life.

I am mostly a self taught musician.

It would be arrogant of me to think that I have nothing else to learn so I’m going to find out where my learning gaps are and I’m then going to fill them in with some new knowledge.

Doing this can only make me a better songwriter and musician.

My advice to anyone regarding learning an instrument to help you with your songwriting is threefold:

1. If you’ve ever considered learning an instrument then consider no more, start learning. Don’t believe the rubbish that some will tell you about being too old and things like that.

2. If you already play an instrument consider getting lessons no matter how proficient you are. The more proficient you are at your instrument the more important your choice of tutor will be.

3. If you already get lessons, make more of an effort to practise, learn to love it and find the time to do it. Challenge yourself with the lessons, try to feel your mind expand with the knowledge you gain from it.

Seek out books on songwriting, buy them and read them. Take notes and do what is needed to assimilate the new knowledge into your songwriting process.

Go onto the web and sign up to songwriting resources, forums, and communities. Ask lots and lots of questions.

In your research you’ll come across people you feel comfortable communicating with, keep in contact with them. Network and expand your relationships.

If you want to contact me and ask questions feel free to do so, just contact me through this blog and I will get back to you.

In short, get out of your comfort zone.

If you feel you have been spending precious energy complaining and not enough energy doing then stop, re-evaluate and change your attitude towards your songwriting.

It can be done, I know because I have done this for myself.

Reward yourself (and your songwriting) by embracing new knowledge and you will never, ever look back. In fact, let me know how you go with it.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Six Ways To Improve Your Song

This post was directly inspired by a recent Bobby Owsinski article called “Six Traits Of A Badly Written Song.”

The six traits that constitutes a “badly written song” that Bobby outlines in his article are as follows:

  • The song is too long
  • The song has no focus
  • The song has a weak chorus
  • The song has no bridge
  • The song suffers from a poor arrangement
  • The song has no intro/outro hook

Now, I wanted to do something a little different and write the opposite to what Bobby wrote about in his article and from that premise, “Six Ways To Improve Your Song” was born.

Here are my six ways to improve your song (based on Bobby Owsinski’s article):

1. Shorten your song
There is nothing worse for a listener than to have to sit through an extended intro, outro, guitar solo or, overly repeated choruses that go nowhere.

Unless the length of the song is part of the context or story of it, consider cutting some of the padding out.

2. Create some focus for your song
Nothing confuses a listener more than a song that tries to do far too much with the limited amount of time it has at its disposal.

If you can maintain a “one song, one idea” principle to your songwriting then you’re winning half the battle.

3. Enable your chorus to be strong and proud
The part of the song that underpins everything is the chorus. It’s what listeners remember most about your song and it’s almost always the part of the song that the listener relates to the most.

Your chorus needs to be as strong as it can be to maintain the listeners attention.

4. Consider adding a bridge to your song
This was probably the only point in Bobby Owsinski’s article that I didn’t agree with. Not all songs need a bridge in them however I do concede that there is a trend to include a bridge to facilitate some point of difference in the song.

If you feel that your song is sounding a little repetitive then perhaps a bridge is the answer. A really good example of a songwriter who uses the bridge to perfection is Sting.

5. Make your arrangement work for the song, not against it
When you take your song further from the simple demo stage you’ll need to take into consideration the overall “song arrangement” meaning the incorporation of other instruments and production layer to your song.

When recording a full song arrangement, don’t let lost in all of the technology and the temptation to include all of the bells and whistles in your recording.

Always keep the simple essence of your song in mind and work from that.

6. Include an intro/outro hook
A intro hook (whether it be a riff or a unique sound/chordal sequence) enables the listener to have something to grab onto.

A perfect example of this is “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. As soon as you hear the opening riff you know what song it is and this is what makes this song a timeless work of pop art.

What do you think improves or detracts from a song? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and while you’re at it, go to the original article “6 Traits Of A Badly Written Song.”

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting