All About Songwriting

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Category: Creation

Song Lyrics – Making Mountains Out Of Molehills

If you’re like me, then part of your songwriting process is to be constantly on the lookout for more and more songwriting ideas because, it’s from these ideas that the next song is born.

However, in the process of doing this you’ll end up having a whole lot of song lyric snippets, possible song titles and miscellaneous lines and phrases floating around the place either in your head or loosely organised on pieces of paper or, files on your computer.

After a while you start to ask yourself the question “what do I do with all of these songwriting ideas?”

One songwriting technique that I use a lot is to write a short story using one of your collected random songwriting ideas as its inspiration and then, once finished, condensing the whole story down into a working song lyric.

All you need to do is to pick one of your random songwriting snippets and without thinking about it, start writing.

Make lists, use a mind map, do whatever you need to do to explore every conceivable angle that come to mind from that single songwriting idea.

It’s amazing how much you’re able to write if you let yourself go. From one line a sentence is formed, from a sentence a paragraph is formed and from a paragraph a short story is formed.

When I do this exercise, I try to fully exhaust all of my options in one sitting. If, at the end of the session I have ten pages of writing then so be it.

For me, I find it best to begin this editing and elimination process a day or two after I’ve written the story, to ensure I have fresh eyes and ears but nevertheless, this is where the fun begins.

Once you’ve finished writing your short story, have a look at what you’ve written and start eliminating all of the non essential bits of the story and with what’s left over, mould a song from that.

You’ll find that by doing this songwriting exercise it’s much easier to write down far too much information and then take things away, than to write too little and have to add things in afterwards.

It just goes to show that in songwriting, it pays to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Ideas Are Infinite And Sacred

My first piece of advice that I would give to any beginning songwriter is… “Never throw anything away, EVER!”

Just think, that piece of paper that you’ve thrown in the bin with some half finished lyrics penned the night before might have contained the ideas for THE song that defines you as a performer, artist or songwriter.

All it might’ve needed was a few re-writes either by yourself or, maybe with a collaborator (or two).

As a songwriter you must keep all of your scraps of paper, nonsensical ramblings on your phone and your audio snippets on your computer because songwriting ideas are infinite and sacred all at the same time.

Just hear me out here…

First of all, songwriting ideas are infinite because they are absolutely everywhere. You just have to allow yourself to be open and perceptive to them.

One songwriter may see a falling leaf and not think twice about it while another songwriter may see that same leaf as a metaphor for freedom and write a song about it.

If you take the view that songwriting ideas are infinite then you cease being protective of the songs you have already written. You then allow your songs to truly breathe, and come into being which will then lead to those songs being listened to and performed.

It also stops yourself having the view that everything that you write has to be perfect.

Remember, if you write a song that you are not sure of, don’t throw it away, just leave it and go onto something else because you’ll always think of another songwriting idea (if you allow yourself that is).

Secondly, songwriting ideas are sacred because they come from you and only you.

That alone is a reason to keep everything you write because, when you think about it, throwing away a songwriting idea is throwing away a part of you.

You should always be proud of what you create whether you feel they are good, bad or indifferent.

The good songs are the ones you perform as they are a gift from yourself to yourself.

The not so good songs should be acknowledged as the stepping stones that they are and besides, you can always go back to them later. Maybe with some more life experience under your belt plus a fresher set of eyes and ears (or maybe a collaborator) a song you’ll be proud of, will come from it.

It’s okay to write a song about world peace. It’s okay to write a song about love and it’s also okay to write a song about a falling leaf.

As long as it comes from you that’s all that matters.

Besides, if you allow yourself to be truly receptive of the world around you, you’re never going to run out of songwriting ideas.

Exciting isn’t it?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Exercise – Brainstorming Possible Song Titles

A good song title is a songwriter’s best friend because it can encapsulate the whole song in a few well chosen words and one of the best ways I’ve found to get my own songwriting process going is to brainstorm lists of possible song titles and see what comes from that.

For those who aren’t sure what “brainstorming” means, it’s the process of spontaneously coming up with ideas on a given topic, problem or task at hand.

Now in this songwriting exercise the task is not to write a complete song but to come up with at least one A4 page of possible titles for a song. Personally, I try to do this exact songwriting exercise at least twice a week and through doing this on a regular basis I now have pages and pages of songwriting ideas for me to look back on if I find myself not knowing where to go next.

Start off this exercise, by writing down the first thing that comes into your head at the top of your page and from there start writing down your possible song titles, making sure that the next phrase is either tightly or loosely derived from the first phrase.

Here’s a short example starting off with the phrase Cry Baby:

  • Cry Baby
  • Baby Don’t Cry
  • Don’t Cry For Me Baby
  • Don’t Cry
  • Why So Sad?
  • I’m So Sad
  • I’m Leaving Today

Just remember, because you are brainstorming there’s no right or wrong way of doing this exercise. You can write anything down, go off onto any tangent you like and not worry about whether you are going to use it in the future or not. It’s also important to not think about what you are writing, just be automatic, spontaneous and most importantly, have some fun with it.

Set a target of doing this for 30 minutes, two to three times a week so you can build up a comprehensive body of possible song titles to choose from.

Once you’ve been doing this exercise for a couple of weeks of doing this, have a look at what you’ve written and start to pay close attention to the phrasing and the rhythm of the possible song titles and wait for something to jump out at you. Once this happens you have the beginnings of a brand new song.

For me, looking back on what I’ve written in the past is an interesting experience in itself. It always amazes me what I’ve written once I stop second guessing my own songwriting process.

In the meantime, give this songwriting exercise a try and see what happens. Let me know how you go with it.

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 – The Blank Page Is Your Friend

Every time we write a song we start off with a blank page.

It sits there and waits patiently for us to pick up our pen and pour out our songwriting ideas from our hearts and minds onto its surface however, a blank page can mean one of two things to a songwriter.

It can either be something to be fearful of, a scary journey into the unknown, the graveyard of yet another “bad” song or, it can be a doorway to infinite songwriting idea possibilities.

Let me ask you this.

Are you free to create whatever you want, whenever you want without second guessing, self-censorship or prejudice on your part? Or, are you a songwriter that feels shackled by the belief that you must obtain some sort of quantifiable result every time you put your pen to paper?

Which headspace would you rather be in?

I know that I’m asking a lot of questions here but as songwriters, this is something we face every time we sit down to write a song and as our answers to these questions are automatic and unconscious, we wonder why at times we don’t write anything.

This is when we start blaming things like songwriters block.

So, try this the next time you sit down to write a song. Look at that blank page in front of you as your friend and playmate.

You see, just the very thought of sitting down to write a song means that there is possibility that the muse will knock on your door and ask if you can come out to play.

Remind yourself that writing a song can be one or more of these three experiences:

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

When it comes to songwriting, it doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start somewhere.

Just remember, a blank page is not proof that you’ve not written a song. It’s merely the doorway to an infinite world of songwriting idea possibilities and all you need to do is have the courage to walk through it, regardless of the outcome.

So get out of your own way and allow yourself to be free to create.

Okay, how is that blank page looking now?

Until next time, just keep writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting