All About Songwriting

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Category: Miscellaneous

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

Why You Should Collaborate With Other Songwriters

Here’s a songwriting tip for you all… Sometimes, two (or more) heads are better than one when writing a song.

Songwriting doesn’t have to be something that you have to do by yourself. Some of the greatest songs ever were written by two or more people.

Examples of these great songwriting teams are:

  • Elton John/Bernie Taupin
  • Hal David/Burt Bacharach
  • Mick Jagger/Keith Richards
  • John Lennon/Paul McCartney

Working in collaboration with another songwriter can be the most rewarding thing that you can do for your songwriting process and there are a few reasons for this.

1. You can be challenged by somebody else
Some people relish the opportunity to work alone but for the most part it can be pretty lonely and un-motivating working by yourself.

Working with others keeps us honest and there is a joy in being spurred on by someone else to be your best.

2. You can cover more strengths
Maybe you are strong with lyrics and not so strong with melody or arrangements. If you choose a collaborator that has strengths in other areas then imagine what songs you can come up with?

I bet you they will be songs that you will both be happy with.

3. Brainstorming is much more fun with a collaborator
The concept of brainstorming for songwriting ideas is most effective when there are more than one songwriter participating. When you have someone else to bounce ideas off of the songwriting process seems to run more smoothly.

4. You can double the experience that you can write about
You and your collaborator are both individuals with different experiences. The amount of scope you have to write about expands.

5. You get exposed to new songwriting ideas
Working with someone else can be very eye opening. I can guarantee you that you will learn something new every time you and your collaborator get together.

6. It’s a great way to network and meet new people
You can collaborate with people that you know or you can seek a collaborator by looking on different songwriting forums, websites and organisations from all over the world.

They don’t even have to be in the same room, even in the same town or even country because you can use services like Skype to write songs. I’ve done this in the past and some songs I’m proud of have been written this way.

One of the most important thing about working with a collaborator is to have open and honest communication with each other especially after the song is written and it’s time to work out the songwriting percentages because there’s nothing that destroys a songwriting team faster than the feeling that credit is not being given where it’s due.

If you are feeling like your songwriting is in a bit of a rut, go and write with other people for a while, you wont regret it.

As a matter of fact, I’m up for a bit of song collaboration so contact me and see what we can do together.

Until next time, keep on writing

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting