All About Songwriting

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Category: Revision

Keeping Your Songwriting Simple – One Song, One Idea

As songwriters we should always be looking for ways to express what’s inside our minds and our hearts plus, what we observe externally from ourselves.

We also have to balance this need to express ourselves with the fact that we also want others to listen to our songs and relate to, embrace and make those songs a part of their lives.

Right?

So, in saying that, why do we then have the tendency to complicate the messages or statements that we’re trying to convey in our songwriting?

It should be obvious to anyone that by making things too complicated in our songs, how should we expect our listeners, our audience to relate to them?

Songs are generally between three to five minutes in length so there’s only a small window of opportunity to create a lasting impression with your listener.

The best thing that you as a songwriter can do is:

1. Create an environment in which the listener can immediately understand and relate to what you are trying to say.

Use this as your songwriting mantra…

One song, one idea
One song, one story.
One song, one point of view.
One song, one image.

2. Allow the listener to focus on your song, not be bamboozled by it.

If you try to introduce more than one idea into the song you start creating mixed messages for the listener. The last thing you want to is to confuse your listener into turning off from your song.

We live in a world in which information is instant. People today demand the information that they receive to be concise, to the point and easy to understand.

Songs, as a medium to convey information and concepts are no different.

3. Hold the listeners hand through your song and take them on the journey.

Once you have established the point/story/message of the song you have a certain amount of time to really explore that with the listener. This is where the fun begins, this is where your creativity as a songwriter comes into play.

The balance between words and rhythm becomes very important here otherwise the song becomes clumsy and hard to understand.

Here is a songwriting tip for you. Go through your songs and for each one, write down all of the points you are trying to make.

Really analyse your songs to see if you are putting too many messages in them.

If for instance you have a song in which there are three distinct message that you are trying to convey, separate the messages and write three songs about each of them.

For me, if there’s a song in which for some reason I can’t finish, it’s normally because I’m trying to say too much in it. Once I strip it back, the path which completes the song magically appears before me.

Lets see if that happens for you. If it does, let me know.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tools – The Rhyming Dictionary And Thesaurus

It’s a known fact that the world is full of words and for me, writing lyrics can be a challenge in itself and I reckon that any tools that make it easier for me to put down my songwriting ideas from head to paper need to be adapted into my songwriting process.

The two online tools I use when I need a bit of help with my lyrics are a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus.

These tools enable me to expand my vocabulary and put down my ideas in a much more original and descriptive fashion.

Writing lyrics is all about making sure that the story I’m trying to tell or the concept that I’m trying to describe is told in a way that is totally, 100% me.

To do this requires a broad understanding of the language at my disposal, hence the importance of the rhyming dictionary and thesaurus

If you go into a good bookshop you’ll be able to purchase these important songwriting tools but there are also some really good online versions available for you to use for free.

I have chosen the most popular of each version for a brief discussion.

Rhyming Dictionary

Of course when you spot a tool like this for free, it normally means that it’s a demo or sample of the commercial version. This is not like that.

This tool is an amazing database of…

  • End rhymes
  • Last syllable rhymes
  • Double rhymes
  • Triple rhymes
  • Beginning rhymes
  • First syllable rhymes

All you need to do is type in the word you want to find rhymes for and off you go. It gives you a fantastic list of results.

The way I find a rhyming dictionary useful is that I see words that I probably would not have thought of as words to end a line with.

When I spot one of these words I immediately see a whole new line flash before me and that is all I need to start writing again. I am always amazed how just one new word can launch a whole new tangent.

Of course you need to be open to the possibilities in the first place.

Thesaurus

This tool is so valuable to a songwriter no matter how experienced they are. This site is both a thesaurus and a dictionary in one so you are getting double the value from the site.

Quite simply a thesaurus is a book of synonyms. These are words that have the same or nearly the same meaning as another word.

For example, if I type the word SONG into the thesaurus I would get these results:

  • Anthem
  • Ballad
  • Chant
  • Chorus
  • Lullaby
  • Lyric
  • Melody
  • Tune

The thesaurus enables me to describe stories, concepts and situations much better. It allows me to put a new twist onto the same old phrases and cliches that I tend to fall back on when I get a stuck on something.

My challenge to you is this. Adopt both of these tools into your songwriting process and see what happens.

If you are stuck, use the tools to brainstorm ideas and let your mind become open to whatever possibility appears before you. Once the possibility is realised then run with it.

Sometimes not knowing where you are going can be a really fun thing to do.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

10 Tips To Improving Your Songwriting Process

You might have gathered by now that I am a huge believer that the ongoing and never-ending improvement of your songwriting process will enable you to write better songs regularly and consistently.

By evolving your songwriting process (through constant practise) into something that works for you and your way of doing things, gathering ideas for your next song will, in time become an automatic thing, leaving you more time to actually write.

Personally, I’m obsessive about having to get what is in my head out onto paper so for me, improving my own songwriting process is a very important part of my creative life.

Based on my own experiences and some good old fashioned research, here are 10 tips that can improve your own songwriting process:


1. Have the right tools available
You can use the latest computer technology and software to gather your songwriting ideas but at the end of the day, nothing beats a beat-up tape recorder and an A4 writing pad and pen. The simplest songwriting tools around.

2. Make a regular time to write
Even if it’s 15 minutes a day between finishing breakfast and going to work. Make the time!!

3. Have an open mind
Be open to anything that comes your way. You don’t know where the next songwriting idea will come from.

4. Let yourself go
Don’t become preoccupied with past or future. For the amount of time you have set for yourself to write you will need to be totally “in the now.”

5. Develop a single-minded focus
If you decide that an idea is worth developing into a song and you’re happy with it so far, then focus your attention on creating a song from the idea.

6. Remember, perfection does not exist
It doesn’t have to be perfect. If you need to re-write the draft then do it because it needs it not because you have to.

7. Ask lots of questions
Writing lyrics is all about exploring a story or a concept. Asking lots of questions like “does this new idea need to be in this song?” will keep you on track.

8. Walk away if need be
If it’s not flowing, just walk away and come back to the song at a later time. There is no rule that says a song needs to be finished in one sitting.

9. Practise, practise, practise and then practise some more
Any process needs to be repeated to be made automatic. Practise often.

10. Have fun
Go off into tangents, run with a songwriting idea to see where it leads you. If it leads nowhere then reflect on the journey anyway.

Either way, have fun doing what it is you love doing… Writing songs


Your songwriting process can be whatever you want it to be however, if you’re serious about having the ability to write good songs regularly and consistently, you need to start looking at how you organise yourself and your time.

I hope these ten tips have been helpful to you. Is there anything that you’d like to add to the list? If so, let me know because I’m always on the lookout for ways to make my own songwriting better.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

The Joys Of Rewriting Your Songs

Nile Rogers once said “…I know how to write and rewrite songs, and the genius is really in the rewriting.” This statement is something that I totally agree with.

I reckon, if you’re at the stage with writing your song where you need to go through it and start revisiting parts to ensure that you’re happy with it, then you’re almost at the end of the songwriting process and your song will be the better for the rewriting.

However, I didn’t always think of the rewriting part of the songwriting process in such high regard. When I was starting out on my songwriting journey, I was one of those songwriters that didn’t really like the idea of rewriting my songs.

I had heard stories of great songs that “almost wrote themselves,” and hit songs that were written in ten minutes and in one sitting and because of these stories I was under the impression that all great songs must be divinely inspired and that songs which needed to be rewritten and are hard work to complete must be doomed to failure.

I used to think that once a song is completed, that was it. To me, the concept of rewriting something that came from my heart and my soul somehow meant that I had failed in getting my message across as a songwriter.

Not so.

I was introduced to the concept of rewriting songs a while back through a writer friend of mine while having a conversation comparing the creative activities of songwriters and authors.

I told him my philosophy that once a song was completed I would just leave it and go on to the next song.

My friend then proceeded to tell me that in his world, the average word-count for a novel is between 60 and 100 thousand words. Plus, add to the mix the fact that normally he would need to complete at least three drafts of a manuscript before submitting it to a publisher.

Compared to what I did as a songwriter, there was a lot of work involved in creating the end result and I was resisting the concept of rewriting a four minute song.

What I got from the conversation was that there should be an extra step in my songwriting process. The editing/rewriting stage.

He then continued to make the point that songwriters, like authors, should look at their creations as a series of drafts. Some songs will need less editing and some will need more.

This started to make a lot of sense to me.

That conversation was a few years ago now but since then, I’ve pulled out all of my old songbooks and unreleased demo recordings I’ve made and started to go through every song I’ve ever (half) written, looking for ways in which these songs can be improved upon.

Through doing this exercise I’ve discovered that:

1. There’s always one or two lines of a song that can be strengthened. When I read through an old song and notice myself cringing at a line, that’s the time to change it for something better.

2. Older songs that I’ve written where my musical knowledge was much more limited benefit greatly with the musical knowledge I have now

3. Some of my songs were crying out for a bridge or a pre-chorus that I had not even considered before.

4. Some of my songs needed to be simplified and in doing so other songs were written from that.

When you think about it, your songbook is the aural version of a photographers portfolio. It’s always good songwriting practise to look over your completed songs from time to time with a new set of ears and edit and adjust as necessary.

It’s done wonders for my songs.

This exercise is still something that I continue to do to this day. When I’m feeling a little stuck on something I go through my old stuff to find new inspiration.

So, what do you think is the purpose of a songwriting process? Is it a competition to write a song in the shortest space of time and on the first attempt? Or, does it exist to facilitate the creation of the best song possible at the time with all of the information and tools at your disposal?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting