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Category: Songwriting Exercise

Using Peak Hour Traffic To Your Songwriting Advantage

This particularly works for me as I do a lot of driving with my day gig.

How about this for a songwriting exercise!

The next time you find yourself stuck in peak hour traffic, instead of feeling frustrated, stressed and angry about the situation, use the time at hand to manifest songwriting ideas in your head.

I do this all the time and some of my best songwriting ideas come from utilising my downtime effectively. It is a much better use of your time and energy than stressing out over events that you have no control over.

I would use the scenery around me as reference points to get my creative juices flowing. Some general things to focus on would be…

  • The weather – How does it make me feel?
  • People in cars – What were they thinking?
  • Buildings – Any landmarks nearby?
  • How am I feeling right now?
  • What am I doing this weekend?
  • What did I do last weekend?

In theory, once I’ve developed something I’m happy to record, I just use the voice recorder function on my smartphone to put down the songwriting idea for future reference.

Of course I don’t use my phone while I’m driving.

You could use this concept in any situation where you find yourself waiting for something. Examples that come to mind would include:

  • Bank queues
  • Train crossings
  • Doctors surgery
  • Public transport

If you any other suggestions? Let me know, I’d love to hear them.

Imagine what would happen if every songwriter used these particular times to their advantage rather than to their detriment?

There would be hardly any road rage, less stress and we would be more tolerant, patient and almost looking forward to these occasions just so we can give ourselves some time to spend with the muse.

We all have the time to write. We just have to be creative with how we find it.

Until next time, get out there and WRITE,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Exercise – Expanding On Your Possible Song Titles

As I have mentioned in my last post Songwriting Exercise – Brainstorming Possible Song Titles, I generally brainstorm words and phrases for 30 minutes at a time most mornings, making sure that for every list I do I put the date on top so I know which list to look at first.

Now, if you were doing this exercise two to three times a week for a few weeks you’d have accumulated an extremely large list of possible song titles to glean some sort of inspiration from so now is the time to start working on some songs.

Here’s what you should do with your rather large possible song titles list:

1. Take the earliest list and look it over again a few times.
As you’re looking them over pretend you’re looking at the list of song titles on the inside sleeve of a CD cover. Say the phrases out loud taking special note of the melody and the rhythm of the words.

Is there anything on your list that shouts “I belong in your song?” If so, grab the phrase and write it on the top of a fresh page because you’re now going to start constructing your song from the title.

2. Start brainstorming ideas from the word or phrase.
Lets take the example of “Scrambled Eggs” (which was initially the working title for the Beatles hit “Yesterday”). What does the title remind you of or, what images does the title conjure up for you?

  • breakfast
  • morning
  • waking up
  • dreaming
  • family eating together
  • sun through the kitchen window
  • the weekend
  • being glad to be alive

By brainstorming words and phrases from the song title you are starting to make a list of word pictures and associations. This will be the beginnings of the skeleton structure of the song lyric itself.

3. Find the story/central theme of the song.
Is there a melodic or lyrical hook that you can use to underpin a chorus? Will the possible song title be enough of a hook for the song? Can you see a story or central idea of the song developing from your brainstorming?

From the list above I can see a first verse already.

I wake up in the morning
From a dream that left me warm
Sunlight shines through my window
As I walk into the kitchen
My family eating breakfast
Tells me it’s good to be alive

(Ok, I didn’t say it was going to be good)

Can you see how some of the words (or the inference of those words) in the list above made this verse possible?

4. Marry up the brainstorming ideas plus the central theme and start creating.
Continue with the expansion of your brainstorming but don’t be too concerned with song format as all you’re doing at the moment is fleshing out the songs lyrical skeleton.

Aim for completing three verses and a chorus by using this method. Remember, this is still a first draft with no music or melody attached to it.

5. Begin fine tuning your draft.
If, in your lyrical brainstorming you’ve come across a rhythmic motif or melody for your song, you can use as the basis of the song arrangement. If not, then you need to start from scratch.

How the musical arrangement is put to the song lyrics depends on the songwriter. There is however, much to-ing and fro-ing between the musical arrangement and the lyrical content with each element of the song making room for the other.

If you need to do more than one draft of your song to complete it, so be it, because at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to complete a song.

Let me ask you this… Do you generally write a song from a possible song title? If not, would you give it a go? Let me know what you think.

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. 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