Songwriting Exercise – Expanding On Your Possible Song Titles

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As I have mentioned in an earlier post titled 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?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Exercise – The Benefits Of Reverse Engineering Songs

In my previous posts “Songwriting Tip – Learn Your Craft By Studying The Songs Of Others” and “What I’ve Learnt About Songwriting By Playing Covers” I’ve outlined the importance of studying songs that you have an affinity to or, have been proven in the marketplace to further your own songwriting craft.

This video featuring well known songwriter and author of Shortcuts to Hit SongwritingRobin Frederick explaining the importance of “Reverse Engineering” songs to study them.

Reverse-Engineering Songs

For me, this is a great way to study the songwriting craft of other songwriters. Find the lyrics on the internet, print them out, get out the pen and paper and go for it

Reverse engineering a song is not copying a song or plagiarizing the lyrics, what you’re doing is learning the song-craft behind the song. It gives you, the songwriter another point of reference to use in your own songwriting.

Robin gives the example of the One Republic song “Apologize” to illustrate how she had deconstructed and reverse engineered the song and what she had learnt about it.

OneRepublic – Apologize (The original version)

She also cannot stress the importance of reverse engineering songs by saying “how else would you grow as a songwriter?” Robin goes on by saying that reverse engineering a songs establishes new habits into your songwriting process.

So get out and study some new songs, create some new habits and embrace the concept of studying songs that work by reverse engineering. You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Inspiration Can Come From Self Imposed Limitations

One of my favourite songwriters is Paul McCartney and I found a video of him on the Parkinson show describing how he wrote a song after being inspired from a Picasso print hanging up at the hospital where his first child was born.

The painting is called The Old Guitarist which depicts an old man playing a classical guitar by a window.

Paul mentions in the interview that after a week of staring at this picture while waiting for his wife Linda to recover, he had the urge to try and work out what two fingered chord the old man in the painting was playing.

From that idea he decided to see if he could write a song by limiting himself to using only two fingers on the guitar at all times.

Here is the video of his interview with Michael Parkinson…

Two Fingers – Paul McCartney

This really shows the genius of Paul McCartney at work and how through setting your own limitations, you can create your own inspiration.

On further research I discovered that the song in question became When the Wind Is Blowing an unreleased song from around the time Paul McCartney’s RAM album was recorded in 1970…

Paul McCartney: When The Wind Is Blowing

Have you ever set up some self imposed limitations as a way to write a song?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Exercise – The Blank Piece Of Paper Is Your Friend

Every time we sit down to write a song we start off with a blank piece of paper.

It waits patiently for us to pick up our pen and pour our songwriting ideas from our hearts and minds onto its surface.

However, a blank piece of paper can be one of two things to a songwriter:

1. Something to be fearful of, a scary journey into the unknown, the graveyard of yet another ‘bad’ song

or…

2. The doorway to a world of infinite songwriting idea possibilities. A place where the muse eagerly waits for you to come in and play.

Let me ask you this.

Are you free to create whatever you want, whenever you want without prejudice? Or, are you a writer that feels shackled by the belief that you must obtain a quantifiable result every time you put pen to paper?

Which headspace would you rather see yourself be in?

I know 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.

But our answers to these questions are normally automatic and therefore unconscious, and we wonder why we’re not writing anything.

This is when we start blaming things like songwriters block.

Try this the next time you sit down to write a song.

Look at the blank piece of paper in front of you as your friend, your playmate. Just the very thought of sitting down to write a song means that the muse has knocked on your door and asked if you could come out to play.

So play.

A blank piece of paper is not proof that you haven’t written anything. It’s the doorway to an infinite world of songwriting ideas 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 without prejudice.

How is your blank paper looking now?

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 way I’ve found to get my songwriting process going is to brainstorm a list of possible song titles.

For those who don’t know, brainstorming is the process of spontaneously coming up with ideas on a given topic, problem or task at hand.

In this songwriting exercise the task is not to write a complete song but to come up with at least an A4 page of possible titles for a song.

Personally, I try to do this at least twice a week and through doing this exercise on a regular basis I have pages and pages of songwriting ideas for me to look back on.

When you do this songwriting exercise, jot down at the top of your page the first thing that comes into your head and then using that phrase start writing down 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

(I think you’re starting to get my drift here)

Remember, because you are brainstorming there is 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 important to not even think about what you are writing, just be automatic, spontaneous and most importantly… Have fun with it.

Treat this songwriting exercise like it’s some kind of word game that you’re having with yourself. Set a target of doing this for 30 minutes, two to three times a week and build up a body of song titles.

After a couple of weeks of doing this, have a look at what you have written and start to pay close attention to the phrasing and the rhythm of the words and wait for something to jump out at you.

Once this starts to happen you have the beginnings of a brand new song.

For me, looking back on what I’ve written in the past is a very interesting experience in itself. It always amazes me what I write down when I stop second guessing my songwriting process and just let it happen.

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

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting