Songwriting Process – Reading Books For Lyrical Inspiration

oldbooks

We have so much information around us these days yet I still hear so many songwriters complain that they can’t find anything to write about.

The way that I look at it, there’s so many ways in which a songwriter can be inspired that it’s almost impossible to not find anything to write about.

Personally, one of the ways that I’ve found which really gets my creative juices flowing is immersing myself in the many forms of media that I’m exposed to every day, such as newspapers, TV and magazines.

It’s not what type media that has the potential to inspire, but how it’s used and today I’m talking about books.

Now, I’ll admit it. I don’t read enough. In fact, we as a society don’t read enough and there are many reasons for this but let me tell you, when I start reading a book I start feeling guilty.

It’s very strange I know, but when I read a book I start getting feelings that there’s something else that I could be doing besides taking time out for myself, sitting in a comfortable chair and reading.

This is a great example of my inner critic hard at work.

I was talking to a songwriting friend of mine about this some time ago and he made a suggestion that was remarkable in its simplicity.

He said to me “why don’t you use reading a book as part of your songwriting process.”

I never thought of reading a book in that way but the more we discussed the concept the more excited I became about it. I knew that this was going to open some doors for my own songwriting.

Simply put, use books as a reference library of words, phrases, quotes, statements and sentences that you can use for your songs.

Now, I’m not talking about plagiarism here, just a shifting of your perspective by using other peoples words to form newly created perspectives in your own mind. It’s from these new perspectives that you write your songs from.

I’m going to start experimenting with this technique and here’s what I’ll be doing.


1. I start off with my book, a writing pad plus a highlighter pen (only use the highlighter it if the book is yours).

2. I read one chapter at a time rather than as many pages as I can in one sitting.

3. As I’m reading, any phrase, words or sentence that either jumps out at me or I feel some affinity with, I write it down or highlight with my pen. I then re-read the sentence so I don’t lose track of the story.

4. If there’s a passage that moves me I stop and write down what I’m feeling at the time. Some questions I’d be asking of myself could be:

  • How do I relate to this?
  • Is there a story for a song in this?

5. At the end of the chapter I write a synopsis of it in my journal.

6. If one of my captured lyrical ideas has a melody attached to it, I then get my guitar out and start formulating something with it.


At the moment this experiment is purely theoretical. It is not perfect by any means but if I can read my favourite book and gain songwriting ideas at the same time that’s got to be a good thing.

I’ll let you know how I go with this.

As with any songwriting process, one songwriters way of doing things will be different to another. All I can do is try it out and see what happens.

However, if you have any suggestions on how I can improve this fledgling songwriting technique or, if you want to try this experiment yourself, let me know and we can start comparing notes

I’m excited…

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

My Songwriting Process – How I Cultivate My Songwriting Ideas

fishing

Well, seeing that for the last nine months I’ve been putting together a songwriting blog called All About Songwriting, I thought it was about time I revealed to you how I get my songwriting ideas.

Now, my songwriting process may work for some but not for others but hey, if you want to give my method a go you have my permission to do so.

Before I start, let me just say that for me, writing a song is like fishing and my songwriting process is the equivalent to baiting the hook to get a bite.

So, with that in mind, let’s go fishing. Here’s how I do it…

1. Have a tape recorder/smartphone plus notepad and pen ready to go.
By getting your songwriting tools together at the ready you’re now baiting your hook and throwing the line in but you better be ready when the songwriting idea bites.

2. Pick up your instrument of choice, and start noodling.
What I mean by noodling is, don’t play anything in particular, just improvise. Let your creative juices start flowing and let your mind wander wherever it wants to go.

Don’t worry if what you’re playing sounds like something else and especially don’t worry if you are playing your stock standard, tried and tested favourite chords.

Just enjoy these bonding moments between you and your instrument. You’re fishing the sea of infinite songwriting ideas.

If you feel like singing but you don’t have anything concrete in mind just sing some improvised, non-sensical lyrics to accompany your noodlings. Engage yourself in the rhythm of the words not the meaning of the words.

3. Pay attention to what you play and be prepared to go off on tangents.
The more you noodle the more you’ll notice that what may seem familiar at first will become less so. If you stumble across something which makes you say to yourself “ooh, that sounds nice,” run with it, explore it.

This leads to the next step.

4. Stop noodling and start exploring – You’ve just got a bite!
A songwriting idea has taken your bait and now is the time to reel that sucker in and make some sense out of it. Play what you’ve discovered over and over again and get a little familiar with it.

What you’re doing here is formulating a skeleton structure for the newly discovered songwriting idea.

5. Record the songwriting idea and (if you can) write down the chords on paper
Once you’re familiar with the songwriting idea start recording it, nonsensical gobbledigook lyrics and all. If anything, recording your songwriting ideas will enable you to tell one idea apart from another.

6. Leave it alone and start noodling again.
Once you’ve recorded the idea go back to the beginning of the songwriting process.

What you’ve recorded is not meant to be a completed masterpiece. It is only the concrete beginnings of a songwriting idea and there’s plenty more where that came from. The time to refine the idea is not now, it’s later.

Getting back to comparing this process to fishing, when you finally catch a fish you don’t then stop everything to prepare the fish to be eaten don’t you? You store the fish and continue.

It’s the same with songwriting ideas.

Rinse and repeat as many times as you like… How long you want to keep fishing is totally up to you (or as long as your schedule allows).

This is the main way that I gather my songwriting ideas. It may not work for everyone but it works for me. I would be interested what people think of it so if you have any questions and/or feedback then feel free to let me know.

And another thing, don’t be concerned with getting a result straight away. If you start noodling and all you do is noodle then that’s fine. You can always try again next time.

Practice makes perfect but the most important thing about this exercise is that you’re perfecting your songwriting process, not the end result at this stage.

Turning your songwriting ideas into completed songs comes later (but I will cover that later)

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Process – Starting With A Song Title

title

In my opinion, one of the best ways to kickstart your songwriting process is by using a possible song title as your foundation phrase to build your song from.

Gary Ewer in his article “Starting The Songwriting Process With The Title” reinforces the power that a song title has in the craft of song creation.

In his article, Gary writes…

“…Starting with the (song) title gives you a few distinct advantages. It makes it more likely that you’ll be able to develop a catchy hook which will help with the development of the rest of the song. It also helps lyric development by having a key line you can focus on.”

From that, it seems that by having some sort of point of reference such as the song title, filling in the lyrical blanks can become less of a challenge.

Read the article here and while you’re at it, think about starting a list of possible song titles of your own.

In fact, if you do feel free to share some of your possible titles, you never know there might a song or two waiting to be released into the world.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

The Illusion Of Songwriting Perfection

construction

Recently, I was chatting to a songwriter friend of mine about the pain he experiences while writing songs.

He said that he’s great at starting songs but lousy at finishing them (well, aren’t we all).

My friend also told me his philosophy for his songwriting process is, “if the song is not perfect then the song isn’t worth finishing.”

WTF! No wonder he’s experiencing the pain of songwriters block.

I think that the concept of “if the song is not perfect then the song isn’t worth finishing” is something that’s more common among songwriters than we care to admit.

So, allow me to be a little blunt here. This struggle for songwriting perfection kills people.

It kills their creativity, kills their inspiration and sometimes (in extreme circumstances) the drive to perfection can kill a person physically.

There is a huge difference between being driven to write great songs and being driven to write perfect songs.

In my reply to his statement I said “…why don’t you try not to see songwriting as a means to an end (the hit song) but as a way of letting yourself go?”

As songwriters, how much pressure do we put yourselves under? A lot!

Is it worth it? NO!

The notion of songwriting perfection in anything is but a mere illusion. It’s created by the ego and massaged into existence by insecurity, jealousy, doubt, low self esteem and shame.

Songwriting should be a celebration of life, of letting yourself go, setting yourself free and playing around with your creativity. It’s not about reminding yourself how inadequate you are because you compare yourself needlessly to other songwriters.

Always remember that there’s not another one of you on this planet so therefore your experiences, your thoughts, your insights, your feelings, your dreams, your desires, your observations and the way that you question life, universe and everything around it are uniquely yours, and yours alone.

What does that mean? It means that…

1. There is no point in comparing yourself to others as there is no one else but you to compare yourself to in the first place

2. Being the unique creature that you are whatever you say is always very, very important.

The concept of perfection would only exist if there was something perfect to aspire to in the first place.

Now granted, there have been some amazing songs written in the past and there will be amazing songs that have not yet been written in the future, but none of those songs are “perfect” and they never, ever will be.

We, like our songwriting, are all works in progress.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Process – Jonathan Coulton And The Pre-Song

jonathancoulton

One songwriter who is a constant inspiration for me is Jonathan Coulton.

He’s the guy that in 2005, left his job as a software developer and launched himself into music by writing a song a week for a year and putting it on his website. This gained him the notoriety and profile needed to move his career forward.

To this day he is 100% DIY and his legions of fans all over the world love him for it.

While scanning through his website I came across one of his articles which describes the concept of recording songwriting ideas no matter how underdeveloped they might be.

Jonathan calls these snippets “Pre-Songs.”

In the article he goes on by saying that “…they (his pre-songs) are extremely raw and not meant to be listened to, they’re recorded in Ableton Live through the laptop mic, and often I can’t actually play them correctly. But generally they’re the very beginning stages of my process, when I’ve got a line or two maybe, a guitar part I like, a chord change I want to use.”

The great thing about this article is that Coulton puts up a few examples of his pre-songs to show how they sound like and how it’s okay for them to be incomplete as no-one else is going to hear them except you.

I’m proud to say that recording “pre-songs” is an integral part of my songwriting process and it should be part of yours too.

Have a read of the full article here.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Process – The Joy Of Rewriting Your Songs

You know, I don’t know of any songwriter that really likes the thought of re-writing their work.

But from time to time, you hear stories regarding hit songs that “almost wrote themselves,” hit songs that were written in ten minutes and in one sitting.

I wonder how many times it actually happens that way?

What do you think is the purpose of a songwriting process? It’s certainly not a competition to write a song in the shortest space of time and on the first attempt.

No, a songwriting process exists to facilitate the creation of the best song possible at the time with all of the information and tools at your disposal.

Now I used to think that once a song is completed, that was it. To me, the concept of re-writing 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 re-writing 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 told 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 worried about re-writing a four minute song.

What I eventually got from what he was saying was that there should be an extra step in my songwriting process. The editing stage.

He 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 to me made a lot of sense.

Since that conversation, I’ve got out my old songbooks and started to go through every song I’ve ever (half) written, looking for ways in which my songs can be improved upon or edited down.

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 me.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

How To Write A Song – Organising Your Songwriting Ideas

There are many ways in which you can be shown how to write a song and one of those ways is demonstrated in an article written by GK Eckert called “Songwriting – How To Write A Song – Stirring The Pot.”

In this article Eckert outlines the way she organises her songwriting ideas.

She then demonstrates how she “stirs the pot” in order to gain some traction from one of these ideas in order to complete a song at the end of the process.

Here is the article “Songwriting – How To Write A Song – Stirring The Pot.”

Enjoy.


Songwriting – How To Write A Song – Stirring The Pot
By GK Eckert

Songwriting is a process. If you want to do it professionally you need to have a system.

While you need to find your own way, you can certainly pick up a lot of tricks from those of us who have been at it for awhile. If you want to smoothen out your process and pump out lots of good songs easily, then “stirring the pot” will help a lot.

Works in Progress – Folder System

Before I get to “stirring the pot,” I want to explain my works in progress “folder system.” I will restate that this process is for the serious songwriter, someone who wants to write many songs, perhaps selling them to other artists.

So, in this system I use many folders that represent different stages of completion.

Inside each folder is a separate sheet for each idea, song title or chord progression. That way you can easily add to your idea as it develops. If ideas go together to become one song, staple the sheets together.

Each page represents one song regardless of its state of completeness. You can have as many folders as you like and label them as you like.

Some examples could be:

  • Rough song ideas, lyrics only
  • Cool chord progressions
  • Melodic ideas only
  • Structured songs
  • Songs nearly finished

Those are just some ideas. Logically, your songs move from folder to folder, until they make their way out of the folders to a completely finished song.

Session warm-up – Visit each Folder

Each writing session, visit each folder. Look through what you have in there. If any ideas come to you, write them down. Don’t force anything. Just read through or play through whatever you have, adding whatever comes to you.

This isn’t really the heart of your session, this is just a warm-up. So if you write nothing new, it doesn’t matter.

Once you’ve been at it awhile, you’ll have pretty fat folders. So don’t look at everything each time you visit. Just glance in each one. If there’s lots of stuff, look at different things each time you visit. Try to visit daily if you can.

Choose your well structured folder or almost finished folder

It takes awhile to get stuff in your folders, but once you do, then you’ll have choices.

First, go through several songs. If you have a lot of them, pick ten or more. Play through them or read through them. Wherever you left off, see if you can add a word, a chord, a line. If something comes fine.

If not fine. Move onto the next song.

When you reach a song that starts coming and I mean it should be easy and flowing, not laboured. Once you reach one that’s flowing, put the rest away and sit down to work on that song and make that song the focus of your session.

Stirring the Pot

So what you have just done, is what I call “stirring the pot.” By visiting your songs and just reading over them or playing them, you are “stirring the pot” of that particular song. You are keeping that song active in your mind — in your imagination. By glancing in your idea folders, you are keeping those ideas active too.

Don’t decide that today you going to finish this song or that song! Just let the ideas come to you. If you “stir the pot” regularly, the ideas will come.

Sometimes you’ll add a word, sometimes a line – sometimes finish a song – sometimes nothing

Sometimes you’ll add a word here and there, maybe a couple of ideas in your idea folder and that might be the extent of it. But if you “stir the pot,” the ideas are brewing.

Don’t demand results and don’t be attached to when they come. The less attached you are to results the more quickly the ideas will come.

Intend merely to visit your songs, your wonderful ideas, your beautiful chords — spend some time and have some fun. The rest will just unfold for you.

And that my friends are “stirring the pot..” So, stir your pot and stir it regularly. Happy Songwriting!


About The Author

Gail Karen (G.K.) Eckert is a vocalist, musician, songwriter, author and teacher. She founded Musikhaus Studio of Creativity in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada in 1987.

She has written numerous articles on learning to be a pro songwriter. She will soon be releasing a new ebook “Songwriting” – The Magic of Writing Songs.


I must say that I saw some similarities between what she does and what I do in my own songwriting process. It’s nice to feel validated in this way.

For me, this article shows that by not throwing any of your songwriting ideas away and organising them in such a way that you can revisit them at any time, you will give yourself more of a chance to finish your songs.

What do you think? How organised are you with your songwriting ideas?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Process – 6 Steps To Beating The Blank Page

I’m constantly on the lookout for information online that is relevant to songwriters no matter where it comes from.

A great example of this is an article written by Robert Peters that I discovered today on one of my favourite blogging/online marketing blogs Copyblogger.

His article is called “6 Tips For Beating The Blank Page” and it’s all about the writing process of author Roald Dahl who wrote “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” amongst other things.

Through his visit to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Robert distilled Dahl’s writing process into 6 steps.

1. Capture Every Idea
2. Create A Place To Work
3. Create A Routine
4. Use The Right Tools
5. Perfect Your Writing
6. Do The Work

The bottom line to the whole article according to Robert is that…

“… it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing stories for children about Oompa-Loompas, or sharing your knowledge by publishing content to market your business — collecting ideas, creating a space to work and a routine, redrafting your content and getting it published are crucial.”

I couldn’t agree more. What do you think?

You can go to the original article “6 Tips For Beating The Blank Page” HERE

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

The Importance Of Making Time For Your Songwriting

As a songwriter, have you ever finished your day saying to yourself “Man, where did that day go?”

Did you ever feel that you always run out of time to spend it writing songs?

Well Gary Ewer from the “Essential Secrets Of Songwriting” blog may have the answer.

He suggests that you actually build in songwriting time into your day rather than try to find time after the fact. In one of his latest blog post titled “The Importance Of A Songwriting Schedule” Gary mentions that…

“…many songwriters treat the writing of music with the same level of importance that they treat picking up a chocolate bar. If you find yourself frequently suffering from writer’s block, the lack of a daily schedule is probably one of the most likely causes.”

He then says (and this is the important part)…

“…when your day is done and you’re crawling into bed, do you usually know when you’re going to be doing songwriting the next day? If not, you should.”

Reading this post really made me think about how much more attention I should be paying to my own songwriting schedule. I’m sure that it will make you think about how much more songwriting you could do too.

You can find the original blog post here

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Process – Behind The Scenes With Dave Stewart And Joss Stone

Here is an intimate video snapshot of Dave Stewart and Joss Stone writing a song called “I Don’t Want To Be Your Landlord Anymore” at about 3am in the morning feeling the worse for wear after a few drinks.

This video shows me that no matter who you are, the process of writing a song is very similar. Everyone has to start from somewhere, even world renowned songwriters/artists like Dave Stewart and Joss Stone.

It kind of reminds me of some of the late night songwriting sessions that I’ve been involved with.

Enjoy…

Dave Stewart and Joss Stone Writing "I Don't Want To Be Your Landlord Anymore"

Oh and BTW, you can listen to the completed demo of  “I Don’t Want To Be Your Landlord Anymore” on Dave Stewart’s Website.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting