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Category: Songwriting Tips (Page 1 of 2)

Songwriting – The More You Know, The More You Need To Learn

In order to master the craft of songwriting you must first embrace the fact that there’s always something to learn about it.

The more you know the more you need to learn.

I know of some songwriters that are either bored or restless with their craft. They complain that everything that they do all sounds the same and therefore they feel they’re not expanding and growing as songwriters.

However, in life, there are people that do things and people that don’t. Which category a songwriter falls into is not determined by genetics or how far the moon rises in Uranus.

It’s all determined by their attitude and as a songwriter, how you master your chosen craft is determined by you and you alone.

One of my ongoing goals is getting advanced musical theory and guitar lessons. I’ve mentioned this to a select number of friends and they all ask me “why?”

My reply is “why not!”

I have been playing music and writing songs since I was 12 and besides learning clarinet and studying music theory and composition in high school I have not had any other tuition in my life.

I am mostly a self taught musician.

It would be arrogant of me to think that I have nothing else to learn so I’m going to find out where my learning gaps are and I’m then going to fill them in with some new knowledge.

Doing this can only make me a better songwriter and musician.

My advice to anyone regarding learning an instrument to help you with your songwriting is threefold:

1. If you’ve ever considered learning an instrument then consider no more, start learning. Don’t believe the rubbish that some will tell you about being too old and things like that.

2. If you already play an instrument consider getting lessons no matter how proficient you are. The more proficient you are at your instrument the more important your choice of tutor will be.

3. If you already get lessons, make more of an effort to practise, learn to love it and find the time to do it. Challenge yourself with the lessons, try to feel your mind expand with the knowledge you gain from it.

Seek out books on songwriting, buy them and read them. Take notes and do what is needed to assimilate the new knowledge into your songwriting process.

Go onto the web and sign up to songwriting resources, forums, and communities. Ask lots and lots of questions.

In your research you’ll come across people you feel comfortable communicating with, keep in contact with them. Network and expand your relationships.

If you want to contact me and ask questions feel free to do so, just contact me through this blog and I will get back to you.

In short, get out of your comfort zone.

If you feel you have been spending precious energy complaining and not enough energy doing then stop, re-evaluate and change your attitude towards your songwriting.

It can be done, I know because I have done this for myself.

Reward yourself (and your songwriting) by embracing new knowledge and you will never, ever look back. In fact, let me know how you go with it.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Six Ways To Improve Your Song

This post was directly inspired by a recent Bobby Owsinski article called “Six Traits Of A Badly Written Song.”

The six traits that constitutes a “badly written song” that Bobby outlines in his article are as follows:

  • The song is too long
  • The song has no focus
  • The song has a weak chorus
  • The song has no bridge
  • The song suffers from a poor arrangement
  • The song has no intro/outro hook

Now, I wanted to do something a little different and write the opposite to what Bobby wrote about in his article and from that premise, “Six Ways To Improve Your Song” was born.

Here are my six ways to improve your song (based on Bobby Owsinski’s article):

1. Shorten your song
There is nothing worse for a listener than to have to sit through an extended intro, outro, guitar solo or, overly repeated choruses that go nowhere.

Unless the length of the song is part of the context or story of it, consider cutting some of the padding out.

2. Create some focus for your song
Nothing confuses a listener more than a song that tries to do far too much with the limited amount of time it has at its disposal.

If you can maintain a “one song, one idea” principle to your songwriting then you’re winning half the battle.

3. Enable your chorus to be strong and proud
The part of the song that underpins everything is the chorus. It’s what listeners remember most about your song and it’s almost always the part of the song that the listener relates to the most.

Your chorus needs to be as strong as it can be to maintain the listeners attention.

4. Consider adding a bridge to your song
This was probably the only point in Bobby Owsinski’s article that I didn’t agree with. Not all songs need a bridge in them however I do concede that there is a trend to include a bridge to facilitate some point of difference in the song.

If you feel that your song is sounding a little repetitive then perhaps a bridge is the answer. A really good example of a songwriter who uses the bridge to perfection is Sting.

5. Make your arrangement work for the song, not against it
When you take your song further from the simple demo stage you’ll need to take into consideration the overall “song arrangement” meaning the incorporation of other instruments and production layer to your song.

When recording a full song arrangement, don’t let lost in all of the technology and the temptation to include all of the bells and whistles in your recording.

Always keep the simple essence of your song in mind and work from that.

6. Include an intro/outro hook
A intro hook (whether it be a riff or a unique sound/chordal sequence) enables the listener to have something to grab onto.

A perfect example of this is “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. As soon as you hear the opening riff you know what song it is and this is what makes this song a timeless work of pop art.

What do you think improves or detracts from a song? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and while you’re at it, go to the original article “6 Traits Of A Badly Written Song.”

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Develop A Sense Of Wonder About Everything

“Everyone has at least five great albums in them” – Chris Martin, Coldplay

I remember seeing an interview with Chris Martin and Will Champion from Coldplay on the TV a little while ago and the thing that interested me most about that interview was the discussion about their songwriting process and philosophy behind it all.

Chris Martin said that…

“…the world is an amazing place for many different reasons and that he couldn’t understand why songwriters felt that they have nothing to write about.”

He also went on to say that

“…everyone has a voice, and has a story to tell about something.”

Bravo Chris, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Developing a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around you is one of the keys to keeping your songwriting process fresh and inspiring.

Imagine what it would be like if everything that you perceived, inspired you enough to write down how you felt for the sole purpose of sharing your feelings with everyone else, without the pressure of having some sort of end result happening or, the need of approval from an external source to justify your existence.

It would be a feeling of liberation.

This is what happens when you develop a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around you. I know it’s a big ask but it’s not an impossible thing to do.

Have you noticed how young children look at the world. It’s like they are experiencing every moment for the first time.

That is the feeling I’m talking about.

In developing this skill, the first thing to do is to understand the notion of creativity.

Dictionary.com defines the word creativity as

“…the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods and interpretation.”

To create something means that you cause something to exist or bring into being from nothing.

This is an amazing concept, what wonderful pieces of work we human beings are.

Did you know however that as human beings, this is a talent we all have?

Developing wonder and curiosity in your life takes a lot of mindfulness and practice. You can start by asking yourself the question “what am I feeling right now?” and start writing it down, all the feelings and their descriptions.

While you are doing listen to what is going on inside your mind and I bet you are hearing things like:

  • What a stupid question to ask
  • This is a waste of time
  • This doesn’t mean anything
  • You could be doing something else
  • This is not important

Stop! You are hearing the very reason there are less songs in the world than there could be.

The Inner Critic.

Now that you have acknowledged the existence of your inner critic keep going with the exercise and take note of the chatter getting more and more intense.

Once you feel you can’t stand the chatter any longer, stop what you’re doing and have a look at what’s in front of you. It might look like incoherent nonsense or, it might be the beginnings of a brand new songwriting idea.

Either way, you asked yourself a question and your own innate sense of wonderment and curiosity enabled you to find the answer.

By repeating this exercise in your everyday life, in this form of mindfulness you’ll be able to look at everything that you perceive as a creative possibility of existence from nothing.

If I try to put all this in some sort of formula it might look something like this.

(wonder + curiosity + questions) + action = creativity

There are an infinite amount of songwriting ideas in you and out there for you to write about, all you’ve got to do is to get out of your own way let yourself do it. You do have a story to tell.

What’s your story hiding deep inside of you, waiting to be unleashed into the world?

Write a song about it…

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Learn Your Craft By Studying Other Peoples Songs

Let me make one thing very clear… By saying that, as songwriters, we should be learning our craft by studying the songs of other songwriters, I’m not saying that you should be copying another peoples song and calling them your own.

What I am saying is that, by asking yourself what songs you like to hear and then studying those songs to define why you like them and what unique voice you can give to it is a great start towards improving your own songwriting.

Just as a painter goes through a number of drafts from rough sketches to a finished painting, we as songwriters can do the same thing with our songs.

Sometimes its good to play around with other peoples songs just to see what happens. I mean, isn’t the ultimate goal of a songwriter (or any creative person for that matter) is to find their own voice and to share that voice with the rest of the world?

One of the best ways in which a songwriter can find their own voice is through the process of imitation. Imitation is how we developed our own personalities in the first place.

As children growing up, we initially got our cues in life by copying what everybody else was doing. At this time in our lives we were doing everything for the first time.

We had no point of reference of our own to compare with back then so we had to utilise someone else’s.

We were imitating the people closest to us… Our parents.

It’s the same with songwriting. How do we know how special and unique our voices are if we don’t first compare it with others?

Ask yourself three simple questions and you’ll be well on your way to starting your own songwriting study project:

1. Who are my favourite artists/bands?
2. What are my favourite songs?
3. Which artist, band or song is popular at the moment?

With your favourite artists or bands, list the reasons why you are so attracted to them. Is it the emotional content of their songs? Is it the way they play live? Is it their philosophy on life?

By doing this you are finding out what makes you tick on an emotional level.

Your favourite songs might be from your list of artists and bands but then again they might be from others.

Songs are sometimes really funny things. They can get into your psyche and wreak complete havoc or they can allow wonderful memories to never be forgotten. The list of songs that you’ll have in front of you will be the physical and tangible benchmark of where your own songs will be based from.

By looking at what is popular at the moment you’ll have an idea as to what the listening public are tuning into right now!

Your own taste in artists, bands and songs may not be the same but it is still good to put all of your preferences aside and study what is happening now as well as what you like.

Immerse yourself in this exercise, start listening and researching lots of music and keep writing along the way.

If you play an instrument start learning your favourite songs and play them around the house. Notice the form of the song, the chords and arrangement used and the melody and how it fits with the rhythm.

If you don’t play an instrument, that’s fine. Get the lyrics and study how the words fall together to allow you to paint a picture in your mind or to follow a well told story. Sing or hum the melody and try to feel where it is going.

Does it take you on a journey or do you have to work with it to have the song make sense to you?

Once you’ve done that, write a song in the style of your favourite artist or take one of your favourite songs, write out the chords and invert them and see what happens. Play around, experiment with speed and pitch. If you have a capo for your guitar, use that.

But, no matter what happens… Don’t let your inner critic tell you that this exercise is a waste of time.

Always remember you don’t have to promote or perform every song that you write. Some songs will be a stepping stone to the next one. The song you write from this exercise today may be the first draft of another song that you might write tomorrow.

As you’re doing this you’ll discover what works for you and what doesn’t. Eventually the sum total of what works plus your own experiences and emotional triggers will be the beginnings of your own songwriting voice.

Give it a go, creativity is supposed to be fun. Let me know how you go with it

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Write Your Songs With The Listener In Mind

Why are some songs embraced by the general public and some are not?

Does it have anything to do with talent? Or how much money is thrown at it? Or its production values?

Maybe.

However, I think the main reason that a song is embraced by the general public is that the general public “gets” the song. It’s like the songwriter wrote the song with the listener in mind.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of judging song competitions and mentoring a lot of up-and-coming songwriters and one of the major songwriting mistakes that I’ve come across is that the songwriter has not included me (the listener) in their song.

They have not acknowledged the fact that there’s another person listening to their song by not including me in their musical story or conversation.

When this happens I’m always left with a slightly cold feeling in my heart and I’m left asking the question “well, what was all that about?”

Let me tell you, if a seasoned songwriter like myself can be left out in the cold in this way, imagine how your potential audience would feel if the same thing happened to them?

I’ve heard songwriters from time to time say things to me like…

  • “I only write songs for myself and no-one else”
  • “If other people like my songs then it’s a bonus”
  • “I don’t care what other people think. I write for me”

Now, statements like this are fine if you’re a songwriter who write songs only for yourself and no-one else (if that’s the case then great) however, I know that there are many others out there who don’t fit into that category.

I mean, Lets face it… We, as songwriters generally want as many people as possible to hear our songs. Am I right?

Of course I am.

Therefore, it would make sense that if you write your songs with the listener in mind then your chances of a greater number of people hearing your songs would dramatically increase. Does this make sense to you?

Of course it does.

“So, how do we do this?” I hear you ask. Well, my answer would be this…

“Respect the listener and write your songs for them and not for yourself.”

It’s a simple concept, but it’s hard to master. That’s why songwriting is called a craft.

Writing a song that touches, moves and inspires people to listen to it lies squarely in the ability of the songwriter to involve the listener in the song.

A well written song takes the listener by the hand and walks beside them on whatever journey it takes them. As a songwriter you want the listener to know what your song is about after all, if a listener “gets” your song they also “get” you as well.

There’s a quote that’s normally associated with sales training that sums up beautifully what I am trying to say here. It goes a bit like this…

“In order to be understood first you must seek to understand”

You need to write your song with the listener in mind, you need to realise that the average listener wants to embrace your song without jumping through too many musical hoops and in the shortest amount of time.

Is writing songs for your listener as well as yourself “selling out?” No, I don’t think so.

What you are really doing by including the listener into your songwriting process is creating a gift for the listener and through the act of creating, you are also giving a gift to yourself.

Remember, seek to understand your listener through your songwriting and they will understand you through your songs. THAT is the craft of songwriting.

What do you think? Is writing songs with the listen in mind a great way to extend the conversation and relationship between you, the songwriter and your audience? Or, is it selling out? Let me know what you think.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Using Cliches To Your Songwriting Advantage

There are many songwriting articles around telling us how bad cliches are for songwriting and that they should be eliminated from your life but for me, the question still remains…

“Is it possible to completely eradicate cliches from your songwriting?”

Well, I believe that you can’t completely eradicate cliches but you can look at them from another perspective. You can look at them as a possible songwriting tool.

Wikipedia defines a cliche as “…an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating…” and while I was doing some research for this post I came across a website called ClicheList and I was really surprised with what I found.

I discovered how deep rooted cliches are in our everyday language and how there were some cliches listed on the site that I thought weren’t cliches.

Now I hear you asking… “how can ClicheList help me with my songwriting?”

Well, the beauty ClicheList is that it contains a very concise list of phrases that have become cliches over time plus, it also gives you the place of origin and the meaning behind the cliche which can give you ideas on how perhaps rephrase the cliche into something more original.

You see, by knowing the meaning behind the cliche you can then internalise that into your own experience and come up with something that comes from you and you only.

A good example of rephrasing a cliche to a songs advantage is the Toni Braxton song “Un-Break My Heart” (written by Dianne Warren) which is a rephrasing of “Break My Heart” a well worn cliche in its own right.

Here’s how you can rephrase a cliche to your advantage. Pick a cliche and play around with the phrase and the meaning behind it.

Write the cliche down on a piece of paper and try to match an event in your life that fits in with the meaning of it. By personalising the cliche you are changing its meaning to you from a global one to a unique one.

From there, you can start brainstorming your own phrases, lines and ideas from the rephrased cliche but these will be borne from your own experiences and knowledge. I believe that this is how you can use cliches to your songwriting advantage.

Here are some other cliche websites for you to check out:

What are your favourite cliches? I’d love to know what they are as there might be a song lurking underneath it.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Sometimes You’ve Just Got To Walk Away

The productivity of your songwriting process can be a very hard thing to predict at times. Some days it’s like writing songs is the easiest thing to do in the world while on other days it’s an impossible task just trying to put pen to paper.

When this happens, one of the best ways I’ve found to diffuse this creative stalemate is to simply walk away from the song, do something different and came back to it at a later date.

When I mean walk away, I mean take a complete break from your song. No more going over the song in your head, no more listening to draft recordings and no more playing your guitar or piano either.

Generally, this creative stalemate occurs when you’ve been doing things like over-thinking your songwriting process which will mentally exhaust you because you’re working harder and not smarter with your songwriting process.

This is why creating some distance between you and your song can be the best thing you can do for it because we all know that once your mind becomes stressed and fatigued nothing comes easy for you let alone the next line for your song.

You see, what taking a break does is that it resets your ears, your eyes, your senses, your headspace and your imagination so you can hear, look, feel, perceive and imagine your new song with a completely fresh perspective.

So what do you do in your time off from your song? Well, the short answer is… “Anything you want as long as it’s not songwriting related.”

You can go for a walk, read a book, have a bath, call up a friend, do some gardening, get on with some housework, go for a drive, anything to take your attention away from the creative stalemate you’ve found yourself in.

I can assure you, when you get back to your song (and only you will know when that time is), you’ll be experiencing your song like it was the first time which will make it easier to move your creativity forward towards completion.

Remember, if you’re finding it hard to finish your song, it might just pay to walk away and come back to it when you’re feeling much more relaxed and refreshed.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

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 Tip – Mind Mapping Your Songwriting Ideas

You know what… I love mind maps.

I love them because I’m a visual person, and developing a songwriting idea by using a mind map really helps me write my song lyrics more clearly and effectively.

Right now though you’re probably asking “what the hell is this mind map?” Well, according to Wikipedia a mind map is:

…a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

This mind mapping exercise is a simple, but a very effective way of fleshing out the body of a song from a single idea, phrase or a word. It shows that from one single idea, many ideas will form.

Here’s how I do it.

1. I take my idea, phrase or word and write it in the middle of a piece of paper and draw a circle around it.

2. From that circle, I branch out five lines in different directions. At the end of those lines I write a word that is associated with the central word or phrase. These words could be the basis for your verses and choruses.

3. From each of those five words I start writing five other words that relate to it.

4. I then rinse and repeat the process as many times as I need to.

If you follow the above steps, by the time you have had enough (or you run out of paper), you will have a whole song laid out in front of you. Start from the central theme and work outwards, following the word paths you’ve created.

Can you see what phrases you can come up with from doing that. All you then have to do is collate that information into a song format.

Be careful not to have too many initial branches springing out from your central theme. This will turn your mind map into a complicated mess of too many ideas pulling against each other.

Up to five branches is plenty to work with.

You dont have to use all (or any) of the words you have written down, this is another way of opening your mind to new ways of generating songwriting ideas.

Most of us are visual people. As mentioned before, I personally access information the best this way. I can tell you having a whole song mapped out in front of me makes the job of formulating a song so much easier.

Give it a go and see what happens, you’ll be amazed at some of the paths and tangents you create. Let me know how it works for you…

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

10 Ridiculous Songwriting Tips That Actually Work

I typed “songwriting tips” into Google just now and I was staggered by the amount of search results on offer. There were 34.8 million of them to go through.

If you go through the websites on the first couple of pages of Google you’ll see a wide range of songwriting tips mentioned however, after a while you’ll notice that the songwriting tips all start sounding the same.

That is, until I come across the article  10 Ridiculous Songwriting Tips That Actually Work” on the online mastering website LANDR.

The article acknowledges that a lot of songwriting tips online sound the same but in regards to their songwriting tips the article goes on to say…

But these tips are the special ones. The ones that put you and your ideas first. The ones that open up some time to really focus, experiment and make your songs work.

I’ll be honest, the article title grabbed me first and foremost. “How ridiculous are these tips?” I asked myself, but once I started to read the article I realised that I hadn’t seen these songwriting tips before.

I started to get excited about how I could incorporate these tips into my own songwriting process.

My 3 favourite tips in the article are…

  • Play 5 radios at once (#1)
  • Don’t talk for the entire day. Just listen (#3)
  • Cut your lyrics into a million pieces (#8)

Make a point of reading 10 Ridiculous Songwriting Tips That Actually Work and see if there are any other ridiculous tips you can add onto the list and make sure you let me know what they are so we can all benefit from getting a little bit ridiculous with our songwriting process.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting


Original Link: 10 Ridiculous Songwriting Tips That Actually Work

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