Your #1 Songwriting Resource

Tag: rewriting songs

The Joys Of Rewriting Your Songs

Nile Rodgers once said that “…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? Let me know what you think.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

My Take On Rewriting Older Songs

Lately I’ve been looking over my old songbooks, half finished songwriting ideas and my recording archives to see if there are any thing that I can rewrite, reboot, update or restore in any way. Sometimes I get inspired by this exercise but for most of the time I don’t.

For me, it very much depends on what is currently going on in my life and how I’m feeling at the time because this exercise requires me to listen to these old songs with a fresh pair of ears.

This is a challenge as I inadvertently put my old songs and ideas into concrete and this makes it very hard to rewrite them in any other way. In fact, any rewriting of old songs is considered a little victory for me.

So, when it comes to the difficulty in rewriting old songs it’s nice to know that I keep in good company.

I came across an article by songwriter Tony Conniff titled “Revisiting Earlier Songs… As A More Experienced Writer” and he discusses how the more experience he gains as a songwriter, the more opportunities he has to improve on his earlier songwriting attempts.

On this topic, he says…

It’s a bit of a paradox – my rush forward to write more songs, to gain experience, to get better, has perhaps left holes in some of my past songs (or maybe the holes are there simply because I didn’t know how to plug them at the time…?). But that rush forward to write more songs has also given me the experience to improve things that I thought were settled (but don’t have to be).

Reading Tony’s article has definitely made me feel better about my struggles with revisiting older songs.

What I get from the article is that the more songs that I write, the more experience I gain in honing my craft, and with that knowledge and experience under my belt, the more I can look and hear my older songs with a fresh pair of eyes and ears.

At the very least that is yet another reason never to throw any of your old songs and songwriting ideas away. You never what you can do with them in the future.

Do you have a whole bunch of old song that need revisiting? Maybe reading Tony Conniff’s article will inspire you to take another look. Let me know how you go.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting