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Tag: songwriting

Words First Or Music First? Does It Really Matter?

In my experience, one of the first questions a songwriter will ask about the songwriting process is “What should come first? Words or music?”

Well, there’s really no right or wrong answer to that question but I’m sure that if you asked 100 songwriters you’d definitely get 100 (slightly) different answers.

First of all let’s look at the definition of what makes up a song.

I’m an Australian songwriter so my songs are registered with an organisation called APRA (Australasian Performing Rights Association) and the definition that I use is loosely adapted from theirs.

According to APRA, a song is comprised of two main things:

  • Lyrics – The words in a song.
  • Melody – How the words of the song are sung.

Everything else that wraps around those two things such as the chords, format and dynamics, is  the arrangement of the song.

It took me many years to figure out that a song is not necessarily defined by the chords that are played, but by its lyrics and how it’s sung .

For instance, if a well known song is covered by another artist, more often than not the songs arrangement will have been changed but the integrity of the melody and the lyrics would still be intact.

The reason for this is that the covered song still needs to be recognised by the listener and if the listener sings the words and hums the tune then the song has a better chance of being remembered.

Generally the average listener doesn’t worry if there was a G chord or a G major 7 chord in the arrangement or not. In fact, they probably couldn’t tell the difference.

I use to write most of my songs by fitting lyrics and melody around a completed song arrangement but nowadays, I generally write the other way around. I fit my guitar arrangements around a melody inspired by a set of lyrics. I’m finding that by doing this I’m writing more songs than I used to.

You see, at the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong way to write a song but the question of whether the music or words are written first should not concern us as songwriters.

It doesn’t matter whether words or music come first, what matters is that the words and/or music come at all and by immersing yourself into the activity of writing songs as they come to you, you’ll notice your songwriting process becoming more of a personal thing that eventually integrates itself into your day to day life

So what do you think? How do you start off writing your songs? Words first or music first… Does it really matter? Let me know what you think as I reckon this would make a very interesting discussion topic.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Writing Songs – Pen And Paper VS Keyboard And Computer

Call me old fashioned but I still prefer writing songs with a pen to paper rather than to use a computer.

There have been many times where I’ve attempted to use a word processor instead of pen and paper to jot down my songwriting ideas and I’ve found that the special feeling of continuity I get between head, heart and computer screen is not as intense as the organic scrawling of a really good quality pen onto paper.

It’s like the act of putting pen to paper somehow allows me to become an integral part of what I’m writing whereas I feel an uncomfortable distance from my songwriting ideas if I just type it out.

Yes, I know that for this very post to exist I would’ve had to have typed the words into my laptop via my blogging platform of choice, WordPress however, this particular post was written on paper first.

I got the idea for this post from automatically and randomly writing on pieces of paper as a means of clearing my mind of the stuff that has collected in it over time. A bit of mental cleaning as it were and some indication that automatic writing works.

I’m a big fan of technology but at the same time I’d hate to see the art of writing a song with a pen and paper disappear for good.

What do you think? Which medium do you prefer to write songs with? Pen and paper or keyboard and computer? Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

YOU Are The Uniqueness And Originality In Your Songwriting

Here’s a can of worms I choose to open today (and this is personal opinion of course)…

I reckon that we are coming to the point where everything in western contemporary music has been done before, so why are songwriters so concerned with trying to sound totally 100% original to the point where it becomes an excuse to not write/finish a song (read on for an example of this thinking)?

Look at the music industry at the moment. There are genres, sub-genres and sub-sub-genres all trying to find some elusive niche in the music business and therefore some originality in the music as a whole.

Now, while there are lots and lots of interesting stuff being released all the time, what makes the music interesting are the different layers, production values, dynamics and textures on offer to the listener.

I mean, two unrelated genres colliding together to form a piece of music doesn’t necessarily make the song a totally 100% original idea. Does it?

All I’m trying to point out here is that the chances of doing something completely new and never heard before are very, very, very small so don’t waste your creative energy worrying about it (if however, you do come up with something completely original, I will be the first one to congratulate you).

Always remember that even though a song may not be totally original in its sound, it’s uniqueness does come from you, the songwriter and you alone.

Always remember… You are the uniqueness and therefore, the originality behind every song you write.

Some time ago I remember a friend of mine played to me a first draft of a song he just written. It was a really, really good effort and in my enjoyment of it, I unconsciously started singing another song over the top of it because it sounded familiar.

He stopped what he was doing and then got very upset with me for singing the other song over the top of his work. He then mentioned that he was going to throw the song away and abandon any attempts to finish it.

“I am never, ever going to write a song that has never been heard before” he lamented, to which I replied, “Does it really matter? What matters is that you wrote it, not anyone else.”

He thought about it a little more and decided to finish the song. Once he started working on his song again his whole perspective shifted to the point that the song took a whole new life.

It’s amazing that the smallest of changes of thinking can make the biggest of differences to an outcome.

Once you realise that it’s you that makes your song unique then you’ll finally get off of the “my song must be totally original to really matter” trip that stops so many of us songwriters from writing.

I mean, that excuse is right up there with “my songs must be perfect” and that old favourite, “I have nothing to write about.” All this thinking does is stops you, from doing what you absolutely love… Writing songs.

Do you believe that there are uncharted elements of originality that contemporary western music has not uncovered yet or, does my statement that everything has been done before ring true for you? Let me know what you think as I reckon this would be a great discussion topic 🙂

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting – Just Show Up And Do The Work

From all of my years of writing songs, one of the main lessons I’ve learnt is that in order to be prolific, you need to be consistent.

You need to just show up and do the work.

There is no use in learning how to write verses, choruses, bridges, middle eights if you don’t take any action in implementing what you’ve learnt.

Plus, there is no use in learning how to refine your songwriting process, cultivate songwriting ideas and internalising songwriting tips if you don’t take any action in implementing what you’ve learnt.

The first steps in taking that action is by simply showing up and doing the work.

I was inspired to write this by a Reece Robertson article called The Simple Power Of Showing Up in which he says that…

The world is facing an epidemic right now; that is everyone wants to be successful, yet no one is willing to put in the work to be successful. We have been dumbed down and turned into dopamine and instant gratification seeking drones at our own will.

This reminded me of experiences I have had in past conversations with songwriters who were complaining about how uninspired they were feeling and how it was the fault of the world that this was the case.

Reece then goes on to say that…

For many, their environment has become so trigger-laden that it seems easier to simply talk about the work, rather than to actually do the work.

BINGO! Therein lies the issue here.

Songwriting (as well as any creative pursuit) is just as much a verb as it is a noun. It’s not enough just to say you’re a songwriter. No, you have to back that up with some songs.

This article also says that you can’t be a writer if you don’t write, you can’t be a cook if you never cook and you can’t be an athlete if you never train.

Writing songs encompasses all of those things. You write, you cook your recipe through your songwriting process and you become better at your craft by writing every day.

This is your training.

So, do just that… Show up and do the work, don’t just talk about how many songs you’re going to write. Just write them.

Check out the article The Simple Power Of Showing Up and see if you answer the following question…

What motivates you to write songs?

What gets you out of bed and put pen to paper? Feel free to let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, show up, do the work and keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting


Check out the article… The Simple Power Of Showing Up.