I posted a songwriting a challenge to a bunch of songwriting friends today. It got me thinking that everyone should be writing songs, so I thought I’d do a quick blog about the process of songwriting and how to get started on it all. This will sound like quite a lot of information to start with but becomes second nature after a bit of practice just stick with it and it’ll all come together.
Firstly here’s some reasons why I think you should start songwriting:
It’s such a relaxing thing to do! When I write songs I like to write it down on paper, and sit in front of it like a challenge or puzzle that needs solved! I love finding a story from a bunch of words. I write at home more than I write in my studio. I’ve even found myself writing on a plane before. It’s a great distraction tool also. I hate flying, so being able to work on a song or a blog post really distracts me.
If you’re having a shit day, songwriting is a great outlet. Delving into mindfulness a bit over the past year, songwriting lets you access your frustrations and vent them. It also lets you accept that the feelings are there and use them as opposed to fight them and create a bigger headache.
It can be a job:
You can write songs until the day you die. It’s not based on looks or performance talent. There will always be artists looking for songs, and it can be an easy way to create an extra revenue stream for yourself, especially if you have artists out playing your songs. Being a songwriter can quite easily get you a holiday every year if you have a performance outlet for said songs.
So where do I start?
Apply some restrictions/rules and you can get started. Lets base our first lesson on the idea of writing a pop song. Now I don’t mean a “throw away” disposable song. I mean a format. Just like McDonalds does… No matter where you go in the world, when you walk into McDonalds you expect the food to look a specific way. You expect the interior to look a specific way and you expect the service to be quick. As humans we like to find patterns in things. We like pop music because it’s attributed to a format that we are familiar with. Typically that format is:
Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus x2 (optional Outro)
The intro should be short and sweet, It can also be the Chorus! The intro is typically music something that sets the feel of the track. If you’re not a musician, ignore this part and move on to the verse.
Here’s an analogy for you!
Imagine an ambulance pulls into your street. You’re looking out the window with your family in the living room with you. The Verse could be described as exploring the back story “I know why that ambulance is in the street, remember last week tommy had all those people round and they were…..” giving the grounding to the story. Setting up somewhere to move from.
The Chorus can be referencing what’s happening now, after the evens of the verse. “I can’t believe this is happening, This could have been different” a statement based on where you are currently, what’s currently happening!
Verse 2 could be based on looking on from this point, “How are those people gonna survive now that tommy is in hospital, here’s their only breadwinner”. You might also want to put a call to action in the 2nd verse describing how you can move on personally from what’s happening – “this isn’t my problem” or how you could help these people out – “I should do something” or ” I wanted to do something but….”
Same as Chorus one at this point!
For me the bridge is a point to step out side the story and make a comment based from an outsider looking in. “It’s all just part of the plan” etc…
The final Chorus or 2 choruses are there to create a familiarity for the listener, so that by the time the song is finished, they know that Chorus for their next listen.
This is the process of coming up with a concept for the song. Something I’ve found quite useful when creating content is this method.
Go get a pen and paper right now!!!!
I’m going to give you 5 words!
Cold | Nervous | Family | Journey | Strong |
Now what I want you to do is, expand upon those words!
What I mean by that is:
If I had written the word ‘Winter’ you’d need to write 5 more words below that! I’m not looking for you to create a sentence. The words might look something like!
I’ve created a list & that’s all i’m trying to achieve. Winter obviously makes me thing of Snow. Snow makes me think of how soft it is when I walk. Soft makes me think of a Shy person. Shy typically makes me think of me when I was young and shy and that makes me think of when I was a Child. By the end of this exercise you should have 20 words of your own.
Choose your favorite word from the 20 & create the sentence.
I’d choose ‘Soft‘ from my list and I’d create a this sentence:
‘She pushes her life upon him, because she knows he’s soft.’
You can write as many one lines as you want from your 20 words, until you’ve got a line that you like. You should always ask yourself what’s happening in the sentence. Is there a character in it? Well so far in mine, there are 2 characters. Is there a plot? yes there is, as she’s pushing her life upon his, which means someone isn’t happy. The word ‘pushes’ means that it’s being forced. Why does she need to force anything? obviously there’s something wrong in that relationship. Is there a scene set? No, currently there isn’t, but maybe I can do that by expanding my line into a verse of 4
‘She pushes her life upon him, because she knows he’s soft,
Another year of hiding, making excuses in the loft,
She knocks upon the hatch saying “it’s dinner time my dear”
An anniversary of saving face and sitting there in fear.’
What I’ve tried to achieve through this randomly crap lyric lol is just to expand upon it. Don’t be afraid to write terrible lyrics. You’ve gotta sift through quite a lot of shit before you get to anything worthwhile. As you progress as writer, you’ll then be able to by pass quite a lot of the crap in your head and save paper! But at this point just get writing.
What I need to take from those 4 lines is. What’s happening? Who’s there? Where is it? What time of year is it?
So rather then overwhelm you … I’ll stop there for this week, and pick it up again next week!
Try to get a verse developed, try to conceptualize, and start to think of your story in a standard form. I’ll move on to develop a chorus, hooks and start to look at melodic content. I’m sure this will turn into vlogs rather than blogs over time! Also please feel free to leave a comment if you found this useful and share to anyone you think could use the tips!
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