Today I officially close Songwriting Zen and pick up where I leave off at Corey Stewart Online. I’ve done this because I want people to know who I am as a singer/songwriter/musician rather than hide behind some pseudonym.
For a long time I’ve been hiding behind other peoples work. I was the one behind the scenes turning their musical dreams into reality but now, I have really turned a corner in my own development and have realised that I have something worthwhile to give and I should do it under my own name.
It’s all about taking ownership of what I do.
This personal development has been the reason why I havent posted on this site for quite a while. I burnt myself out concentrating on being all things to all people without taking the time out for me and my art, my music, my creativity. Corey Stewart Online is now that outlet.
I still work as a professional musician, I still (attempt to) write songs but I’m much happier now with what I’m doing and where I’m at in life. I’m recording my first CD which is something I would not have contemplated even three months ago.
I think it’s about time I said it like it is. I am me and I’m proud of what I do. My journey starts now, I’ll see you all over at Corey Stewart Online.
By Ken Hill
In the article that I wrote (21 Songwriting Tips), we explored many different ways to expand our musicianship as a whole. Songwriting Techniques takes us a step inward, focusing on the art of welding a song that used to exist only in our minds.
No need for music theory here. This article merely examines the foundation of songwriting and offers alternate perspectives on how to construct a song.
As with all my articles, only take the tips that are relevant with you and your style of music. These techniques do not apply to every form of music, because many different styles seem to clash with others. Discard the parts that you donât agree with.
Foundation of Music
How tricky. Iâm going to explain music while staying away from music theory as much as possible! By all means, if you know music theory, it can only help you as long as you donât abuse it. Still, many great musicians have existed without ever laying one eyeball on a piece of sheet music. The foundation of most songs have these things in common…
Rhythm, in this instance, refers to the skeleton that holds the guts of your tune. It is the chord structure that lays the groundwork throughout the song. Without a good or interesting rhythm section, you song will lack some serious oomph.
The lead is the instrument that carries the listener through the song. Quite often the rhythm repeats and with some genres of music, quite monotonously. Without a lead to push the song forward, there will not be movement in the song and people could get bored rather quickly.
The lead is usually distinguished as being the highest pitched part of your song. If it is not the highest, then it is most likely the loudest. In many songs, a vocal or a guitar solo usually take the lead.
Imagine removing vocals and solos from most of the music that you hear on the radio. Most of the songs would be much less interesting! The lead is one of the most tricky and important parts of the song.
A good rhythm lays the foundation. From the foundation, the lead is usually the instrument to make it soar, or fall apart terribly. The lead only has one restriction. In most cases, it is only limited by the foundation of the rhythm. If the lead can be free while adhering to the bonds of the rhythm, then your song will be all the better.
If the bass is doing itâs job correctly (excluding a bass solo), it should be supporting the rhythm while building interesting (or at least avoiding poor) harmonies from the lead. I would say that the two most prominent tones of a song are the highest and lowest pitch and their relationship to each other.
Itâs like a cheeseburger. The rhythm is the bun that holds it together. The lead is the meat that tastes so great! The bass is the cheese that gives it that extra zing. The last two parts, the percussion and the ghost are all the extra condiments like ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions or whatever your individual particular taste is.
Notice I said that percussion was a condiment. Thatâs because you can get away without percussion. Itâs like ketchup. Most people like ketchup but some donât much care for it.
I, personally, must have ketchup in my burgers, oops! Thatâs off topic (mmm, making me hungry!)
For some musical styles, great percussion is essential. A choir could benefit from percussion but does not necessarily need it. A rap song thrives on a great percussion. No need to explain what percussion is. Drums, bongos or basically anything that has some sort of impact that is timed to give it some sort of groove. It may even be a sample repeated in rhythm.
Ghost? What the heck?! This is one element that does not have to be in your song, but is highly recommended. Ghost instruments usually shine after a person has listened to your song many times. These are those little tunes and riffs that you never even noticed the first few times you heard it.
A good ghost note should add in a new subtle depth to your song that could not be attained through the other four categories. It should personalize your music with your individual flair. A good ghost sequence should make the listener feel like if it werenât there, your song would feel just a little more empty.
When people hear a song they love for the tenth time and notice a sequence that they never noticed before, then youâve successfully added a ghost sequence.
So now what? You have the five foundations of music. What do you do with them? How do you start? That is a tricky question that I canât answer. Sometimes a great song starts with an awesome chord progression from the rhythm, sometimes its the vocalist who comes up with a great melody line (the lead), sometimes its a funky groove, sometimes even a funky bass.
Doubtfully will it spawn from a ghost sequence. They are usually added in the end. Though songs have spawned from many different places, I will cover them in order starting with the…
For me, I usually write the introduction last. Thatâs okay, no matter how you do it, Iâm just going to give you some different ideas on how to start your song.
In many cases, the first four foundations come out at the same time. This gives your song a feel of a strength from the beginning. It goes from 0 – 60 in 0 seconds. There is no loss of momentum (although there is no build of momentum either).
Vocals, or a lead instrument begins the song. It will feel empty because itâs not supported by any of the other four foundations. Thatâs okay in this case. The feel of this idea is to make your the lead ânakedâ, to expose it like it could never be exposed before. Once you have bared the soul of the lead, usually the other foundations are quick to follow. Many slow songs will have a lead begin the music.
*Rhythm first / Percussion first / Bass first.
No need to sub categorize these. They are all about the same idea. Buildup. Start with any of these three foundations and build off of them, usually a lot quicker than if the lead came in first.
*Veered off the road.
Some songs veer off the road to lead the song in. These are usually deceptive ideas to make the listener feel that it is one style or type of song when it is entirely something else. Sometimes it is also a series of sound effects (wind, rain, door slamming, cars, commotion, talking, etc.). Veering off the road is tricky, as it can turn a person off if it is too long or annoying. Have a distinct reason for every part, donât just mumble.
Lightweight involves using instruments that are usually âlighterâ than the core instrumentation of the song. For a light song, the âlightnessâ might come from the slowed tempo, or less articulation with the playing of the chords. In a hard rock song, it might start with a piano or an acoustic guitar. When the song fully comes to terms, it would then switch over to a distorted guitar playing the same rhythm, or a modified form of the same rhythm. This allows the lead to continue on without having to change the overall feel of the song.
Blast them with a stroke of sheer power. Then when you think they are on the brink of explosion, drop it off into a much lighter form of instrumentation. Heavy weighting the song usually comes in strong, and builds up even stronger. Just when you think itâs about to hit the climax, it will completely drop off, only to be resolved (or visited again) way later in the song.
The Rest of the Song
Iâm sure most of you know what a chorus and verse is. There are common song structures, but Iâm not going to go over that. You all should know the standard and if your music would like to follow that standard or veer away. What Iâm going to introduce are some new ways to enhance your music. Iâm not including mixing techniques, just a handful of musical ideas to make your songs more creative.
Morphing a melody is a great way to introduce a new instrument. Basically, two instruments are playing the same thing, but one has no volume and the other has full volume. Slowly turn the volume down on one instrument (decrescendo) while the other gains volume (crescendo). It will make the instrument appear to morph in.
Another nice idea is when two instruments are playing two different parts. Switch the parts around to let the other instrument take the lead.
Stop the music at once. This will create a tension. It should resolve rather quickly or youâll lose the effect. This can be very powerful if used right.
As one instrument finishes the first measure, a new instrument plays the exact same thing on the second measure while the first instrument continues itâs path. Hereâs an example… (imagine these are being sung at the same time)
Instrument 1: Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are, up above the world…
Instrument 2: Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what…
Two to five synths all play the same part. Every synth has itâs own distinctive sound. This will make it sound like one huge sweeping synth. You can even layer other instruments (guitar, voice, etc) at the exact same pitch to give it a humanistic uniqueness. If the lead is layering with the texture, then it can later branch off to establish itself.
Can be used with texture layering. Basically as one instrument pans completely to the left, another one is going right. They will appear to swirl around in circles around the listener.
*Veer off the road.
Let your music veer off the road briefly to introduce a strange tension. As soon as they begin to feel a little lost, snap back into place.
*Creative ghost uses.
Extremely light vocals which say interesting things. Complex instrumentals that are barely heard. Be creative with the way you sequence your ghost tracks.
Does not always have to be droney. This could simply be keeping the bass in a stationary position as the music revolves around different chords which include the bass note.
Escalating is when the pitches gradually get higher and higher. This is usually a way to add a climatic part to your song. Donât overdo it and this idea could either be used rather quickly or very slowly. Make the escalate interesting by having the part do interesting things while the climax builds. Escalating is used a lot with choruses as well, since that usually designates the central theme of the song.
Opposite of escalating. The pitches slowly creep downwards. This usually happens to take down a highly charged section of a song.
While one instrument escalates, another creeps downward. This will allow the new instrument to take the center stage.
Say exactly what youâre trying to say without rambling off topic. A great motivational speaker leads the conversation the entire time. He (or she) speaks with authority and charisma. From that strength, comes the wisdom to use powerful word combinations and compelling dialogue.
The motivational speaker is leading the audience through a world of ideas which exist only in their heads. If he begins to ramble, he begins to lose control of where he is leading them. The vivid imagery begins to get confusing, and the message may get lost.
Music is very much the same. By all means, being efficient does not mean making an overly simple song. It just means you should only put in the music that reflects what youâre trying to say. Donât shove too many ideas out at once, or they will be too thin and scrappy to enjoy.
Cut the fat off the steak. Let them enjoy the parts that are relevant.
Movement usually comes from the lead, or a solo. Movement is the reason why the listener will play your song over and over.
Letâs face it, if your song is four measures long and your repeat it throughout endlessly without any changes whatsoever it will have little to no movement (which may be okay if youâre writing a jingle or a video game soundtrack). Even trance music will have tones and textures that evolve slowly to give it movement.
It would be as if I repeated the same sentence over and over again. It would be as if I repeated the same sentence over and over again. It would be as if I repeated the same sentence over and over again. It would be as if…AAAA! I canât take it anymore!
Movement is what usually makes your songs come alive.
A few people enjoy listening to endless movement, but for the most part- people enjoy being able to relate to a central structure. What I mean by endless movement is a song that never quite establishes a central mood or theme. It keeps running, and the listener is usually spending the entire time trying to play catch up, never being able to fully immerse themselves into a feeling because it moves too much.
Imagine a song that is written like this (donât think lyrically. Just picture the mood of this rhyme, and compare it to the mood of a song).
The cell is dark and black,
my teeth are gritting with rage,
a little girl eats her ice cream,
dancing along the street,
because I love you,
oh baby, youâre as sweet as can be,
as pretty as the sea,
so get on the dance floor,
I want to see you shake your booty,
and let the slaying begin.
I hate this place.
This will definitely send mixed signals to the listener. Some will find it to be awe inspiring (there are always people who love things that are way different), but most people will not be able to relate. The mood jumps too much. The message that you are trying to say will be twisted, because it never situates itself.
The mood has not been established.
*Going to the Movies.
Music and movies have a lot in common. Both have a catalog of different genres that different types of styles fall into. Both try to emotionally connect with the people who are experiencing it. Both use many of the same concepts to wrap the audience.
For instance, some songs start with a âheavy weightâ, which means that they start off extremely hard. Slowly, the music begins to ascend to something even harder but just before it reaches that point, it will drop off into the core of the song (which is usually much lighter at first), only to revisit that same tension later on in the song. Many movies start off strong to capture the audience.
After the strength of the movie has been shown, it will usually drop off into something completely tame. The tension will be later visited but it will also resolve. So the next time you write a song, think about how it would be as a movie. You will notice many similarities, and you can even use concepts from movies in your music.
Be creative, and youâll see what I mean.
*Say the same thing in different ways.
If your song tends to repeat, perhaps you should consider a very slight variation. It could be the singers tone, or one little note that switches it up. Although this doesnât apply in every situation, itâs always nice to keep repeating melodies interesting.
*The art of fish hooking.
For most songs, the art of introducing the hook is the best way to catch the fish. Sometimes the hook is blatantly there, sometimes it is hidden only to be revealed later. The great thing about using a hook in your song is that you have established the central theme in which to build upon.
As you build upon that theme, make sure you do it in such a way that it establishes itself as an individual and not a grain of sand in a desert full of overused hooks.
Well, thatâs it for now. Iâm sure I could write a 100 page book of the little intricacies of songwriting. These are the simple basics, and I hope that some of them will help you in your future endeavors. Until next time, happy songwriting!
About The Author
Ken Hill is an electronic/new age composer under the name of Soulwire. If you have any comments, suggestions or ideas about this article, please be sure to e-mail him at email@example.com or send a myspace message at his page, http://www.myspace.com/soulwire
Until next time, happy writing,
PS: Feel free to download my FREE eReport “11 Ways To Eliminate (Song) Writers Block FOREVER!”
Keywords: songwriting, songwriter, writing, songwriting tip, songwriting idea, songwriting help, songwriting resource, songwriting blog, songwriting zen, songwriting technique, corey stewart
Today I rediscovered the third installment of the series of songwriting tips by New Age composer Ken Hill called “Songwriting Tips Part 3 – Writers Block”.
It proved a bit of a challenge to find as well as another article called “Songwriting Techniques” which I’ll post very soon.
Again Ken Hill gives us the disclaimer about the information contained in his series of articles:
“Not every tip will apply to your particular style, so take what works for you and discard the rest.”
Here is “Songwriting Tips Part 3 – Writers Block” for your enjoyment.
By Ken Hill
It is not necessary to read them first to benefit from these current tips, but “21 Songwriting Tips” covers the most generalized ground and builds an excellent foundation. Each successive article becomes more articulate and specific.
Writing an article can be tricky because I have to address the fact that I’m referring to tips to help you increase the strength of your artwork and art in itself is a very subjective thing! There is an old saying that goes, “My truth is not your truth”. The same must be applied with this article.
So I’m going to give you the standard disclaimer. Not every tip will apply to your particular style, so take what works for you and discard the rest.
One more note. I have been receiving wonderful responses to my other articles. If you find these tips handy, please feel free to e-mail me. It’s always great to know if what I’m writing is reaching out.
It may take me some time to respond back, as it’s becoming common to become overwhelmed with e-mails regarding songwriting, as well as my music.
So yeah, blahbity blah blah. Are you still reading this or did you skip ahead already? Okay then! On with the show!
Tip #40: Writers Block Blues: Acknowledgment is empowerment!
Picture this. An illustrator is flustered beyond belief. In his trashcan are hundreds of crumpled up papers of “failed” works. He is trying to draw a house, but to no avail. Again, he grabs a new piece of paper, shakes his aching wrists and begins to draw a line. After a minute he stops and examines his work. He has successfully drawn a very cool looking cube.
“This is no good!” he screams, crumples up the paper and tosses it into the trashcan with his other crumpled friends. Somehow, it is all uninspiring to him. His last illustration of a house was to die for. And now… nothing.
What has happened to the illustrator has happened to every single one of us who compose regularly. It’s the dreaded writers block! That’s great news! Well, it’s not great news that you are having writer’s block, but it’s great news to know that you are not alone!
The first step to overcoming writer’s block is to acknowledge that you have it! You see, it’s not the pictures of the houses that’s the problem. It’s the illustrator. For some reason, he cannot become inspired. The reasons are many.
He could have just written something so amazing that he feels like he can never achieve that type of excellence again. He could just be drawing up blanks. He could even be too involved in his work to the point of mind tingling numbness! Whatever the case may be, acknowledge the fact that you have writers block and stop throwing your work into the trash!
It’s probably not the music, so keep your “uninspired” works. You may realize you were doing something ingenious later on when your mind is clearer.
Summary: Acknowledge it when you have writer’s block so you don’t lose too many great ideas! The sooner you can come to terms with it, the sooner you can fight back and get back on track!
Tip #41: Writers Block Blues: Drawing a house starts with one line.
What can we learn from Mr. Illustrator from Tip #40? We can learn a lot! That’s the great thing about mistakes! Well, I consider throwing away tons of paper a mistake! Not only did that poor tree die for nothing, there may have been tons of great ideas that got sent through the shredder because they were done halfheartedly.
That’s a different tip from part 2 of songwriting tips, which clearly states (I’m the songwriting lawyer, mwahaha) that you should never throw away your ideas! Save them! You might find a home for them later.
Drawing a house starts with one line. Writing an article starts with one word. Writing a song starts with one note. You cannot possibly write a song as great and awe-inspiring as your last song if you do not give it enough time to become something! Ideas must be nurtured in order for them to grow correctly.
Mr. Illustrator has been throwing away multiple drawings of cubes before he finished them as houses! Here’s the trick that will help those who are having writers’ block because they feel they cannot achieve the level of expression of previous songs. YOU NEVER WILL!!! Just kidding. Actually, let me tag something on that. YOU NEVER WILL IF YOU DO NOT GIVE YOUR IDEAS A PLACE TO GROW.
You may feel uninspired by the first note. You may feel uninspired by the first several hundred notes. Keep cracking away and don’t give up! Greatness may not be achieved until the thousandth note.
Mr. Illustrator may have become inspired by his picture had he drawn in the windows, chimney, grass, maybe tossed in a mad cow to reflect his frustrated feelings. He might have found an inner vision and rekindled the flame!
Don’t give into the evil writer’s block ghosts which whisper in your ear, “Thhiiiiiis stiiiiiiinks…. throoooow it awaaaaaay….” Like the movie, “A beautiful mind”, you’ve got to ignore those pesky voices in your head and focus purely on the music.
Like a wet candle, it may take some time, but if you keep igniting away, it will eventually burn! So don’t give up and stop trying to jump up an entire flight of stairs all at once. You’ll definitely trip and fall down! Take it one step at a time.
Summary: Take it one line at a time. Stop trying to see the whole picture. The picture will make itself clear after enough lines are connected. Don’t listen to ghosts, unless you think it’s cool. Writer’s block is like a wet candle. Ramen is a very tasty wet noodle.
Tip #42: Writer’s Block Blues: The hit song writer!
Many times people approach songwriting in the totally wrong way by thinking, “Now I’m going to write a hit song!” Got writer’s block, did ya? Can’t blame you.
Deciding to write a hit song is like an ad campaign deciding that they’re going to really win the crowd by deciding to write the most effective ad ever. When would you not want to write an ad as effective as possible, and how is it possible that the company can turn on the “most effective ad ever made” button on and off at will?
More importantly, if you’re having writer’s block, how is this decision going to help your music?
It makes more sense that the goal of a songwriter who writes for the audience is to make an emotional connection with that particular audience. This connection is made through musical ideas and gestures that evolve in time to captivate the listener to a particular feeling.
Many other nonmusical factors (promotions, quality, ease of purchase, etc.) will be the determining factors of a hit song. Don’t choke your thoughts up with the end process. Deciding to write a hit song is not decision that most of us can make, and it may make you a nightmare critic!
You might hold a magnifying glass up to every inch of musical space, evaluate, and tear apart many great ideas from over analyzation. Just be yourself. If you know how to promote your product, promote the living daylights out of it.
If it becomes a hit song, all the merrier. If it doesn’t, at least you had a great time writing great music. I think it’s just about every musician’s dream to have a hit song. Still, that is the byproduct of something that is more important to the musically stumped songwriter.
Discover the essence of the song instead.
Summary: Writing a hit song is a nice gesture, but can get in the way of your focus on the music. This applies to other methods of thought too. Stay away from “I’m going to write an even better song than my last” or “I’m going to write the best song ever” or “This next song will be the one that makes me millions”.
Don’t focus on the outcome of your music. Right now, focus on the actual point of your next song by the ideas that would embellish it.
Tip #43: Writers Block Blues: Oh My Bloody Eyeballs!
If your eyes are bloodshot, it’s time to take a break! Right now. Go ahead. Go to sleep. Read this article in the morning. What? You’re still reading this? Figures!
Let’s presume I love crystal lemmings. All day, I tell my friends about these crystal lemmings that I make. When I’m at work, I tell all my coworkers, “Man, I make these cool crystal lemmings! Let me tell you how I do it!” When I get home, I spend hours making hundreds of crystal lemmings.
It’s nearly midnight and your eyeballs have become bloodshot from all the squinting that you had to do to make those cute miniature animals. Time to create something new, right? In most cases, WRONG! Get some sleep and take a break! Burn out is a great way to get writer’s block.
Find the time of day that you feel that you are most creative and try to structure your “creation process” around those key times. Perhaps it’s not a key time, but a key moment! That’s perfectly alright too!
When it comes to composing, the key to a great song may very well lie in your state of mind more than anything else. Know thyself. The more you understand about you, the better off you are.
Summary: Find the perfect creative times/moments and build a structure around them. Don’t burn yourself out or you will very susceptible to writer’s block. Know and understand yourself and what inspires you as a songwriter. Build around those inspirations. Know thyself!
Tip #44: Writer’s Block Blues: DUH!
Summary: Duh…(Translated: “If your brain is drawing blanks”) Dmmmm…..uhhhh…dooh… (Translated: “then you must find a way to”) FOCUS! Dahabba? (Translated: “Tinker around with your instrument or listen to some great music on CD/MP3. When your brain latches on to something, stop whatever it is that you’re doing and figure out why it hooked you. Now build off that idea into your own song. Analyze. Analyze. Analyze. Sounds easy doesn’t it…. habba?”)
Tip #45: Writer’s Block Blues: Be a vision!
You’re walking through the jungle. Birds are chirping. You are wet from walking through the marshes. You hear a crocodile roar. It is very scary.
The sun’s light barely pierces through the jungle’s dense clutching grasp. The endless echo of screeching birds mimic and mock your fears which have become a reality. You are lost. With every swish through the murky waters, you hear the low rumbling of crocodiles on the prowl. And then, as you take your next step you hear a SNAP! You scream like a whelping dog as you clutch your chest and…
I’m stopping here! Which example is more effective when it comes to painting a picture? I would say that most people would say example 2!
Well, I hope that’s what most people would say. It took me a whole 10 minutes to write it. Well, that’s why I’m a musician and not a writer! I bet some of you wanted to know what happened? Don’t worry! You just stepped on a twig and got startled. You weren’t eaten. Or maybe I’m just saying that to keep this article PG!
How does this relate to writer’s block? It’s all about a vision.
I did not know what exactly I was going to write. As soon as I wrote about the “jungle’s dense clutching grasp”, it made it easier for me to picture something dreaded and haunting. I rode with the idea and decided to embellish it with adjectives that fit the general mood.
Sometimes, to defeat writer’s block all you need is a vision to focus upon. For example: I once wrote a song about a war. The entire song, although there were no lyrics, had a very precise vision in mind while I was writing it. The vision that I had, allowed me to already determine the way I would like it arranged.
If you, as a songwriter, use a specific vision in mind, your framework may very well become more evident.
If you can’t find a vision, write a song about example 2! Write about the way it made you feel. Let the beginning of the song reflect the first sentence. As you can see, this vision would most likely start off very dreary but most likely build up into something with a bang (especially the “clutching the chest” part)!
You can do this idea with any story, movie, or other idea. Take those same emotions that you get, and turn it into a musical vision of your very own.
Summary: Try having a distinct vision in mind when writing a song. The more precise that this is, the easier it will be to determine the framework of the song.
Tip #46: Writer’s Block Blues: Less can be more!
When writing a next song, make some rules! That’s right! Make some sort of incapacitating rule that forces you to use your creativity! I know I know. A lot of you people out there don’t like rules.
Well guess what? If you’re writing western based music (American music), you’re following rules whether you like it or not! There are 12 notes in a chromatic scale. Tons of songs only use 7 notes per song, in different octaves (these 7 notes would be referred to as a diatonic scale).
Whether or not you knew this is irrelevant. You’re still following the rules. Yes, there are exceptions (key changes, modal borrowing, etc. etc.) but even as you follow those exceptions, there has been a rule made about it.
If you really want freedom from rules then stop playing scales. Play any note you want to, and stop tuning your instruments, because they hold you down to the same 12 notes! If you’re playing a guitar, get rid of your frets, because that’s limiting! Chances are, the music will be so open that it will not sound very clean or good (unless you are just the master!).
Even more so, chances are you will probably have an even harder time coming up with something original that reflects your personality because you will discover some “pitch issues” that sound very bad to the ear.
Strangely, you may not realize, but if you limit yourself, you’ll actually find more freedom than going to opposite. Here’s an example, because I know you all love examples.
Draw me something really creative, and unlike anything that you’ve ever drawn before, with whatever you like however you want to do it.
Draw me a picture of the sky using only 2 colored pencils of your choice, none of them being blue.
Most people who are told to draw anything will most likely draw things they already know. As a musician, do you want to write new songs this way? That’s up to you to decide. If you’re having writer’s block, though, this changes the spectrum. Too much openness could very well be part of the problem.
Example 2, much like a vision but in an entirely different perspective, will give you a focus that will allow you to write something very creative, expressive, and in an entirely different light. This intense focus might be exactly what you needed to unlock your creative juices!
Now combine tip #44 & #43 and you’ll have a great basis for a new song!
Summary: Limiting yourself can be a great way to release yourself, by forcing you to make creative choices. What’s more interesting to you? Would you rather read a story written by an author who was writing about anything or by an author who had to write a comedy story in haiku format about a deranged painter with a gambling problem? Be creative with the limitations and have fun with the rules. Limitations can be quite fun!
Tip #47: Writer’s Block Blues: Read the other tips
How terrible is this? I’m writing a tip telling you to read my other tips. You know, there very well could be a tip that you may not have read that could help you get through your writer’s block! Read my other songwriting tips and see if there isn’t something else you could be doing.
While you’re at it, read other songwriting tips as well.
Read books on the music industry, your chosen instrument, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and whatever else you think is cool! Read, read, read! You can never learn too much! Musicians and authors have a ton in common, so reading can help release ideas, even if it has nothing to do with music! Write a song based inspired from a book you loved. Okay, this tip is mixing with the #45 vision tip.
Summary: READ! The more you know, the more you know of what you don’t know! Then you can read up on that too. đ You might be surprised how much you can learn from a couple of books. Be sure to take notes!
Tip #48: Writer’s Block Blues: Mind, Body, Soul Training: The Mind.
Writer’s block is a problem that you can fight! Be like Rocky and take a walloping, scream the name of your significant other and then knock writer’s block out! Let’s start with wiping it out of your mind!
Try meditation, especially to music. Try some yoga! Get plenty of sleep. Clear your mind. Let it become free. Now, begin to focus, not from the mind that is weighed down by 50,000 thoughts of what has happened today, but by one thought.
One pure and simple thought that, much like a dream, will evolve and change as it continues. Ever notice how creative dreams are? It’s not because you’re trying to be creative, nor is it because you’re concentrating the living daylights out of yourself, struggling to get a cool idea. Dreams are wonderful because they are a perfect example of how we can be creative by letting go. Let your subconscious to some talking, and let your consciousness turn those words into music.
Let it go.
Summary: Dreams are clear indicators that some of our most creative processes happen when we let go. Learn to use this to your advantage. Stop clenching your brain!
Tip #49: Writer’s Block Blues: Mind, Body, Soul Training: The Body
Don’t neglect your body! Exercising can release very cool endorphins that allow you to feel vitalized and sharp! Take your vitamins and eat good foods. Take a physical form of expression to counterbalance the mental form of music.
I have been doing martial arts for over 10 years now, and it balances my music very well! Stretch! Feel good about yourself! If your body is vitalized with energy (AKA. If you are in shape), not only will you feel much greater, you may notice a change in your self-esteem.
This change will very well reflect a change in your music as well as on stage performances!
Summary: Have a good self-image. Feel good about yourself. Self-esteem can play a factor on stage performance as well as overall compositions. Do physical activities that make you feel good about yourself.
Tip #50: Writer’s Block Blues: Mind, Body, Soul Training: The Soul
My goodness, get your bills straightened out! Why didn’t you pay the phone bill last month? Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. Your personal life reflects in your music life very much! If there is high stress in your life, you very well may get writer’s block for long periods of time!
The soul needs to be nurtured like a baby! This means you need to pamper yourself! Find ways to remove stress from your life. Stress is a heavy hitter when it comes to writer’s block.
Yes, those hardships can turn into excellent songs, and music may be just the key to helping you to express those feelings. We’re talking about writer’s block though. That means, stress is the reason why you can’t write. So, if you can turn your problems into music, then this is a redundant tip!
Get your loans consolidated. See a counselor if you have to. Do whatever it takes to remove as much stress from your life as possible. Stress is usually up to no good, and it only complicates and makes life more miserable. It must be destroyed!
So there you have it. There’s ten tips to fight writer’s block. The power is in you to write music again and love it! Keep it up, for all musicians everywhere! Arrrr! Fight the good fight! Don’t let writer’s block claim another frustrated minute!
About The Author
Ken Hill is an electronic/new age composer under the name of Soulwire. If you have any comments, suggestions or ideas about this article, please be sure to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a myspace message at his page, http://www.myspace.com/soulwire
What do you think?
Until next time, happy writing,
Keywords: writers block, songwriters block, songwriting, songwriter, songwriting tip, songwriting idea, songwriting zen, songwriting technique, songwriting help, songwriting blog, corey stewart
As promised yesterday, here are “19 More Songwriting Tips” by Ken Hill.
More from Ken regarding the second installment of his songwriting tips series:
“With such great success to 21 Songwriting Tips, I have decided to compile together a list of more songwriting tips to help you on your journey as a musician. As always, take what works for you and discard the rest!”
It works for me đ
19 More Songwriting Tips
By Ken Hill
As much fun as it is to get compliments from your mom, brother or your friends, they will most likely give you biased opinions because they know and respect you. This has nothing to do with your music and everything to do with you.
This type of critiquing can get in the way of your music. My first piece of advice in my new article is to get critiqued. Getting critiqued can open doors that you have never thought of opening. It may also tell you to open doors that youâd never want to open (depending on who chooses you as their âvictimâ haha).
Want to know a great place to get critiqued for free? I even critique music there. Drop me a line if you like.
Critiquers can give you a new perspective on your song, and your musicianship may even grow as new ideas will be presented to you. If you get a bad critique, this can also prepare you for dealing with rejection.
The secret to dealing with critiques is the same as this article. Consider the advice that is presented to you, have enough modesty to accept the advice (if you agree with it) and move on. Donât respond back to the critiquers telling them âthey didnât understand the pieceâ. Your music just did not communicate it to them.
You should never have to explain your music. It should speak on itâs own.
#23) Learning from Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde Critiquers…
Iâve found there are 2 kind of critiquers. The first kind of critiquer, my favorite, shows you ideas to help you express yourself while respecting the vision of the artist. These are the kind of people that can really help us grow as musicians because we are not being torn down and reconstructed to their image, they are building off of our vision and riding it out from there.
The second kind of critiquer (grain of salt critiquers) judges music by using their own style as the the thing to compare it to. Many times, I find that these critiquers do not make your music better, just different.
Usually, this will just change the appeal of the different types of listeners instead of enhancing the experience to the listeners who would have liked your music originally. They may give you ideas to help your vision, but they are also tearing down walls that you have identified as your style.
You can learn from these people, but you just have to be careful. Use tip #22 when dealing with these types of people. Consider, possibly change and move on.
#24) Everyone will love my song! E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E!!!
As with songwriting tip #2 (who are you writing your music for), understand that if youâre writing music for kids, donât take offense if metal heads arenât jammin to your music.
Iâm sure you guys all know that kids TV show, âBarneyâ. As cool as it sounds for little kids, realize that their music will probably never be played on MTV! What a shock!
Could you imagine the theme song right next to a top 40 hit, âI love you, you love meâ. No? Well, there are many other more relevant styles of music which will never be played on MTV either. The âmassesâ should only apply to the type of people who listen to the style of music that you write.
Back to our group, we write New Age music. It is not nearly as popular as rap or rock music. This is something that we accept, and do not take offense if those who do not normally listen to âNew Ageâ do not necessarily enjoy our music.
Once again, there is no âbadâ or âgoodâ music. Only songs people can and canât relate to. So donât feel bad if your music doesnât reach out to everyone. There isnât any one style of music that can.
The trick is that you need to find people who already enjoy the style of music you write. From there, you can more accurately judge how well your music communicates. When writing music, try not to appeal to every single type of listener. You know what will happen? Youâll most likely confuse everyone!
Write the music in the style you love to make, and write it for those people.
#25) The more money I spend, the more talented I am!
âIf I only had that $8000 guitar… oh! Then Iâd be the best!â
Ever met that guy. You know. That guy who continually must purchase the best gear. What happens when he gets it? He will dance around and show everyone his cool new toy.
Six months from now it will be collecting dust with his other dozens of new toys. What will he be doing? You guessed it! Buying more expensive toys to show off! Remember that itâs not as much what you have as what you can do with it.
Does that mean you can buy a $50 Casio keyboard and blow a Yamaha MOTIF ($2000 keyboard) out of the water? Ha! Letâs get serious. But if your song isnât catchy on the $50 Casio, it probably wonât be catchy on the MOTIF. Money does not substitute for talent.
By all means, if you can afford the best gear, you may as well go for it! The one thing you should avoid is letting that expensive gear collect dust while you are upstairs reading your new music catalog thinking “man if I only got this newer edition model I could be making awesome music….”
Stop waiting for your next purchase before you write music. Use what gear you have. Become Jedi Master with it. Make Yoda happy.
#26) Ahh, young grasshoppa!
Be like a kung-fu master and teach others how to play or write music. Strangely youâll find that as youâre teaching them, theyâre teaching you!
You may find that youâll have to demonstrate things that you took for granted as well as be surprised at things that you thought which were complicated really werenât all that bad! I recommend that everyone give it a shot to teach someone else music.
As many teachers would vouch for this, you learn about as much as you are teaching. Want to improve your craft? Help someone improve theirs. Youâd be surprised what you can teach yourself.
#27) Destination Procrastination…
Procrastination is that evil thing that we all do when we decide to put something off till later. Well, when later arrives we either push it off some more or we finally do it. When we do it, we usually wonder why the heck we didnât do this awhile back ago!? Donât procrastinate with music.
Like exercising, if you relax too long, you will lose some of that hard earned ground that you worked so hard to gain.
Try to practice every day, even if it is only a few minutes. Practice never makes perfect, it only makes you better. You can always improve your abilities. Even though we may think there are some âperfect playersâ out there, they usually know their own flaws and are trying to improve as well.
So what are you doing reading this!? Get to work!
#28) Flooding your song (Newbie Tip #1)…
Two tips dedicated to the new songwriter. While running a music lab, I have found that many new musicians often fall into one of two categories.
So he tosses me the headphones. I slip them on, not sure what to anticipate. All of a sudden a tidal wave of sound explodes in my ears and Iâm screaming in agony as waves and waves of tortured notes erupt like a massive angry volcano to consume the land and every living being.
Does this sound familiar? It is what happens when you take 10+ years of the ideas that youâve stored and pounded them all in one 3 1/2 minute song. A flash flood of ideas.
Many of the best songs that Iâve heard only have a few ideas. Give your ideas time and space to grow. If you only take a couple of ideas, you will find that they can evolve with each other, never having to fight for space. As the song goes on, these ideas can mature, and even meld with each other to bring about new ideas.
Please donât flood your songs with too many ideas! Keep it simple. Build from there.
#29) The art of stealth ninja (Newbie Tip #2)…
The second tip that I feel new musicians tend to overlook is the bluntness of introducing ideas and themes. With #28, the point was to keep the ideas tamed. #29 is all about taking those ideas and weaving them into the song instead of stamping them on your forehead.
Is stamping ideas always a bad thing? Of course not! Itâs music, there are no rules. Still, most of the times it wouldnât hurt to try to sew it into your music a little more.
What if you knew everything that was going to happen in a movie because the first five minutes tell it all? Like in my songwriting techniques (I know, itâs not as fun to read) article, music and movies have much in common.
In a movie, they slowly feed you the plot. Itâs like laying little M&Mâs out so ET will follow. In music, if you can lure them with your M&Ms (Music & Motivation), they will follow. Reward them for following by giving them a big treat later.
Of course you can give them the big treat from the start, but will they be as inclined to follow the trail when they know they already have the tastiest portion upfront? The art of stealth ninja is all about how your ideas enter, evolve and exit.
Sometimes itâs a quick stealth blow, sometimes itâs a lingering presence that never quite comes forward, and sometimes it is a slow and gradual movement which will escalade into the final showdown. Itâs up to you to decide what stealth tactics you dare to use.
If you find you have been just stamping ideas out, try being more stealthy and see if this tip is worth the 10 minutes it took for me to type this up.
#30) Return of the Living Dead…
One thing that Iâve learned is that you should never delete your songs. Especially unfinished ideas that never quite evolved into a song!
I know it gets frustrating, but you never know when you could use that idea later down the line. The important thing that you are preserving is the idea, not the actual notes. Who knows!? Maybe a year from now, when youâre stuck on your newest song, youâll go over an old riff that you never used and found that if you just changed a couple of things, it would fit perfectly in your new song.
Not only that, you may find that you can finish those songs later because your songwriting (or musicianship) skills have improved.
Donât delete old songs. Even if you think they suck. If nothing else, keep them so when you get famous you can show people where you came from.
#31) Stay humble but be confident
Thereâs nothing like the euphoria of finally reaching that next musical plateau! As we continue to make new songs, teach others our craft, critique music, and learn, we will become more and more confident about our musical vision. Good for you! Youâre finally doing it!
A word of caution. Be careful. Short sentences. No fun. You know what else isnât fun? That three letter word that can inflate just like our gas prices. Ego. Make sure you always have a pin handy to pop any bubble you might get as you find success. Of course you can and should relish your successes, but donât let it go to your head.
It seems the better we get, the more picky we become.
My example could come from martial arts. Being a martial artist myself, I canât watch most crappy martial arts shows (movies or TV). Of course I can respect and enjoy the most popular ones (Jackie! Bruce! Jet!), but when I watch these cheese ball movies where people are fighting ridiculously fake, getting thrown ten feet farther than any mortal man could be thrown, I cringe.
Many nonmartial artists are in awe of these flashy fancy moves, but I see it for what it is. Flash. In a real fight, that guy would have gotten clobbered. That group of guys wouldnât wait to fight him one at a time. They would mob him all at once and that little man would look like what a ten year old boy would do with a toy soldier and a wood burning kit.
In music, as we get better, it is “harder” for us to enjoy music.
It is harder for me to listen to many songs that are made today because I can sense things that most nonmusical people donât know or think about (like why all the latest bands all sound alike). Most people donât care. Theyâre just hearing music they love.
As much fun as it is to break down other music, stop! Stop talking about how terrible the industry is. Stop talking about how untalented a band is. Stop talking about how you could play everything that one band could play so easily. Stop stroking your ego.
If people love that style of music then those musicians are doing something right. Analyze. See if you can find something that you can use for yourself.
Breaking them down to make yourself feel better will only do two things:
1) Isolate yourself from being able to possibly learn from them (Just about every band has at least one good thing about them.)
2) Every time you break down another musician, it will make it easier to do it again. This could eventually lead you to become that one bitter guy that noone likes to hang with.
If youâre a musician you should be writing music because you love to. So stop comparing other people. See if you can learn something and move on. You owe it to yourself to not let your ego get in the way.
#32) The mountain climber wins…
I want to write a CD! Iâd better hurry! I want to be done in three weeks!
Great! Iâm glad you want to make a CD. My question, are you more concerned with making a CD or making music? The most important thing that I would like to stress is to take small steps. Donât try to jump up that flight of stairs. Youâre likely to trip up!
If you want a CD done in three weeks, are you writing those last songs because you love to write music, or because youâre freaked and stressed because you have seven songs to complete in three days? Donât rush it, but always keep a forward momentum. If youâre to expand and grow, youâll need time to think and consider what youâve done and where youâve come from.
Who gets the more personal experience: The guy who flies to the top of the mountain, gets off his plane and yells âYahoooooo!â or the guy who climbs up the mountain, gets to the top and yells âYahoooooo!â.
The guy who climbs the mountain will see sights that the man in the plane would have never seen. He will have a newfound respect for that mountain, and as he climbs other mountains he will have the strength and knowledge to become a better climber.
The guy in the plane? Well letâs just say that you get out what you put in. Iâm sure heâs getting his thrills, but he will never come to understand the mountain like the climber.
#33) Collaborating is fun!
Stuck? Canât figure out what to do next? Try collaborating with other musicians out there. The internet is a wonderful way to meet new and exciting people.
Obviously, one of the greatest benefits of collaborating is that youâll learn how to accommodate other peopleâs styles with your own.
Since you know how to accommodate their styles with your own, that also means that you can learn from their style much easier since youâre trying to integrate it with yours anyways. Collaborating is an excellent learning tool.
#34) Get some friends! (online music friends. network!)
Get some friends. Online friends that is. How about some online musical friends? How much fun would that be?
Find some musicians whom you respect and send them an e-mail. No donât say âHi Iâm …. would you please be my friend!?!?!â Donât you dare do that! Ack! Say âHey this is … and I really enjoyed your music!â Be like that.
Having other peers can help you in many ways. Easy to find people to collaborate with. Finding musicians who you have respect will bring about more ideas that you can integrate to your style.
Between the two of you, you can share successes with each other. You can learn off their mistakes and vice versa. So, yes, peers can have an impact on your songwriting. They can also have an impact on your success as a musician.
#36) Nitpicky death vine traps kills vibe dead
You are a musician. You know all the intricacies of music. You are the master of your own domain. Most people donât have the slightest clue what youâre doing. Think about this when youâre fretting over
“Should the second note of the third measure have a velocity of 79 or 84”
Let me say this again in different words. Most people donât notice. Most people do not notice. Most people wonât notice the difference….
Some people will notice. You will! Maybe your band mates. Make sure that the changes that youâre making will actually be a change for the better. As cool as it may seem to meticulously nitpick your music to precision, most people who listen would never know the difference between a MIDI controller change of 11 (which is Expression) that switches between 79 to 84.
Most people only notice the dramatic things. Keep that in mind.
You could literally spend months fine tuning your song. The big question is: âIs my music communicating effectively?â. If you find there are traps that are in your way, you should remove them. If these traps are something that you and you alone only notice, then I say leave it be (unless you just have to).
Do whatever is in your power, but try not to be too nitpicky. This may shock you so Iâll only say it once. Most people donât notice.
#37) Zombies revisited
Donât let your music get cursed to be a zombie. It takes a zombie ten minutes (I counted! My pet zombie is very slow! Maybe it needs more brain food.) to get up a hill. Not only does it take a long time, itâs boring to watch the zombie go up the hill. It flails around aimlessly, groaning.
Donât let your music get zombified. What am I talking about? If you utterly slay the life out of your song, try to resist the urge to bring it out from the dead. Save your work and use it as a reference to a possible idea in a new song, where that idea can live in a lush, beautiful world instead of that dark dismal world.
By strangling the dead husk of a corpse of a song that it once was, you might be taking that great idea and cramming it into a mediocre or poor song.
#38) Donât betray your listener
Sounds like a soap opera. “You betrayed me! Itâs not my baby” Actually it is your baby. Itâs your music.
This tip is a simple one. Donât betray the listener. If you are a hard rock musician and they buy it, donât cram half of your CD with country and pop tunes (unless you let them know). Itâs just simple. Just let the audience know exactly who you are.
Donât try to betray them just to get them to listen to your music. Sure it could work, but it could easily backfire too.
What if Steven King wrote a love story, labeled it under horror and called it “The black queen of death bringing morgue snatching evil darkness of unholiness”. As people read the book they will feel very betrayed if itâs about a nurseâs relationship with a patient and how it never could be.
Why? They want to meet the black queen of death bringing morgue snatching evil darkness of unholiness and they want to see her lay the smack down on some innocent people who always have to take showers when there is danger ahead!
I understand if you enjoy making a variety of styles, just let the listeners know what they are getting. Steven King could write a love story, he just needs to give it a fitting name and put it in the romance section. I think everyone has come across that “one album” where the one song they play on the radio is the one oddball song of the album.
#39) Find your vision as an artist
What makes your music unique? How does your art form stand differently than the millions of other songs that have emerged throughout time? More importantly, do you have a vision for yourself as a musician?
Letâs face it, if youâre in a hard rock band, we can conclude that there are thousands upon thousands of hard rock groups currently out there. Vision is that extra identity that makes your music different.
The only way to attain vision is to have reworked and redefined your musical style and ability to the point to where you become aware of yourself as an artist.
One cannot tell you what their musical vision is, they can only show you.
A musician with a vision has the ability to meld his personality into his music. He knows his strengths and weaknesses. Every factor is a building block to their music.
When you realize your vision as an artist, you will begin to understand what you want, and where you need to go to get it. If you havenât found it yet, donât fret. Keep making music and analyzing yourself as a musician. It will come in time. Will it help you grow as a musician?
Most definitely. It will put that extra edge in your music that screams your name whenever people hear it. Itâs the difference between reading an action book and visualizing what is happening and reading an action book that is so vivid your heart is racing with every page turn.
#40) When the chips are down, get some ice cream
Last tip of this article! Take a break! Youâve got your whole life to figure out what you want to do. Just take it step by step, and every so often youâve got to get away.
Enjoy life! Go skiing! Go sledding! Get out of your room for cryinâ out loud! As a musician you should be expressing aspects of life in your music. So go out there and have something to come home and write about.
Till next time. Good luck and happy songwriting.
Ken Hill is an electronic/new age composer under the name of Soulwire.
If you have any comments, suggestions or ideas about this article, please be sure to e-mail him at email@example.com or send a myspace message at his page, http://www.myspace.com/soulwire
I’m going to take some of these insights from time to time and expand on them but, I’ll leave that for another day.
Until next time, happy writing,
Keywords: ken hill, soulwire, songwriting, songwriter, writing, songwriting zen,
songwriting tip, songwriting idea, songwriting blog, songwriting
resource, corey stewart
Type in “Songwriting Tips” into Google and you’re bound to come across a document called “21 Songwriting Tips” posted on various websites such as Music Biz Academy and Indie-Music.Com. I don’t know when the original article was published but it’s been around for a while.
I thought, seeing that Songwriting Zen is a songwriting blog that I too should have this famous list of 21 songwriting tips posted online for you to read and ponder.
“21 Songwriting Tips” plus the follow-up article “19 More Songwriting Tips” (I’ll have that up for you tomorrow) were written by Ken Hill. As he states at the beginning of “21 Songwriting Tips”:
“This is not a how-to article. This is just some songwriting tips that I want to share with you to help you become a more versatile songwriter. Take the hints that you feel help you out and discard the ones you donât agree with.”
Here are Ken Hill’s “21 Songwritng Tips” for your enjoyment. I wonder what you think of some of them.
21 Songwriting Tips
By Ken Hill
Writing a song is much like being an author. Yes, we all have tools to write (everyone has a brain I hope!), but that doesnât all of a sudden make us best selling authors. Authors work at their abilities, often every day.
The prime goal of an author is the same as a musician, which is to emotionally connect with the reader in some way or another.
Writers do this by using motivation, characterization, and powerful word combinations among other things. Composers, like authors, have a lot in common.
Our main goal is to connect with the listener emotionally.
This is where our first tip comes into play: Never stop working at your abilities.
If our main goal is to connect emotionally, we should want to have as many tools as we possibly can to achieve that goal. The more abilities that we have, the more choices we can make musically.
Itâs important to have a wide arsenal of choices at your disposal, because if we keep doing the same âtried and trueâ methods, their emotional effects will wear off as the songwriting becomes caged into a predictable movement.
#2) Who are you writing your music for? Know your goal.
The reason why you need to know this is because when you make music for yourself, there is no limit to what you can do to be âexpressiveâ.
If you are making music for other people, you will have to be aware of how people relate to it.
It is like this: when you are a computer genius and you want to tell someone how to fix their computer, you have to speak in their terms so they can understand what the heck you are saying. If you speak in your lingo, you will most likely lose them in techno-talk.
Another example is the author. He can write a story with the largest, most sweeping words he knows- but if the reader does not know what those words mean, the entire meaning gets lost.
We, as musicians, face the same predicament. Overcomplicated songs will lose the average listener. Now, other hardcore musicians will greatly appreciate your abilities and probably get more feeling from it- but the common person will most likely not be able to follow.
Once again you should ask yourself when you write a song: Who am I making this music for and will they be able to relate?
#3) Scratching in the dirt
Minds are like flowers. If you let it sit there without soaking anything up, it will dry up. Not to say that you canât invigorate your mind again, but it is saying that it is harder to do so.
Just like weight lifting. If you havenât worked out in awhile, it is quite hard to lift as much as you did when you were lifting every day.
So this is my first suggestion. Practice. Iâm not talking about technical ability this time (although you should practice that too!). Iâm saying that you should practice making new songs.
Make a goal to make 1 new song every week, even if it is only 50 seconds long. It is the fact that you are working your brain out.
Once you begin the song, you can latch onto ideas rather quickly. That is not the purpose of the exercise. The purpose is to get your brain to find new avenues by exploring different ideas. Itâs about trying something new every time.
#4) Music vs. Robots
Music is an art form. It is a way to wordlessly communicate. There are computer programs that are designed to âmake songsâ on the fly. How much do you think that communicates?
Please donât be a robot! Donât give in and throw in random notes that fit in a scale just to fill a passage. Make a reason for why every part of your song exists. Find parts in your lead passage that really hooks you.
Now delete all the other parts. Now build off of the hook. Get it? Computers cannot find hooks, but your ear can. If you canât feel anything interesting from a part, get rid of it. Unless of course you want to have a âboringâ part to build into something grand! Thereâs a nice strategy.
#5) The songâs opinion is better than yours! Nyah!
When you think in the best interests in the song, you may have to rid yourself some very good ideas that you wanted to do.
I have come up with very creative ideas that really didnât work with the song I was currently composing. Donât mess up your song by trying to fit it in! If you can fit it in and it feels right to put it there- good shot! If it doesnât- well then you have an idea for your next song to go!
Remember, the songâs opinion is better than yours!
Oh, here is a good one. Just because you got a new toy, does not mean every song needs to have it! There, I said it.
Just because you get a wah-wah pedal for your guitar, now every song you make after that needs to have a wah-wah?? I think not!
Think about what the song needs not what you want. The both of you might have varying opinions. When you make the music bigger than you are, then youâll understand what I mean – it tends to have a mind of its own.
#6) Where does inspiration come from?
Quite often when I write a song, I think back to a moment in my life.
I use what has happened in my life as an inspiration to make music. The more I do in my life, the more I can write music about new experiences. Sometimes just getting out of the house and doing something you havenât done in a long time (or never done!) can open up the doors to musical inspiration.
Open up a photo album, read old letters, visit family, friends, go do an activity, do anything but music!
Read poetry, watch ballet, go see a movie, walk around in a museum, look at oil paintings and sculptures, these are all different forms of art. Music is an art form too.
Sometimes other forms of art can be inspiring to the musician. Come back, after your mind has been freed, and try to write a song about it.
#7) Oops I made an accident.. er- no I didnât!
Once we begin a song, our minds begin to formulate where to go next, and most of the time, we excitedly travel down the road.
Throughout the excitement, we can make good mistakes. We hit the wrong key, and all of a sudden, our mind is opened to a new avenue.
Mistakes can be good things, because it is an unexpected thing. I think the best music sounds familiar enough to know where it is going, but unpredictable enough to avoid musical clichĂ©s!
Sometimes I will click on a random sequence of notes, not to actually use it in a song, but to see if I can find maybe a simple pattern that I can build off of. About 95% of the time, I just hear musical mush that I canât use. The other 4% it is good stuff, and 1% of it is amazing! Accidents can be good things.
Remember that. If you donât have an inspiration, sometimes just “playing around” is a good answer!
#8) Country?!? I make rock songs!
It is hard to compare Clint Black to Korn. That is not to say there isnât something to be learned from different styles.
The best way to be able to attack a song from every angle is to have as many techniques and styles as possible. Your talent will tell you which ones would work for your song.
Learn country, rock, alternative even try polka! Learn as much as you can. There might be a place to use that knowledge somewhere in the future!
#9) A + B =C. A + B = XYZ???
Donât use the same formulas for your songs! Just because you found a winning formula, that may only work for that particular song. Try different avenues. There are artists that you hear (even on the radio) that seem to have all of their songs to sound alike. Be creative.
#10) Donât retrograde your V into a IV??!? Are you crazy?!
Donât be a music theory lawyer, but use it to your advantage. Knowledge of the rules of music can be a great thing- if you also know that itâs okay to break them. If you stay theoretically sound, you may have a generic sound. Dissonance can be a powerful tool.
#11) That musician canât play himself out of a paper bag…
Ahh, how many times have I heard one musician talk about another behind their back. The reason why refraining this can help your songwriting is because when you stop comparing to the outside world, you can learn from them.
Maybe the guitarist isnât the most technically sound, but maybe he can fingerpick like you wouldnât believe. Learn from his strengths so they can be yours too. Examine his style and abilities and see if there isnât something you canât learn from him.
#12) I feel like listening to…
Maybe youâre brain fried but you feel like writing a song. Why not toss in a CD of someone who inspires you to write.
Examine the style, the mixing, how the entire song is constructed, when each instrument blends in and out of the mix, etc. etc. Youâll find that many times you can get ideas from other artists.
Iâm not saying steal their riffs (but go ahead if it makes you feel better) but you can take some of their ideas and blend them into your own style.
Steal an idea and then bend it to the inner workings of your mind!
#13) Letâs write a Metal song next to a Kinder care…
Location is a very important aspect to songwriting. When youâre next to a lake, you probably get the feeling of relaxation. When youâre at a concert, I doubt you will feel so relaxed. Where you are can impact your music.
If you are lucky enough to have your own private place in your home to play music, you most likely have it decorated with posters or something that puts you in the mood. If you donât… try it!
I had a guy tell me that he couldnât write a song unless he turned off all of his lights except for one… and it was blue. If you create an atmosphere, it will most likely affect your music.
When you are in a store you act differently than at home. Even your kitchen will invoke a different type of feeling than your living room. No doubt about it.. Try to get a room that can match your musical personality and write there. Test out different places.
I, personally, write my music in the dark. No blue light here.
#14) It sounds okay… I guess…
Get rid of it! To exercise your mind, you have to work it to its full capacity. Back to weight lifting, if you can curl 45-lbs, donât settle for 20 lbs one day. You wonât get stronger.
Half-hearted songs donât count in my opinion. Playing around is nice and all, but your ultimate goal should be to write a song like youâve written before. It is how we expand as musicians.
Writing songs with methods that weâve done before is like lifting 20 lbs. Using new ideas and methods, that our mind would have only thought of because weâve mastered the old- thatâs your 45 pounder! Keep it fresh!
Donât fall into the habit of generic music!!!
#15) Ideas.. Ideas.. Ideas…
Sometime I write a song off a central idea, instead of emotion.
For example, my idea might be: well, what if I wrote a dance song with a heavy guitar? What if I wanted to write a song uses a distortion over drums?
Ideas donât always evolve into songs, but they help you be creative!
The important thing is that since they are ideas (kind of like a hypothesis) you shouldnât come to a conclusion till you have tried it.
In other words, if you have an idea that running distortion over drums would sound cool over a love song, and when you try it, you may tell yourself… “no- distortion with drums sounds good on a hard rock song.”
#16) I like it, but what do you think???
Let me start by saying that your friends and family members will most likely be very biased about your music. Ask them what they think if you want a self-esteem booster. I take compliments more to heart from strangers who like my music.
The most important thing is that you like the music. Will others like it as well? Maybe, maybe not. If they offer suggestions, consider them…
There is no right or wrong way to write a song. There are only songs that people can and canât relate to. And Iâm sure that almost any song that was ever made could probably relate to at least one other person in this world.
#17) Catchy phrases for lyrics
If youâre planning on writing lyrics, then I offer you this suggestion: Use words that people use everyday.
Why? Because if those same words are used in just an everyday conversation, it will remind that listener of your song.
For instance, if I said “I was outside last night and saw a twinkle twinkle little star”, immediately that song pops into your mind. Of course no one would talk like that, so if you mold your song around an everyday phrase, then it will remind people of your song easier. Just think of Staind, “Itâs been awhile”.
Every time someone says that phrase it reminds me of that song.
#18) Be healthy. Eat, sleep and exercise regularly as part of your daily routine.
Strange to think how proper sleep, exercise and food come into play, but it can. Just think of this: Food is your bodyâs fuel. Without fuel, your body wants to shut down. That is why people who arenât healthy are tired more often.
When youâre in shape, your metabolism will rise giving you an extra supply of energy that you can use to focus onto music or whatever. Does that mean that if youâre out of shape and not eating right that you canât make good music? Of course not!
But what I am saying is that if you do choose to eat right and get in shape, it will help you keep your focus and energy for a longer period of time.
I canât stress enough how different one feels when they choose to get in shape, but it really helps you psychologically, mentally and physically.
#19) Building a hook
Some of the most powerful hooks are derived from taking a simple melody and modifying it ever so slightly. Why does that make it powerful? Hooks need to be predictable and not predictable at the same time.
If there is a degree of predictability then the listener will be able to relate to the song more quickly. For instance, how many of you have said in your mind, âthat would be so cool if this song did this…â and then the song took the same direction you wanted it to go.
If you twist it a little bit, then the song will have its unique identity that separates it from the traditional clichĂ© of many hooks.
People have heard different artists use the exact same musical hooks and patterns, and if there is no unique twist then you will hear something like, “they copied (fill in the blank)âs song. Sounds just like it but with different words.”
You will most likely want your song to have its own identity.
Music is about textures as well as melody. Think of the texture of a nylon string guitar as opposed to the texture of a steel string. Think of the texture of a piano, and the texture of a synth.
Some of the same melodies played with different textures can completely change a song. A lot of metal songs sound like classical pieces when played on a classical guitar instead of an electric.
The human voice sounds thicker with a chorus and reverb than a dry signal. Textures can bring out the best and worst in a song.
We pay great amounts of money to get the âbestâ texture we possibly can. That is why people buy expensive musical equipment over cheap pawn shop items.
Distortion has a huge variety of different tones and sounds. Not every distortion pedal sounds the same. Why? For texture.
Donât keep using the same sounds, experiment with as many textures as you can. This is so important; Iâm going to say texture 20 more times by the end of this tip.
Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture Texture.
#21) Have fun
Have fun!? What kind of topic!? Guess what. People donât have fun making music all the time. Itâs really sad. If you donât believe me, think about all the people who have been upset because of something their band did to them.
Revert to the very beginning, when you first realized that you loved to create music… and have fun!
About The Author
Perhaps put up a topic of discussion in the Songwriting Zen Forum. I’m always up for a good conversation.
Until next time, happy writing,
Keywords: ken hill, soulwire, songwriting, songwriter, writing, songwriting zen, songwriting tip, songwriting idea, songwriting blog, songwriting resource, corey stewart
Here is another wonderful article from Orlando of www.songwriteradvisor.com fame called “Great Songwriting Resources Are Yours For the Taking.”
It’s about how you can best use the free songwriting information found online to create your own comprehensive songwriting resource.
Great Songwriting Resources Are Yours For The Taking
By Orlando Gutierrez
If you’re looking for free songwriting resources you don’t have to look much further than your favorite search engine search box!
The Internet is chock full of juicy, free songwriting tips because songwriting webmasters have painstakingly put together many excellent websites for beginner to advanced songwriters.
If you’re a beginning songwriter and you’re not sure where to start, there’s a ton of useful information on the web if you type the keyword “beginner songwriting” into a search box.
For example, if you’re an intermediate or advanced songwriter, if you enter “songwriting tips” you’ll instantly have access to many quality, free songwriting resources!
The majority of songwriting websites on the internet have useful, instructional material, and you can assemble your own personal “how to write songs manual,” and learn quite a bit during the process as you weed through the many articles.
To assemble your very own songwriting guide all you need is a large binder, some page dividers, and a hole puncher. Then start researching the web on your own using the following topics as your starting guide:
1. Song Verse Development (what is a song verse, how to develop a verse, etc.)
2. Pre-chorus Tips (what is a pre-chorus, how to develop a pre-chorus, etc.)
3. Chorus Development (what is a chorus, how to develop a strong hook, etc.)
4. Second Verse tips (ideas for starting a 2nd verse, etc.)
5. How to Write a Bridge (what is a bridge, how to write a bridge, etc.)
6. Song Forms (how to choose, etc.)
7. Song Title (how to create, etc.)
8. Rhyming Tips and Techniques (how to rhyme effectively, etc.)
9. How to Create a Melody (what constitutes a great melody, etc.)
This is just the tip of the iceberg and definitely enough to get you started, but you get the idea!
You can either print out web pages for your personal songwriting resources or assemble them using Microsoft Word or a similar program.
Personally, when I was learning songwriting years ago I preferred using a thick binder with dividers separating the many songwriting topics I was learning about. The trick is stay organized with your songwriting tips entries from the various free songwriting websites on the net by cataloging them efficiently and accurately.
So, for this songwriting resource, the only thing you need to have is a decent hole-puncher and a binder to make yourself the ultimate songwriting guide!
By completing this project a few years ago, I was able to improve my songwriting technique drastically, and I built myself a
strong, solid basic songwriting foundation from which to build on.
About The Author
Did you know anyone who listens to music can learn how to write quality songs because music is a hearing art form? All you have to know are the basics of songwriting. If you want to see how easy it is for free….click here!
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Orlando_Gutierrez
I’m personally giving this a try. How about you? Let me know how you go.
Until next time, happy writing,
Keywords: songwriting, songwriter, writing, songwriting zen, songwriting tip, songwriting idea, songwriting blog, songwriting resource, corey stewart
I’m using the month of December to review what I’ve done in 2008 and start planning for 2009.
I do this every year and I always get a little excited at this time because I love the thought of starting a new year with a clear slate.
Looking back I realised that I used 2008 as a year of establishing some sort of foundation for my songwriting/online music marketing activities. All was going pretty well until about July when the wheels started to fall off the wagon.
This is where I started taking too much on. This was the beginning of burn-out.
Here are 12 things I did in 2008:
1. (Feb) Shifted home office to external office
2. (Feb) Started the original Songwriting Zen Blog
3. (Apr) Started building a Songwriting Studio
4. (Apr) SCALA’s FOOM Songwriting Competition
5. (May) Songwriting Zen Forum launched
6. (May) Present Songwriting Zen Blog launched
7. (May) I’m interviewed on SongCatcher radio program
8. (Jul) Co-ordinator of the Sing Out Songwriting Project
9. (Jul) Sunday Singer/Songwriter Showcase commences
10. (Jul) I accept the 50/90 challenge
11. (Sep) I moved house
12. (Nov) Sing Out 2008 finished
No wonder 2008 seemed like a blur. Now onto 2009.
One of the first things I’ll be doing is shifting my external office back to a home office. Even though I enjoy the office environment I love my home environment even more and besides, not paying two lots of phone and internet charges will make the bank balance look a little better.
I’m almost ready to roll out another free eReport for you all. It’s called “11 More Ways To Eliminate Writers Block FOREVER!” and the title really says it all.
Other services I’ll be wanting to roll out in 2009 are:
- Song Feedback/Critiques
- Songwriting Coaching
- Songwriting Workshops
I want to be expanding my song collaboration network as well as the Open Mics plus the Singer/Songwriter Showcase concept. Maybe then I might find some time to write that Songwriting Zen book and record songs for my first CD release as well.
Watch this space…
Until next time, happy writing,
Keywords: songwriting, songwriter, writing, songwriting zen, songwriting tip, songwriting idea, songwriting blog, songwriting resource, corey stewart
One of the main things I achieved in 2008 was co-ordinating the Sing Out Songwriting Project. It was a monumental task and one which nearly drove me over the edge.
This is what happens when one person of limited time, budget and resources attempts to do the work of 2 to 3 people however, I don’t regret it one bit.
Let me give you a bit of background here.
Sing Out was initially created in 2007 by my good friend and amazingly talented singer/songwriter Heather Frahn as a “live music event with a community development twist”.
Last year I had the honour of being one of the songwriters involved with the project. This year Heather asked me if I could run it as she was touring Europe at the time. I said “yes” and the rest is history.
The premise of Sing Out is as follows:
“… connecting people through song and performance, “Sing Out!” explores the lives and stories of eight individuals from the Gay & Lesbian community with diverse and interesting backgrounds. Each life story is then presented and performed by seven of Adelaideâs finest singer/songwriter/musicians through a collaborative and creative process.”
That’s right, eight participants and eight songwriters are randomly paired up and a song is written about an aspect of the participants life. The difficulty of co-ordinating eight songwriting groups was something I wasn’t prepared for.
To compound matters, I also became one of the songwriters due to a last minute cancellation. Why don’t I just pile more work on top of me?
From the end of July to the end of November, I worked on putting together the Sing Out Songwriting Project with the end result being the Sing Out concert for the Feast Festival on November 26th.
Even though the events leading up to the concert were immensely challenging, the concert itself went without a hitch.
Everyone that was involved pulled together and we worked harmoniously as a team. At the end of it all it was a lot of fun.
The reason why I’m telling you this is that my involvement with Sing Out was one of the main reasons why I was off the air for a couple of months however, my involvement with Sing Out also gave me the clearest lessons to learn about myself and what I can achieve.
Looking back on it all, I’m actually very, very proud of myself. In fact now that I’ve proven to myself that I can single-handedly put together an event such as Sing Out, I can do absolutely anything!
Make time for my songwriting… Sure!
Practise what I preach… No worries!
Tame my inner critic to an inch of its life… Absolutely!
Embrace all that life offers me… YES!
Another thing that I learned to do was to operate my songwriting studio. Part of the Sing Out Songwriting Project was producing a CD of all the songs for sale at the concert. A couple of the songwriting groups chose to record their own works but the others used my studio.
I recorded, produced, mixed and mastered the recordings and helped with the creation of the artwork and the CD package. It was a valuable lesson in audio recording for me and an incredible confidence boost in using my studio.
If my present setup can produce a CD for sale then surely I can use it to demo my songwriting ideas? I have no excuse now.
Sometimes hindsight can be a cruel beast but fortunately, in my case it’s a bearer of wonderful insights all of which will help with my songwriting from now on.
Until next time, happy writing,
Keywords: sing out, sing out songwriting project, songwriting, songwriter, writing, songwriting zen, songwriting tip, songwriting idea, songwriting blog, songwriting resource, corey stewart
Let me tell you, I failed miserably in the 50/90 challenge.
I can only sit here and contemplate why I’ve only posted five songs on the 50/90 website.
I know that the world isn’t going to end because of this so, instead of beating myself up over it (which I tend to do in these situations) I’m going to try and put a positive spin on it and work out what I’ve learnt about myself through this 50/90 experience.
You see, when I started the challenge I was hopeful and confident that I’d be able to do it. I had a lot of encouragement from friends and Songwriting Zen readers (thanks guys).
I had lots of songwriting ideas floating around my head, on MP3 and paper and I was positive I’d be able to make the time necessary to write, record and post the songs on the 50/90 website.
So what happened?
I started the 50/90 challenge with all guns blazing, then I got a couple of reviews that were constructive but not overly positive. This was all the evidence my inner critic needed to start undermining me.
There were many, many times where I tried to marry a musical and lyrical idea together only to have a little voice inside my head say things like.
This is absolute crap
You’re not going to make it
You’re a fraud
Call yourself a songwriter?
You can’t write hooks
This sounds like another song
Give up now
I got scared. I was scared of writing bad songs. I got scared of what other people thought of my songs. I got scared of the possible feedback.
I lost the battle with my inner critic. I gave up.
There is a real difference between challenging yourself and being competitive with others. In hindsight I should’ve seen the 50/90 challenge as just that, a challenge. It’s not a contest to see who gets to the goal first.
So what have I learnt about myself through taking part in the 50/90 challenge?
1. See the 50/90 challenge for what it is, an outlet to write songs
2. Learn to take contructive feedback and/or critisism on the chin
3. Use all experiences as a learning experience
4. Don’t do anything that I don’t feel comfortable in doing
5. Don’t make promises to myself and others that I can’t keep
Lessons well learnt I reckon. What was your experience doing the 50/90 challenge?
Until next time, happy writing,
Keywords: songwriting, songwriter, lyric writing, lyrics, songwriting zen, songwriting tip, songwriting idea, songwriting blog, songwriting resource, corey stewart
I downloaded it myself and let me tell you, it’s great!
To download the ebook you need to first of all sign up for his newsletter but don’t let that deter you. Tom’s insights into the musical aspect of writing songs are fantastic reading and well worth the subscription.
Tom describes the inspiration to create “Worksheets For The Songwriting Guitarist” in this way:
“In my everyday life as a music teacher, I tend to design quite a lot of worksheets.
In my online life trying to share songwriting ideas, Iâve never put this skill into use. Until now, that is.
You see, a written worksheet can be a very useful thing. As songwriters weâre often scribbling on random bits of paper. A worksheet, properly designed, can give order to the chaos of our ideas, doodlings and scribbles.”
The ebook contains four worksheets all specifically designed for use in various parts of the songwriting process:
1. The Chord Diary
2. The Lyric Brainstormer
3. The Chord Progression Chart
4. The Song Analysis Guide
Best of all it’s FREE so what have you got to lose? I’m going to try them out myself. I’ll let you know how I go.
Until next time, happy writing,
Keywords: songwriting, songwriter, writing, songwriting zen, songwriting tip, songwriting idea, songwriting blog, songwriting resource, corey stewart
PS: Check out Tom’s band “We’ll Write” while you’re at it. It’s very cool!
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