31 May 6 STEPS TO SONGWRITING
Step 1 | Do it for the right reason!
Songwriting as a form of creativity can be a far reaching and rewarding process. In the modern world of instant gratification and chronic egoism, I believe it’s important to get the foundation right, and that begins with writing because your intuition asks you to, because you need to, irrespective of the consequence.
Do it because it feels like a burning coal seam inside you. Do it because the creative release EXCITES you. Please don’t do it because you see how cool Ed Sheeran’s life is and you want a piece of that. If you do, you’ll be wasting your time and you’ll give up later in life, disillusioned and bitter. There’s nothing wrong with daydreaming about success, I do it all the time! But if you can simply enjoy the process, your music will become beautiful snapshots of your own experiences, stories, fears and loves. Your music will shine with authenticity and people will connect and listen. There is something beautiful about creating something to leave behind in this life as gentle whispers that punctuate your life’s journey. Aim for that.
Step 2 | Embrace Inspiration
Music influencers will always tell you that success requires “something new” or “something better” and that individualism is important to differentiate yourself as a songwriter and musician. While this is all great advice and certainly true, my personal experience is that we should never shy away from listening to and imitating music and musicians that stoke your fire for making music. Human society has always been built upon improvement and development of what has come before and all musicians will tell you that they are standing upon the shoulders of the giants that inspired them to start creating themselves.
Listen to great music > Learn to play great music > Then experiment
Step 3 | Record EVERYTHING
Every songwriter has their own process. My personal method is to record videos of creative ideas that I have, either vocally or instrumentally and to systematically store these ideas on a hard-drive. I went digital early for convenience and have followed this method since 2009. I guess this is the 21st century version of a scrapbook! Whatever your process, keep a record. Ideas are eternal and your best complete songs will rest atop a pyramid of creative scraps. The broader the foundation of ideas, the higher the pyramid will stand.
Record > Develop > Perfect
Step 4 | Develop Your Own Writing Process
As I mention above, everyone will have their own, unique writing process. Yours will differ from mine. whatever you find works for you, do that. Once you have a process, don’t be afraid of experimenting with other techniques, you’ll be surprised how much the end result varies.
Personally, I begin with the guitar or piano. Just riffing, finding something that makes me feel good, or hints at drawing out something from within me. I then move on to layering a melody over the idea and decide where that might sit in a song structure. Chorus, verse or bridge… From here a song is starting to evolve and you can experiment by taking the tune wherever you want it to go. Lyrics either coincide with melody generation or are my final and daunting step that I struggled with when I first started out as a songwriter. For me, this step is trial and error. Don’t settle until you like what you’re expressing lyrically, or it’ll haunt you when you start playing the songs live!
Step 5 | Truth or Fiction
I have always been drawn to truth in songwriting as my personal expression. I write songs about my experiences, insecurities and idiosyncrasies. For me, this goes back to Step 1. I have always used songwriting as a cathartic way to objectify internal insecurity, but in the early days this led to a lot of rather sad songs. Truth in songwriting can also lead to some rather interesting inter-personal experiences! A little like allowing everyone to read your personal diary… Most singer-songwriters choose this path of truth I believe for this fundamental reason, but song-writing fiction is nothing new and can be a really expressive and interesting avenue. Whatever your direction, know that no decision is wrong and as long as you’re enjoying the creative process, you’re moving in the right direction.
Step 6 | Finish Songs!
Please excuse me while I continue with the pyramid analogy… Once you have built a foundation of ideas, don’t forget to develop the ideas you like best. This starts to build your pyramid higher. Eventually you will find something that you want to finish and it’s important to not give in to procrastination. Some songs will flow out of you easily. Others you will have to extract like a wisdom tooth. But finishing them is how you move on to the next place in your journey as a singer/songwriter. That place is learning to play them and expressing them live. The more songs you finish, the more options you have when the stage calls. If you choose to answer this call, you’ll be embarking on an exhilarating, terrifying and life affirming journey.
See you down the road!