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How to start songwriting?

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Postby Kopfschmerzen » July 29th, 2011, 2:54 am

Hi everyone!

Not sure if i'm in the right subforum, but... I do want to start writing songs. But I can't. I often read advises like 'just start doing that and your 1001st song will be great', or 'you first need a technique in your hands so you could express yourself fully'. I agree with the first, to some extent with the second, but anyway... The question is actually how do I start? When I think about it, I feel a kind of wall between me (my feelings, things I want to express, etc.) and the outer world (guitar, pen and paper, friends, etc.) When I think about writing a song, I take a pen (or a guitar depending on what I want to create) and... nothing. Thoughts can't break the wall to come out.

It affects not only songwriting but any creative process. Say, I get stuck if I want to change a well-known solo a little bit, or improvise, whatever.

Do you have an experience of breaking such a wall? How did you overcome that? What helped you?

Thanks.
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Postby bkangel » July 29th, 2011, 3:57 pm

I cannot offer advice, but can say that I think you've explained very well how I feel most of the time. I keep a little note book and jot down lines (only lines, not whole songs) if they come to me, and I've been known to grab my phone and record a little bit of a song that pops in my head while I'm driving (hope noone ever finds those recordings :roll: ), but so far they are just fragments of... something.

I'll be interested to read the responses you get. (I seem to do this a lot... poaching other people's posts :lol: )
What I lack in talent and natural ability, I will have to make up with stubborness.
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Postby Vic Lewis VL » July 30th, 2011, 5:06 pm

Just....write. OK, everything will be a little (maybe a LOT) cliche'd at first - but writing's like playing guitar, you have to practise to get better.

For every good line you write, you'll throw away five, ten, maybe more....

Start by throwing yourself in at the deep end. Write a song. Maybe four lines for the first verses, four lines for the chorus, another four lines for the second verse, repeat the chorus, then a four line bridge, then repeat the chorus a couple of times. Keep it simple. HUNDREDS of songs were written that way back in the 60's...Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, they all started off that way. THEN....get a little more ambitious. Write longer verses, shorter choruses - vary the choruses....vary your rhyming schemes.

But - get started. Jot down words, phrases, rhymes, anything that comes into your head...a phrase you've heard in conversation, whatever - there are literally millions of places to start.

Try dropping into the Sunday Songwriters Group - a different topic every week, don't feel bad if you can't come up with something for the current assignment. There are quite a lot of previous assignments/topics archived - one of them might tickle your songwriting synapses into life.

Above all else, start seriously THINKING about writing - whatever you see or hear during your normal day, start thinking to yourself, "how can I work this into a song?"

Wishing you all the best.....

:D :D :D

Vic
"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)
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Postby Kopfschmerzen » August 2nd, 2011, 11:57 pm

When I think about the process of writing (not only songwriting, but any writing actually), I can see that it can be developed the same way as any other skill. That is, proficiency comes with practice. :) And thinking about my problem with starting songwriting, I think the following universal method will help. These are my steps to take:

1. Start writing with the biggest piece I'm able to write now. Say, if I can't write a verse, start with a single line. No line? Start with a word. No word? Start with the first letter. A voice in my head is telling me, "You are writing a song even if it's one word only. Songwriting is difficult. Go buy beer instead!" so I'm learning not to listen to that.

2. Once I got used to (don't wait until I got bored with) one word "songs", increase the amount of writing. Line instead of a word, verse instead of a line, etc.

Key point is to go out of the comfort zone, to push the limits a little bit with every iteration.

What do you think about the plan? :roll:


Vic Lewis VL wrote:But - get started. Jot down words, phrases, rhymes, anything that comes into your head...a phrase you've heard in conversation, whatever - there are literally millions of places to start.

Vic Lewis VL wrote:Try dropping into the Sunday Songwriters Group - a different topic every week, don't feel bad if you can't come up with something for the current assignment. There are quite a lot of previous assignments/topics archived - one of them might tickle your songwriting synapses into life.

These are very good advises, thank you Vic!

Vic Lewis VL wrote:Above all else, start seriously THINKING about writing - whatever you see or hear during your normal day, start thinking to yourself, "how can I work this into a song?"

And this is simply brilliant! Really.

Regards
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Postby jamestoffee » August 6th, 2011, 7:53 am

I second Vic's advice on trying the Sunday Song Writer's Group. :wink:

For me, the idea is key; which is often related to the title. Once I have the idea, I can filter the information that word fit the song regarding lyrics and music.

Titles are not copyrighted, so you can browse lists of song titles and see what you think it would be about. It's probably best to start with a title for a song you don't know so you don't get "stuck" thinking about the original song.

Here is one method to try:

Start with an idea or title:

For example, "The Miracle Mom" as a starting title/idea

Then ask the questions: who, what, why where, how. In this case, make a profile about this person and see where it leads.

Who was this woman?
What is the miracle? What did she do or is going to do?
Why is she called a mom?
Where does she live, wear, occupation, background.....be creative
How did she get the title or name miracle mom? Who gave her the title? Was it someone who loved and admired her, or was it a put down and a derogatory comment?

.....Is she really a woman? Maybe she was the first man to ever give birth......Maybe someone is talking to their mom and saying. "The Miracle, Mom".....

play around with ideas and opposites.....If you don't like creating the character as rich, make them poor. If she is not beautiful, make her ugly. If she is not shy make her obnoxious.

The more real or fleshed out the idea and character is for you, the easier it will be to fill in the lyrics. Then you could think what genre music the character would express themselves in. For example, is she a biker mom that listens to Heavy Metal......or is was she (or he) born and raised on country music? etc.....

Next step for me, is to find the "hook" of the song.....what the singer would want to convey or tell the singee.

After that, develop the verses to tell the story of how or why the singer is sharing their message/the hook to the singee.

Consider setting some restrictions and limitations or parameters to getting started. That seems to be helpful to get something going more than a blank page.
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Postby chenz4 » September 26th, 2011, 4:32 am

Jack white talks about something in under great white northern lights that is relevent here. He says paraphrased, "the biggest creativity killer is having limitless possibilities." Having defined walls and bounaries helps you be creative because it gives you a place to start and a box to work in. I would start by defining exactly what you want to write about. Then make notes about details of what you are writing about. Now you have fuel to start making verses, rhymes, etc. You'll be amazed how fast the song gets written when you use this process. Be very specific when making these initial notes too. It will really help. Good luck. Matt
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