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Thursday, May 06, 2004

Beginners - Lesson 1: Before you start

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I've divided these things up into 'Lessons'. This is a very lose term, but I
needed to keep them in some kind of order.

These may all change over time as I get enough posted, I may need to shuffle
them around as my thoughts on the whole matter become clearer. As usual, I
am more interested in getting people to THINK about what they're doing as I
feel that this can help any type of songwriter.

I'm going to assume that you want to

A. Write a song

and

B. Have no idea what to write about


If you DO have some idea of the subject or ideas that you want to write about, you can skip this part and go HERE. (erm, when I've written the next part for you to go to)

However, if you have never tried to write a song before, or have tried before but always seem to be stuck in front of a blank sheet of paper, read on.

YOU and your PERSONAL TASTE IN MUSIC

Whether you're aiming for a number one smash hit or just want to write songs for yourself, the songs you write will always be better when they're written coming from a place you know. Even if you've never written much before, the chances are that you want to write songs in the same style as the ones that inspired you enough to get this far in the first place.

If you just ask yourself these simple questions beforehand, you will start to get an idea of what it is you want to do.

1. What are your favourite songs?
2. Who are your favourite artists?
3. Who are your favourite bands?
4. What kind of songs do you like the most?
5. Are there any songs that you wish you'd written?

It's easy to answer these questions, but important. Your own taste in music will influence the way you write. Decide to write in a style that you like and would like to be known for. Decide to write songs that you think your favourite band or artist would like, or even consider covering.

The reason I say this is because if you can actually VISUALIZE somebody you admire singing your potential new songs, then they will start to take shape a lot quicker. This idea can also be fairly INSPIRING.

You may decide to be 'the greatest singer-songwriter who ever lived' or even just 'someone who writes rock songs', but this general style will be the overall flavour of your songs that you decide to write.

You and your MOODS - one of the first songwriting pitfalls

Many novice songwriters say that they can't write unless they're 'in the mood'. Ideas won't come unless they're really depressed or upset, and when they're happy they can't write. Well, there's a lot of truth in that, but that's because they only have ONE WAY of writing songs, which often doesn't lead to the best lyrics in my experience. If you only write lyrics when you're in a certain mood, you are in danger of always writing the same songs. I have certain moods which ALWAYS bring me back to saying the same old kinds of things. If I wrote them all down every day, this wouldn't be songwriting. It would be called keeping a diary!

We all have memories. We can remember back to times when we were happy or sad. You don't necessarily have to be in a certain mood to write about those memories. In fact, it can be better to have some distance between you and the emotions you want to write about.

Emotional and creative people are attracted to songwriting. To write great songs though, being simply emotional and creative is not enough, and also has its pitfalls.

Pouring your heart and soul onto the page is all very well, and is a worthwhile exercise in free writing, but it is not songwriting. It may LEAD to a song, a few of the emotional IDEAS you may write down could become a line in a song, but still, this isn't songwriting. This is called WRITING DOWN HOW YOU ARE FEELING. It may be great therapy and make you feel better, but on the whole if you have ever done this for any length of time you may find that it leads nowhere.

What I have just described is NOT a form of communication. Songs need to communicate with people, like stories or jokes. Writing your emotions down on paper is not enough. The reason I'm going on about this now is because I have seen so many people get stuck in this trap.

Songwriting is usually more to do with DESCRIBING how you feel about something in a way that people want to listen to, translating your feelings on a subject into interesting words and music. It's good to be able to refer to notes where you describe exactly what you are feeling at any given time but, if you want someone else to truly experience the same state of mind as you were feeling when you wrote those words, you need to translate them into language that other people can relate to, with as much impact as possible. And you want to be understood, don't you?

Many people are afraid that if a song is written any other way apart from when their emotions are running rampant, then their song will be meaningless. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

If you are reading this because you have found it difficult to get past this 'emotional outpouring stage' in your songwriting, then think of it this way:

Write a song about something that people will understand, and fill it with your emotion.
YOU are writing the song, and if you're an emotional person who wants to be understood, that will be evident in your songwriting, in fact IT WILL BE OBVIOUS.

This is where the craft of songwriting comes in. You need to create something that people can digest and understand, while you slip your emotions in through the back door. If you don't do this NO ONE WILL EVER UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE ON ABOUT.

If you want to argue about that whole last section, then I urge you to reconsider your views on what you THINK it takes to be a songwriter. Scrub any ideas that your favourite songs came into being by your favourite artists simply staring into space waiting for divine intervention to strike. That is 99% not true. Yes we all have divine moments where songs are handed to us from on high, but it's rare, even for the most talented songwriters. It's really hard work to write a good song.

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Comments

I like your songwriting lesson! I own www.blueslessons.net the biggest resrource for free blues lessons on the net. Unfortunatly I donĀ“t have any songwriting lessons yet. If you like my page it would be great if you like to contribute your lesson (of course with your name, link etc.).
Regards,
Dirk

Posted by: Dirk | Feb 22, 2005 11:55:28 AM

hey I'm a first time songwriter I'm in a band and I'm hte lead singer I hit a writing block after my band didn't like the first 2 songs if you have any help or much needed tips i like it if you help
thanks for the tips loved em.

Posted by: katie | Mar 2, 2005 10:00:49 PM

Hello, Nice lesson, nice lesson indeed! It's good to see that you keep to the real ideas of song writing, expressing your emotions through ideas that the general public can relate to, or at least that's how I see it, and use it. Anyway, keep at these lessons, I know so many musicians who struggle with this severely, and can't find any help on the subject. Lucky we have great people like you who use free time to do such things!

Posted by: Jaxson | Apr 12, 2005 12:36:05 PM

Liked the lesson, especially the part about being in the mood. sems like, many times it takes some event in our lives or the lives of someone clost to us to bring on " the mood". But I've also gotten great ideas right out of the air. The idea for one song cvame from a fortune cookie. Another came when I decided I liked the way a song was written so I just copied the verse and phrasing structure with new words and melody, turned out to be a fav of mine.

Posted by: Mike | Apr 29, 2005 4:00:51 PM

wow, that helps! it's real nice of people to just share their experience! i want to be a vocalist, and i like to write songs, but don't think i'm great, this helped!

Posted by: steph | May 26, 2005 1:11:24 PM

well, i've always had lots of trouble writing songs and such. My so called "band" already has come up with lots of song titles, but we havent got much farther. I have yet hoped that i could one day make these random words into an actual song. With your advice, i think i may just be able to do it!!!!

Posted by: | Jul 4, 2005 3:36:45 AM

great site. the tips and advise help me a lot. i just wrote my first song and info here made it easier and worth while. THANKS

Posted by: Sean | Jul 21, 2005 9:16:11 AM

Hi that was a great lesson I'm a new songwriter and like many wish to be a vocalist, but im trying to write a song to convince my friends to start a band with me. Any advice?

Posted by: Luke | Aug 14, 2005 9:56:57 AM

how would you start a song out? can you give me any tips on how to start one out.

Posted by: Jason | Sep 8, 2005 8:46:37 AM

Its easy for me to express my feelings and writting them down..but i dont know how to put them in a song?? can u help me?

Posted by: cory | Sep 13, 2005 1:53:17 AM

HELLo thanks for this site its help me a lot in composing a song hope you will continue your good work god bless me salamat mabuhay ang mga pilipno mamatay ang mga instik at kano THANKS GUY FOR POSING MY COMMENTS

Posted by: engga | Oct 30, 2005 8:02:50 PM

this site sucks. it has given me zero help ive written song better without this "helper". my advice, never go near this site again.

Posted by: Verry Disgusted | Jun 11, 2006 9:15:43 PM

i am trying to write a song for the first time for my sister's wedding. someone else is going to do the music, but I have to come up with the lyrics. I am great at speeches and pouring my heart out, but am not sure how to make it a song. Any suggestions, please email me

Posted by: | Aug 2, 2006 12:26:17 AM

hi as you know my name is Janet i am trying to make a band and well i am trying to write a good song and well yeah its not working even if my band is going to sing in spanish we are still needing help so if you have ideas just e-mail me please oh and we are going to be like a punk rock band

Thank you
from now your bestfriend janet

Posted by: Janet | Nov 26, 2006 11:05:53 PM

I loved the advice you gave. Please write more shortly! As a novice song writer, all of the sings you said fitted me perfectly (that's somewhat a bad thing...) so if you have suggestions to help me with better lyrics, I'll be more than willing to listen.

Posted by: Jordan | Dec 6, 2006 3:30:30 PM

I loved the advice you gave. Please write more shortly! As a novice song writer, all of the sings you said fitted me perfectly (that's somewhat a bad thing...) so if you have suggestions to help me with better lyrics, I'll be more than willing to listen.

Posted by: Jordan | Dec 6, 2006 3:30:39 PM

I loved the advice you gave. Please write more shortly! As a novice song writer, all of the sings you said fitted me perfectly (that's somewhat a bad thing...) so if you have suggestions to help me with better lyrics, I'll be more than willing to listen.

Posted by: Jordan | Dec 6, 2006 3:30:46 PM

I loved the advice you gave. Please write more shortly! As a novice song writer, all of the sings you said fitted me perfectly (that's somewhat a bad thing...) so if you have suggestions to help me with better lyrics, I'll be more than willing to listen.

Posted by: Jordan | Dec 6, 2006 3:30:47 PM

I loved the advice you gave. Please write more shortly! As a novice song writer, all of the sings you said fitted me perfectly (that's somewhat a bad thing...) so if you have suggestions to help me with better lyrics, I'll be more than willing to listen.

Posted by: Jordan | Dec 6, 2006 3:30:47 PM

I loved the advice you gave. Please write more shortly! As a novice song writer, all of the sings you said fitted me perfectly (that's somewhat a bad thing...) so if you have suggestions to help me with better lyrics, I'll be more than willing to listen.

Posted by: Jordan | Dec 6, 2006 3:30:47 PM

I loved the advice you gave. Please write more shortly! As a novice song writer, all of the sings you said fitted me perfectly (that's somewhat a bad thing...) so if you have suggestions to help me with better lyrics, I'll be more than willing to listen.

Posted by: Jordan | Dec 6, 2006 3:30:47 PM

I loved the advice you gave. Please write more shortly! As a novice song writer, all of the sings you said fitted me perfectly (that's somewhat a bad thing...) so if you have suggestions to help me with better lyrics, I'll be more than willing to listen.

Posted by: Jordan | Dec 6, 2006 3:30:47 PM

Dude, definitely helpful but really vague. It could be compressed into a few sentences.

Posted by: | Feb 22, 2007 8:37:53 PM

realy helpfull stuff.im going away to think q;s thank you

Posted by: GER | Sep 20, 2009 1:21:12 AM