I'm fortunate enough to get some of my income from my songwriting through a publishing deal, this means I have to find ways to continually stay sharp and make sure I deliver songs. You may just write for fun, either way here are 5 tips for those song writing based on my own methodology. Please leave your own tips in the comments.
Capture Your Ideas Quick
Songs ideas are like butterflies and if you are slow to respond to the idea they may be gone forever. Each morning I walk my dog on the beach and that is where ideas often start to flow, annoying really as I don't have my Studio One rig hanging around my neck. What I do have is my phone and I will use an audio recording app to grab the idea simply by singing down the mic on the beach, I also speak lyrics in to. It's simple and it enables me to grab things so I don't forget them.
Kiss (Keep It Simple Stupid) is an acronym that is worth remembering when song writing. I co-write with my song writing parter Jess who will show up with new ideas. What we do is load up Studio One, insert a piano VI, I use AIR Mini Grand and throw her into the vocal booth to track a guide vocal. We may spend a few minutes trying a couple of tempo ideas and checking what key suits the song but other than that we simply hit record and get the idea down to a click. Then we move onto the next idea. When Jess has left then I start to work on production ideas like drums, guitar parts, keys etc. We never spend time messing around with technology, during the writing period the song is the king and technology just gets in the way.
We set aside at least one day a week to write, it's in the diary and is virtually an unbreakable date. This means that we know that each week we have to be prepared for that day with ideas, new mixes etc. In my experience waiting to be inspired simply means you don't ever get around to writing, when I worked this way I one went for several years without completing a single idea, since implementing this rule I've written around a dozen songs.
Hard Work Is Part Of The Deal
A friend of mine once told me that songwriting is 1% inspiration 99% perspiration. Some songs do just flow in one go, but most of them in my experience require the hard work of crafting the lyrics, the melody and the arrangement. Often Jess will come with an idea and then we'll 'push it around the plate' until it makes sense and feels right lyrically. Then we have to make sure the melody is working, then we have to make sure the arrangement makes sense, but I'd like to refer you to my earlier points of getting the initial idea down quick and then once that is done then the hard work begins of crafting the song.
Submit Yourself To Critique
Good songwriting teams need to grow out of mutual respect and appreciation of one another's talents. One of the team may be great at lyrics, another at the tune, another at the structure - it's important to recognise those strengths and then out of mutual respect for one another submit yourself to their expertise. It means being open to their suggestions, their critique and their ideas. Sometimes it can be as simple as saying that a word doesn't work right through to someone saying it's a bad idea and should be scrapped. If you don't write in a team then find a couple of people you trust who have a proven track record in writing and then ask them to help you with your writing.
For a musical creative there are few things greater than listening to a finished song idea, the sense of an embryonic idea coming to full term fills us with pride. A great song starts with that idea, but completing it takes far more, I do hope sharing my ideas has helped you - now please share yours so I can be better too!