Part 1. Songwriting Exploration
Hey! Welcome to part one of my series dubbed ‘Songwriter’s Paradise’!
In this series I will be sharing with you a lot of what I’ve learned from personal experience in songwriting and some of my great teachers. I hope to give you some tools and insights that might help you on your journey to writing the songs you want to be writing!
Songwriting can be a heavy and daunting process for many people, trust me, I know. For a long time I found myself constantly stuck in ruts while writing, and truth be told, I still find myself there occasionally. But alas, there is hope! I’ve found there to be lots of ways to get inspired, find new ideas, and get yourself on track to writing some seriously great songs.
The songwriting experience for me is basically one giant input/output process. We are in a way, the black box in which one thing goes in one side, and something completely different comes out the other! For there to be an output however, there has to be an input and this is where the idea of exploration comes into play.
What & Where Exactly Should I be Exploring?
“So, what/where exactly should I be exploring?” The honest (and somewhat existential) answer is everything, inside and out, but to get started just look to the music that inspires you! The music that makes the back of your neck tingle. The music that makes it literally impossible to stop bobbing your head. Even though that will be different for everyone, you have to know what I’m talking about.
To say it plainly, I’m asking you to pay attention to the things you like because it will help you to create the music you want. These things don’t necessarily have to be musical either. They can be books, movies, interactions with friends and lovers, or so much more. Fill your creative well with the music, words, and ideas that spark something inside yourself.
Need some more concrete ideas? Here’s one of the most important things you can do in my opinion: LEARN AS MANY SONGS AS POSSIBLE!
These Four Steps will Get You There…
Start keeping a list of songs that have gotten stuck in your head or songs that you just can’t stop playing on repeat. These songs are doing something for you musically and you should absolutely be paying attention to that!
2. Start by learning one song inside & out
Really dive into the song. Learn the chord progression. Play and sing the melody. Write down the lyrics and sing them to yourself. Not only will you get better at your instrument and expand your ear, but you will also be learning what makes that particular song sound the way it does and more importantly why it stuck out to you in the first place.
3. Repeat this process with more and more songs
I do this over and over again with many different artists and I’ve gained so much from every song I learn. Along the way I’ve learned new chord progressions, I figured out why a melody works over those chord progressions, and I slowly but surely learned how to achieve a “vibe” or to say it another way, how to recreate the things that I find interesting! What’s the best part about this?
4. Develop a toolbox of ideas
All that stuff is totally useable. I’ve used licks and chord progressions from other songwriters in completely different context’s and BOOM, something fresh and interesting goes down. Or sometimes it sucks, but what’s great is that by learning all these songs you’ve also built up a toolbox of ideas that work. I’m going to be diving into this whole idea of “borrowing” ideas a little later…
When it comes to songwriting, basic music theory knowledge is extremely helpful, but guess what? You don’t need to go to a music conservatory to figure out how 90% of pop music is working and the internet is full of resources, not to mention the plethora of music apps out there to help you become a better musician.
Part 2 of this series is coming soon
In my next post “Songwriting Tips: The Art of Stealing”, I will get down to some more concrete examples of songwriting exploration by looking at some musical examples. As they say, to be the best, you’ve got to learn from the best.
Hopefully you’ve liked this post, be sure to check back soon for my next installment!
If you found this post interesting, you might also like “The Songwriter’s Guide to Melody”.