I thought I would start this blog off by sharing some information I have learned about songwriting. As you may or may not know, I am a musician. I am studying Music Production at University and I write and play my own acoustic singer/songwriter music. I am in no way a big musician, but I am proud of most of my tracks (and my mum loves them, if that counts). I play gigs here and there and show people my music when i can therefore, I think I know a little about writing music. The least I can do is share what helps me, it is just an opinion or method I guess.
So there have been a few cases where I have been talking to someone interested in writing songs or just the method of writing and the first question they ask me is ‘do you write the chords/music or the lyrics first?’. The truth is, the way I work there is no order. I am a very strong believer in letting the song come to you. By this I don’t mean sit around for a weekend and hope a set of lyrics will type themselves on your computer. I mean don’t rush it. If you take anything away from this, it should be that music takes time and is a creative process. You can’t sit and write a full song in a few hours, or a day. Well, you might be able too but I have tried that to meet deadlines etc. and it has ended with songs that sound rushed. This is my first rule: Patience. A great tip I once was told, that helps me everyday, is to buy a small notepad and take it everywhere with you. I do that. Every single time I hear someone say an interesting phrase or I think of a great lyric, or even an interesting word, I write it down. I may never use it but more importantly, I might. This is what I mean with my answer to the previous question. I write them both separately and try to fit and mould the lyrics and music together at a later date.
My next piece of advice is to review your piece further down the line. This may sound like something you high-school english teacher would tell you, but you’ll be surprised at how much you will change the pieces when you come back to them months later. As you improve your songwriting skills and vocabulary arsenal, you will find better rhymes for that word you struggled with. Maybe a more interesting chord pattern than the same four chords as the last track. There have been times where I have been on stage performing and thought about lyrics I need to change mid-song. (Thats also a bad idea, I got so into it I may have forgotten to sing the other lyrics)
Without dragging this post on too much, my next tip is to experiment and enjoy your music. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone write and perform music they don’t enjoy. Being able to write across many genres is a great talent to posses, don’t get me wrong. However, if you love to write and play rock music but feel like you should write dance music or acoustic music because more people are into it, the pieces won’t be your best work. Be yourself and write what you want to write. By experiment, I am linking back to my first idea of letting the song come to you. I have written many more songs by ‘accident‘ than I have when I sit down to write a song. I just sit for hours with my guitar or keyboard and mess around. If I play something I like, for example a riff or chord pattern, I record it on my phone and when I’m stuck for ideas I refer back to these recordings and see where they take me. When it comes to writing music, I sometimes find less is more. Don’t try to overcomplicate things. So many famous songs use the same chord patterns its laughable.
I always try to play music or write music every single day. Even if it means playing guitar for 20 minutes or singing in the shower I never go a day without being creative in some way. When I travel anywhere, I always try to take something to play around with. I have a harmonica and a ukulele which are my two ‘go to’ instruments for travel due to their compact size.
As I said earlier, this is just my method and things that help me. There is no right or wrong when it comes to songwriting. I hope this post has been useful to anyone or even just an entertaining read. I’d love to know what you think and what methods you have when you write music?