Songwriting Tips, News & More

A Cure for Writer's Block in Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 @08:00 AM

A Cure for Writer's Block in Songwriting

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by Anthony Ceseri


There are a number of ways you can draw inspiration for a song idea by listening to other songs. Lyrics are copyrightable, so you obviously can’t take something someone says and use it in your own music, but you can draw inspiration from stories you love. Especially if those stories are already popular.

Start by listing a few songs with lyrics you really like. Think big picture here. Think about lyrics that tell a story you enjoy, as opposed to songs that simply have a line or two you think is great. It’ll be more appropriate for this exercise. It’s the message that’s important at this point, as opposed to how it’s being said.

I have a couple of examples of my own we could start with. Two songs with ideas I like that came to mind for me were “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield and “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay. You can do an internet search for those lyrics, if you’d like, but like I said, this part is more about the story, and jotting down what the big ideas of these songs are to you.

With that in mind, the lyrics to “Unwritten” are about having a future that is completely within your control. It’s about being able to do whatever you want, and it delivers this message in a positive way.

Conversely, “Viva La Vida” has a pretty negative message, and is mainly about being stuck in the past. It’s about once having had it all, then losing it and being left to look back to wonder how it all went wrong.

I could easily use either of those ideas as a starting point for a song of my own. If my music is more upbeat and I’m inspired by the positive message in “Unwritten,” my big idea could be about all the possibilities the future holds. If I decide to write music that’s more of a downer, and I want my lyrics to reflect that, I could write a song inspired by the story in “Viva La Vida,” which discusses all of my losses.

So just by flipping through some old favorites, I’ve already got a couple of overall ideas that could be the basis for a new song. These two ideas are opposites so I’ve got a whole range of stuff in between them that’s available to me as well.

When you write a list of songs or other stories you like, don’t just limit yourself to two. Instead,write down as many as you can. The more big ideas you have, the easier it’ll be for you to write lyrics of your own, since you’ll have options. Plus, writing down many ideas can only offer you more choices later.

 

Altered Perspective Inspiration
What we just saw was a pretty general way of getting ideas. But we can get more specific than that. A technique I learned from Shane Adams, who’s a teacher at Berklee College of Music’s online extension school, is to look at an existing song from a different perspective than it currently does.

Let’s try it, by going back to “Unwritten.” That song is sung in the first person. It’s about someone with possibilities before her. She can do whatever she wants.

What if we wanted to write a song where we were looking at a second or third person perspective? What if the perspective was from the mother of the character in “Unwritten”? She’s watching her daughter grow up to realize her full potential. We could then talk about the joy we felt, as the mother, seeing her daughter come into her own to discovering the limitless possibilities in her future.

We could even talk about how we once had those same feelings of limitless possibilities when we were younger too. And now our own limitless possibilities and hopes for the future have been realized in our daughter, who has just come to terms with the same possibilities. The daughter is keeping the cycle moving.

That’s just an idea. I’m riffing. It doesn’t have to be that. Another thought would be to look at “Unwritten” from the perspective of the current narrator’s arch rival. You can write lyrics from the perspective of someone who’s competitive. This person would see Natasha Bedingfield’s character in “Unwritten” reaching for dreams and aspirations, and it would drive her crazy. In this perspective we’d be able to look at why it wouldn’t be good if Natasha Bedingfield’s character achieved her wildest dreams. That’s starting to put a negative twist on our originally positive idea, but that’s okay. We’re open to practically anything at this point.

If we choose either of these ideas, they’re definitely a departure from the original song’s idea. So, it’s not like we’re just copying the main idea from “Unwritten,” although that would be fine too, as mentioned previously.

Now let’s see what a different perspective can do for us when looking at “Viva La Vida” by Cold Play. In this song, Chris Martin’s character talks about how he once was king, and now he’s fallen. We could write a song from the point of view of one of the king’s servants who has witnessed the king’s decline. Did we enjoy this fall, or were we on good terms with the king, and were saddened when it happened? What happened to our family now that’s there’s a new ruler? Are we left poor? Or maybe we were part of the movement that overthrew the king.

You don’t have to stop there. If you really want a departure from what the original song was about, or you just want to keep pushing it to see how many ideas you can come up with, you can. For example, now we have this idea about a guy who helped to overthrow a kingdom. What if we took the perspective of the wife of the man who helped overthrow the kingdom? What did she witness while seeing that all go down? If you keep pushing these thoughts, the possibilities you can come up with are endless.

When you change the perspective of the song and decide who the speaker will be, you also have options of who you want to be speaking to. If we were Natasha Bedingfield’s character’s mother, would we be talking back to Natasha Bedingfield’s character? Or would we be talking to our husband, who’s the father? Or maybe it would be more of a narration, where’s she’s just speaking to herself as she watches her daughter grow up through the years. Thinking about who is being spoken to, and changing that from the original reference song will also help give you new ideas to use.

  
For 3 more fail-proof songwriting methods you can use today to make listeners want to own your songs, click here to download our free songwriting EBook: http://successforyoursongs.com/freeoffer/
 
 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, Co-Writing Songs

2017 Songwriters Radio Podcast

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 04, 2017 @02:21 PM

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Listen to the latest edition of our Songwriters Radio Podcast, featuring current and past winners of the USA Songwriting Competition: Willie Nelson, American Authors, Kate Voegele, Jerad Finck, Due West, Jesse Blaze Snider, Gail Swanson,  Terry Fator, Trev Lukather & Frank Raknes Schonberg. Click here to listen to the mp3 player:

 
 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Kate Voegele, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, Co-Writing Songs, Songwriters Radio, American Authors, Jerad Finck, Jesse Blaze Snider, Gail Swanson, Terry Fator, Songwriters Radio Podcast, Songwriters Podcast, Willie Nelson, Due West, Trev Lukather, Frank Raknes Schonberg

Songwriter: Give Yourself Goosebumps

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Apr 03, 2017 @08:00 AM

[Expert Advice] Hey, Songwriter: Give Yourself Goosebumps!

by Diana Williamson

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When you were a kid, did you ever have a sleepover with friends where you told scary stories? You’d convince each other there was a ghost in the attic or a spirit coming through the Ouija board. You’d conjure up frightening things to give you and your friends a rush. Stirring up a cauldron of emotion is also helpful when trying to make magic with your art. For tips on how to tap into these creative emotions again, check out the following tips from a top-selling songwriter and author. She can help you to tap into a flow of energy—your unique passion—to fuel your songwriting.

• Look for a situation that gives you a rush, gets your blood pumping or causes butterflies, like meeting an attractive stranger out of the blue. Then write about it.

• When you can capture those special moments on the page, you’ll know you’ve got something. When you give yourself goosebumps, you are pretty much assured that you will be giving the listener the same.

• It can’t be forced. The Muse is a wayward beast. She has to be seduced to stick around or she’ll flee at the first footfall. Ever hear a song and find yourself turning it up without thinking? Or maybe some strains of music coming from a passing car bring you back to a special place and time? That’s what it’s all about. You want to move your listener to laugh or cry or, best of all, be inspired.

• Arousing deep emotion is the ultimate for a songwriter. “The Way We Were” is such a touching, evocative song that it’s been voted one of the top 10 film songs of all time on every list imaginable. It was not only a hit on the radio but had an unforgettable visual connected to it. Every time you hear it, you can picture Barbra Streisand trembling as she meets up with Robert Redford.

• Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie says he wrote “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” their best-selling single, in 15 minutes. He’s also said he can barely take credit for it because he felt like he channeled it. He tapped into a dark, rarely explored emotional theme about following his lover into the afterlife. And he did it in such a hauntingly beautiful way that it wasn’t morbid; instead it was comforting and enchanting at the same time.

• And it doesn’t have to be about love. Other strong feelings, such as anger, can also be a great motivating force. If you deny an emotion, it just springs up anyway, so give it a voice. Channel it into a song. When Phil Collins wrote about a ruthless ex-lover in “Something in the Air Tonight,” he sent his rage into the world like a speeding locomotive. It’s powerful stuff.

• Songwriters live for the moment they get struck by the lightning bolt of inspiration. The beauty is that it can come at any time and from anywhere. You’re driving down the street and see an old gent cradling his wife’s hand and you start thinking about that line you had for a ballad. The song starts writing itself and the next thing you know you’re pulling the car over to jot down some words before they slip away. We’re not talking about the craft and hard work of rewriting here, though of course that’s essential. But that’s another article. We are talking about those sacred moments when you’re in the zone, and everything flows.

• Songwriters never really go on holiday. You can be lying on the beach in Barbados, frolicking with a fruity cocktail when the tourist next to you starts talking loudly on her cell phone about her new lover. As she throws out phrases left and right, you can’t help but note the line, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” Next thing you know you’re looking about for a pen and tapping out a rhythm on your blanket. But let’s face it, you probably won’t be able to stay on the beach forever. Soon you’re back in the real world and if you’re not careful you might find yourself tired, stressed or just plain running on empty. This can lead to a pesky phenomenon commonly known as writer’s block. But there is a cure. Like a farmer letting his field lie fallow every seventh year before planting again, sometimes you have to give your creativity a break. “Don’t abuse the Muse.”

• And while you’re at it, don’t abuse yourself, either. If you start beating yourself up, you’ll be your own worst enemy. Take your mind off your writing so you can come back to it refreshed. Obviously if you have a deadline, you have to work through it. Waiting for the luxury of inspiration to hit isn’t always a viable option.

• There are many ways to unwind and replenish your creative juices. Movies allow your brain to rest while rejuvenating you with all sorts of storylines and visuals to stir creativity.

• Hiking, walking or working out is another way to boost your energy level. Prolific novelist Charles Dickens walked up to 30 miles a day. He said he would “explode” if he didn’t; it was his way of turning his brain off between bouts of writing. Ludwig van Beethoven was another avid walker. He always carried a pen and paper with him in case an idea struck.

• Ernest Hemingway once said you should “let the pressure build” until you have no choice but to write it down. That way, you’re driving with fuel, not running on fumes and forcing the phrases out. Just let that pressure cooker blast off its rocker as words fly onto the page. Whatever it takes to get inspired, do it and do it some more. Your writing—and your listeners—will thank you for it.

[Reprint Permission by Music Connection magazine]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DIANA WILLIAMSON is the author of 101 Tips and Tricks of Successful Songwriting, available on Amazon. She’s written two No. 3 Billboard Hot Club Chart hits and placed songs in over 50 films and TV shows through her company, The Music Library. You can visit her at: 101tipsandtricksofsuccessfulsongwriting.com

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, Death Cab for Cutie, Ernest Hemingway, Diana Williamson