Songwriting Tips, News & More

7 Reasons You Should Have a Songwriting Process

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 @10:52 AM

 

7 Reasons You Should Have a Songwriting Process

By Nick Morrow 

7 Reasons You Should Have a Songwriting Process

I hate formulas and processes.

I’ve always thought they suck the life out of everything, especially music. How can an artist be truly creative when they’re selling out to the drudgery of formulas? Why confine yourself to a “process” and limit your creative potential? Formulas are terrible, right?

I used to think so. But then I started reading about my favorite songwriters and realized they all had some sort of process for churning out great tunes. I figured, If the professionals all do this…maybe I ought to try it? So I started crafting my own songwriting process, and I noticed an immediate difference in the quality of my work.

Here’s what I’ve learned about having a songwriting process.

1. It helps you get disciplined about writing songs. I used to drive around and look for a new “writing spot” every time I wrote a new song. And you know what happened? I spent as much time driving around the countryside as I did actually wood-shedding on new songs.Having a process means you cut the deliberation time and get down to brass tacks.

2. It makes you take ownership in being a songwriter. Your songwriting is a like a little project where you get to write your own “operations manual.” You get to decide how things are done and in what order. Taking yourself seriously enough to craft some sort of process goes a long way in boosting your songwriting confidence, not to mention your enjoyment of the craft.

3. Having a process makes it less scary to start a new song. If we’re honest, we all fear the blank page. I’ve found that processes have a way of eliminating that fear, because it erases a lot of the the “unknowns.” I already know where I'm going to find the melodies (in my phone's digital recorder files) and where I'm going to draw lyrics from (my collected stash of lyrics and Scripture.) I already know I'm going to demo it on guitar once I can play the song through without stopping. These kinds of “known” variables will give you the comfort and confidence to start a new song without the hesitation.

4. It tells you what to say “no” to. When you go to write a new song, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Not just by the blank page, but also by pages of lyrics that are so scattered and disjointed that you have no idea where to begin. Sometimes the indecision can be staggering, and can keep us from moving forward. Having a set of parameters helps you weed out creative ideas that don't fit, and stay  focused on your goals.

5. You can tailor your songwriting process to lean into your strengths.Personally, I’m not a good “on the spot” songwriter. I’m jealous of friends who can sit down and hammer out a gem in a couple hours, but I’ve never been able to do that. So my songwriting process is built around a long gestation period. I collect lyrics and melodies over time and build several songs really slowly, rather than one at a time.

Whatever your strengths are, build into them. Read about other artists’ processes, use the bits that help, and forget the parts that don’t.

6. It forces you to be objective about your own work. One time I did an experiment. I took a notepad, a pen, and the discography by my favorite band, to see if there were any noticeable patterns in their music. Then I compared my own songs to the songs of my favorite band. My music usually had a verse and chorus, maybe a bridge. Their songs had at least four strong melodies every time. My songs were long- often five or six minutes. Theirs were routinely four minutes or less. I couldn't believe the differences.

When I looked at it on paper, I could see some tangible reasons that my songs were bush-league. It forced me to look at the areas I could grow as a songwriter.

7. It allows you to perfect the details of your craft. Having a songwriting process helps you prioritize. It automates certain things that otherwise you'd spend two weeks fretting over. It cuts out a lot of the time deliberating over little decisions. Some of those decisions will make themselves, and the others will fall into place in your newly refined songwriting process. It leaves room to do what you love most: write songs. And the more songs you write, the better you'll get.

Granted, true inspiration and creativity is no science. But I guarantee that if you look behind the curtain of your favorite songwriter, there are formulas to be found. Crafting your own process can push your songwriting to new levels. Excellence is in the details, and when you get comfortable within your process, you can focus on perfecting your craft.

These are just a few ways that having a songwriting process helped me become a better writer. What else should be on the list? What does your own songwriting process look like?

(Reprinted with permission from www.allaboutworship.com


Nick Morrow is a music artist and writer from Columbus, IN. He loves telling stories, pushing creative boundaries. 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, BMI, SESAC, process, Nick Morrow, formula, strength, ASACP

Songwriting Tips: Burt Bacharach: How I Write

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sun, May 19, 2013 @10:53 AM

Burt Bacharach: How I Write

by Noah Charney


Burt Bacharach, legendary songwriter

The great American legendary songwriter, responsible for 73 Top 40 hits on the U.S. charts (That's What Friends Are For, The Look of Love, etc), talks about how he writes a song, and the time Miles Davis complimented him. His new memoir, with Robert Greenfield, is "Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music". 


 

Walk me through the process of writing a song.

OK. It works different ways. You either work with a lyric first, and set it to music. Like the musical we just had that previewed at the old Globe. All the lyrics came first, and I set the music to it. Or a song like “Alfie,” the lyrics came first because it had to be about what the movie was about. For musicals, we have to move smoothly, seamlessly from dialogue into music, so you can see why it would not be advantageous to write music first in situations like that. But it can happen the other way, too. You can have a melodic refrain, a tune with no lyrics. Even when I’m writing with that, even if I haven’t started working with a collaborator [lyricist] on that particular song, I will begin with dummy lyrics. I’ll just make a lyric up in my head—whatever it may be. It means a lot to me to have words with me, when I’m sitting at the piano. The words should sound good with the notes that I’m singing—that helps me more than just hearing it on the piano. I need something to lead the way ... an instrument, let’s say.

 

How much do you usually write during one session?

I’m not a fast writer. Never have been. I may get the whole synthesis of something, or most of it, an initial impact. But you’re not going to get something every day. But it’s important that you visit your worksite every day, even if it’s just to improvise, touch the piano, play some chords. Be in touch with your music. I equate it with being a tennis player on the circuit. You don’t take three weeks off and expect to get by the first round at Wimbledon, you know?

 

If you feel yourself getting stuck during a recording session, what might you do for inspiration?

I just try to revisit it. I’ve been stuck. So much of the material I’ve done, I’ve made entirely myself—wrote the songs, orchestrated them. I’ve had a room full of musicians in a studio and I’ve gotten stuck on how that record should go down. That’s the key point, because for me the song lives or dies by what happens in the studio. That’s the life-or-death moment of truth. It will either succeed, which means you get as close to perfection from the vocal and orchestra ... you’ll never get 100 percent, but as close to it as possible. When I do get stuck, since I’m responsible for how that record is going down, if there is a moment that’s a bit of a train wreck, I’ll break the orchestra up and go into the men’s room. I’ll sit down inside a cubicle, on the toilet seat, totally away from the keyboard, and try to hear it all in my head. Where it’s faulting. Did the strings come in too early? I’ll hear it better in my head, and then go back into the control room and listen to the recording. It’s the fastest way. It’s worked for me.

 

Do you have any distinctive habit or affectations related to performing?

When I started to perform, I was very nervous. I grew up behind performers in the music business. It never was until I started performing live myself that I had to be in the foreground. Initially, I found it very uncomfortable, especially talking with the audience. I was kind of shy. It’s hard to talk to people! Well, it’s not hard anymore, I’ve been doing it for a long time. Some nights might be more difficult than others. When I used to play Vegas, as a headliner in those early years, I’d have a couple of Jack Daniel’s before going on stage. I wouldn’t think of doing anything like that now. That was just a short crutch at a certain time in my life.

 

Is there any song you just love and wish you had written?

There are any number I wish I’d written! “My Funny Valentine.” Two of my favorite pop songs of all time are “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” from Diana Ross’s record, and the other one would be Earth, Wind & Fire's “After the Love Has Gone.” Brilliant songs.

 

Among your own songs, do you have a favorite?

I would have to say that the importance of what “Alfie” says, its meaning. You can excerpt certain lines out of that song and think to yourself, “How meaningful is that?” In this time and place that we’re in now, “Are we meant to take more than we give, or are we there to be kind?” You know? Isn’t that true?

Absolutely. I’m curious for your thoughts on digital music composition, which is so popular these days, for instance with electronic dance music. Nowadays people can compose music just by sitting in front of their computer.

It’s just ... it works. It’s in the clouds. They’re not great pop songs, they’re not great melodies. There’s a feel to it, and excitement. It’s culture stuff.

 

Describe your morning routine.

A day at my home in L.A., I’d get up at 9:30 or 10. I work out every day, three days a week in a gym with a trainer, doing weights, two days a week in a pool with a pool trainer. When I’m out on the road like this, I stay in hotels with gyms, and I try to stay in shape. My breakfast just arrived! Wow! It’s been hours since I’ve been up today, and I haven’t eaten yet. Let’s put it this way ... I’m not in a normal routine right now.

 

What is guaranteed to make you laugh?

I try to see humor in everything. I try to see the lightness in everything. I try to instill that in my family life, with my kids. It’s a serious world out there, so let’s celebrate lightness and humor.

 

Do you have any superstitions?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I had them with the birth of my daughter, going to the hospital every day, at a certain time, by myself. I don’t have phobias anymore. When I was a kid, I used to make sure the gas jets were turned off three times. Crazy stuff. Thank God we got rid of stuff like gas jets. Ain’t enough time for that in this world!

 

Was there a specific moment when you felt you had “made it” as a songwriter?

Maybe when Miles Davis said to me, “Hey man, ‘Alfie,’ that’s a very good song.” If Miles Davis said to me that I’d written a great song, maybe all was well in the world.

 

What would you like carved onto your tombstone?

“He tried to be a very good person.”

 

 

(This interview has been edited condensed and reprinted from The Daily Beast) 

For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

Tags: Songwriting, songwriter song writer, Burt Bacharach, process