The Art of Songwriting

Have you ever thought of writing your own songs? Some people seem to do it with such ease, some only finish half way and some just dream about it. Writing your own songs can be a little intimidating at first, but once you’ve learnt the craft you will enjoy every minute of it. I’m not here to show you how to write a hit song but i will give you some tips that could set you off on your journey. There are many different ways to write a song. Some start with a riff, melody or chord progressions and some starts with lyrics. In this exercise we will look at the latter as it more flexible.

Start with an idea or a title for the song. An idea could be a story, concept or knowledge. You can get ideas from movies, books, magazines or even conversations you heard while waiting for your train. Don’t be too analytical, the hardest part is getting the first word and once you’ve passed that, everything should just flow. One of the biggest hurdles in songwriting is self-criticism. It doesn’t have to make sense at first. Remember the aim here is to get some momentum.

Once you get a few lines, weed out the ones with little or no relevance to the story. Just like having a conversation you don’t want to be all over the place. Build from this and by this time you should have a clearer picture where the song is headed. Get your synonyms and rhyming dictionary out to help you fish for better words. Descriptive or colourful words help connect the listeners to the song.

Find music that would complement the lyrics. Generally if it’s a sad song the key would be in minor and likewise if it’s a happy song, then the key would be in major. These are just guidelines and rules are meant to be broken but a good way to start nevertheless.

If your song sounds like another song then it probably does. Humans have been creating music since the beginning of time so this can’t really be avoided. The trick is how not to sound like another song on radio. Changing the tempo, phrasing, feel, mixing of genre (reggae or jazz, etc) can help you achieve this.

These days, with the help of technology everyone can create music without prior knowledge of playing an instrument. Softwares like band in a box, reason, acid pro has converted hundreds of enthusiasts into professional musicians/producers.

Everyone has his own voice, character, beliefs and style. We are moulded by our upbringing and our environment which gives us our individuality. Although this is not everyone’s cup of tea for many songwriting is a great way of self-expression.

Remember, songwriting should be fun and shouldn’t be forced; otherwise you’re missing the point. If this is your first time you can start off by mojonising a song of the band/artist that you like.  Mojonise music is when you put your own interpretation to an existing song either by changing the tempo (fast or slow), genre (punk to acoustic) or feel. This exercise will help you tap into your creative side which will then help you eventually to write your own materials.

If you want to be a songwriter then you have to act like one. Always have a pen and paper with you everywhere you go as ideas may come anytime and you need to be able to capture it right there and then. I sometimes leave a message on my own voicemail when a melody or a riff pops in my head. Inspiration is everywhere. You just need to be receptive to it and let it all come in.


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