Posts Tagged ‘how to write a song’

I’m both a computer geek and a musician, I’m on the lookout for songwriting software that can assist me. Now that I have lyrics for a first song my next hurdle is learning how to writing music. I’ll be exploring a couple of songwriting software programs in the next few days.

I’ve had a little music theory but not enough to make this an easy task. One suggestion was to find someone else to write the music, but I really want to try this myself. I am slowly learning piano, but I was looking for something that would speed up my understanding of chord progressions and therefore music writing.

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Songwriting is apparently not a linear process. In my last post I talked about starting by creating a list of possible titles and ideas. I did that but didn’t come up with anything inspiring. I got stuck again!

I Asked for Help!

I realized that I just needed a little help to get me started. The target date for writing my first song was fast approaching. (Tomorrow to be exact!) I decided to reach out and ask for help from someone I had not met before but was known to me as a professional songwriter who started later in life, just I am.

Last week I called Rosemarie Ashley of ‘Tude Vox on http://www.SassyAlternativeMusic.com. After reading about her journey on her website I realized that she transformed her self from a non-songwriting singer to a singer-songwriter and she is now writing professionally. I related to her desire to create meaningful and inspirational music because that is what I am working for too.

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Part of my daily practice (See Day 3 on Daily Practice Leading to Songs to Write) in addition to practicing piano skills is to work through a section of the Amy Appleby book, You Can Write a Song. I love doing this because it feels to me that I have a songwriting mentor. It probably doesn’t matter what book I use as long as I do it consistently a little bit every day.

Today’s topic is Song Titles. Many songwriters start with a title they believe in and build from there. Others will create the song title after the song is written or in progress. Song titles should give an idea of the subject of the song. Some are more obvious and others are more indirect and allow the listener to discover the true meaning. A catchy or memorable song title is good to strive for in writing pop music.

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After a short break I’m back to posting about my songwriting project. My intension was to work on this every day of 2010. Julia Cameron calls it a “Creative U-Turns.” I just didn’t expect to have one on Day 4! Was it fear of success?

I am committed to at least doing my daily practice around my music. Writing every day may be unrealistic right now. The most important part is to establish a habit or discipline around my music.

Today’s focus is on choosing a theme for a song. Amy Appleby notes in her, You Can Write a Song, that there are only a handful of themes out there. The trick is to take a tried and true theme and present it in a fresh and updated way.

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Yesterday I talked about the tools I’ve been collecting and using to begin this year long songwriting project. I don’t expect to sit down immediately and start churning out songs, especially since this is new to me.  I have friends who tell me of spontaneously having songs come to them in dreams, both sleeping and day time dreams, but they where active in the practice of music on a daily basis.  I believe the practice must come first to prime the pump of creativity.

Here’s how I’m priming the pump…

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Welcome to Day 2 of the Songs to Write Project. Yesterday I set out on this big journey (for me) to fulfill a life-long dream. I’ve been setting up my tool kit and my processes to ensure my success.

My intention is to learn to play piano well enough use it to compose at first. To create melodies I know I will need to learn a bit more about harmony and chords than I do now. Songs need to have melodies that follow certain conventions, of course, in order to be appealing and pleasing to the ear. I’ve learned that creative genius comes from being prepared with the fundamentals first. Learning chord structures and chord progressions is a great place to start.

To me, song lyrics should be singable, interesting and ideally have meaning. I like lyrics that have some surprises. What to write about seems to be a common dilemma with new songwriters. One suggestion I’ve heard is look at your every day experience for inspiration. Write about what you know and what moves you in your daily life.

References

I’ve done a lot of research to find songwriting and piano instruction books to help me along. For now I’ve chosen two simple books by the same author that are very easy to follow. The author is Amy Appleby and the books are You Can Play Piano and You Can Write a Song.

I have a small electronic keyboard that I’ve had for years. It’s a Yamaha PSR-270 with a midi hook up for my computer. The midi is useful for learning as well as for recording.

I discovered a shareware computer game called PianoHead that is very helpful for learning notes, scales and intervals on the piano. When I hook my keyboard to my laptop I can improve my skill easily and in a fun way. I read music but I’ve played solo instruments all my life and only learned the Treble clef.  Harmony and chords are a whole new world. PianoHead is helping me learn to hear notes, intervals and to read the Bass clef.

Becoming a songwriter in fun, but it’s also serious business as an adult. It requires learning and changes in habits. As with any major goal I’ve achieved in my life, I will need to find a process that includes daily activities. One doesn’t learn to play piano or become an accomplished songwriter over night.  We can accomplish amazing things just chipping away at it even 15 minutes a day. Tomorrow I’ll share more about the daily practices, routines and disciplines that I’ll be putting in place.

How about you? What practices and disciplines do you use to accomplish your goals? What daily activities are important for your songwriting. I’d love to know so please comment below.

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how to write a songFor many learning how to write song is not so much the issue. However, learning how to find the problems in the songs they do write, is a valuable tool. To start with, new songwriters should just write lots of songs.

The best goal is to write 100 songs. Sometimes beginning songwriters need to write a lot of songs to find what isn’t working and figure out how to get them working better. And this is often difficult to do on your own, which is why looking to outside sources can be most helpful.

Take a song that you’ve written that you know isn’t quite right and consider why it is, what’s the problem? Is it interesting? Is it flat and without color? Eighty percent of the time it is a music issue that is related to one of the following most common faults in amateur songwriting:

  1. Lack of tension and release.
  2. Incorrect movement of the melody in the various parts of the song
  3. Musical punctuation/ phasing of the melody.


A successful song writer does not have these issues because he innately knows how to fix them. It is possible to learn about these issues and how to fix them and how to write a song well. There are many great books that will help to revise and understand the problems in your songs. Addressing these three issues alone regarding the music will make a song much better and easier to listen to.

The solution is to learn the basics that you absolutely need to know.

Learn:

  1. Chord progressions and what to use where and what chords follows what. Learn which chords that are not in the key of the song are available to add tension. Learn how to add tension with sevenths etc.
  2. How melody moves in verses and choruses.
  3. How to punctuate a melody


Once you have mastered these three elements of how to write a song, you will have solved 80% of your problems. It’s your choice whether to go deeper into musically theory from there.

The point is, if your song lacks color and you’ve studied the use of chords in songs, you will know where you need to add a bit of tension. You will know there is a choice of usually two chords, other than the basic one you have used, to do it. It is then simply a matter of trying one then the next and see what the effect is.

Without an understanding of the issue of tension, you may be unaware there is a problem. If you know there is a problem but you’re not sure what is, you will not know how to fix it. In either case, you will rely on trial and error, making life hard or yourself.

In summary, the best way to start learning how to write a song is to study how chords work together. Then prepare some memory aids that will remind you which chords work with the key you have chosen and which chords you can use to add tension (that might take you an hour’s worth of work.) Several half hour lessons would be enough to cover these basic elements. Well worth the effort. And the writing should improve.

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