Posts Tagged ‘songs’

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.


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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Today is the official Day 1 of what I’m calling “The Songs to Write Project.” My dream and ambition when I was a teen was to write songs and sing. That was a very long time ago. (And I’m not going to say just HOW long!)

Over the years I’ve started and stopped the process of songwriting before I even got one song committed to paper or recorded. Was it lack of courage or lack of the right support and resources? Possibly both. I was recently cleaning out clothes (an excellent thing to do to spark change in one’s life, by the way) and I found a notebook with lyric ideas and fragments I started over 10 years ago!  Then last year I started this blog only to let it sit idle.

I’ve never lost my passion and desire to make music, though. I just haven’t put all the pieces together to make it happen – yet. 2010 is the year. I promise.

I am making a promise to myself to put together the pieces and produce. Produce songs, bad songs and good songs, it doesn’t really matter. As Julie Cameron says in her book, The Artist Way, “Take care of the quantity and the Universe will take care of the quality.”

I also promise you, the reader (whoever you are and for whatever reason you are reading this blog – whether it’s because you have your own buried desire to write songs or you just want to see me possibly make a spectacle of myself), I promise to write about what it’s like to go from a complete beginner as a songwriter to creating a body of work, recording and actually performing that work. I promise to write every day to share my resources, the pieces I’ve found to help me. I’ll share the challenges I’m facing, too.

How about you? Have you had a desire to start writing songs? What’s stopping you? Please comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Tomorrow I’ll share the process I’m using and the resources I’m using.

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Legendary songwriting coach and author of The Craft and Business of Songwriting, John Brahney, hanging with TAXI CEO, Michael Laskow, in his office.

Duration : 0:9:53

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Ever wonder how songwriters find the songs to write to get started? Like any creative process it varies from person to person. The one thing that all successful songwriters have in common is… They start. And they don’t quit. Songwriting can seem mysterious and inaccessible to those on the outside. Unless you have songs naturally popping into your head or writing themselves as some songwriters maintain, you will need to create the environment for songs to write.

Some songwriters start in childhood making up rhymes and little ditties. Johanna Burns had a toy Casio Keyboard and used to sit in her room picking apart pop songs she heard on the radio. Her interest in how the songs worked and were constructed blossomed into songwriting and singing career at the age of 24. She has two EPs released independently, “Everything Til Now” in 2005, and “Music From & Inspired By,” earlier this year. Burns has shared the stage with Ingrid Michaelson, the Click 5, Melissa Ferrick and Fountains of Wayne, and has finished a two-song EP she hopes to release in the fall.

When asked where she finds inspiration for songs to write, Burns says, “I’ve become inspired more by how other people’s songs make me feel. Maybe it sounds loopy, but I kind of get inspired by the essence of a song, the whole picture. For example, John Mayer has a song called “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” off of his “Continuum” record. That song is so good, it’s almost something tangible.”

Connie Kaldor who teaches songwriting workshops suggests listening to a lot of music and deciding what you like and don’t like, “It is good to start with songs that you like.These are the ones that ring a chord in you. Those writers are doing something right. Not everyone has to write in this way. There are as many different writing styles as there are people. There are songs within every style that are worth examining.”

Kaldor loves the creative aspect of songwriting. She notes that is wonderful to make something out of thin air. The thing is songwriting can be a fun, playful activity. “It is the way I express myself and most of all, it’s fun to do.”

Some suggested steps to getting started on songs to write:

Take a song you know well and like and write new words. One of the easiest forms to start with is the blues. It has a clear pattern, it has a clear rhyme scheme and you can get by with four lines at a time.

If blues is not in your repertoire, try a simple children’s or traditional song. Take the first line and go from there.

There are always starting lines that will get you going, make sure the ending words are easy rhyme words like:

“I walked out and what did I see…”

“This is the way I feel today,…

“Tell me , tell me, tell me please…

“I saw you and what did I do…”

You can sit around and wait for a bolt from the blue and the songs to write themselves or you can get started now. Commit something to paper. Play with it. Have fun. I’ll be writing more about how to write songs from the beginners perspective.

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