Songwriting

The 4 Steps to Great Songwriting

by Wes on March 29, 2011 · 2 comments

If you happen to be as lucky as I have been in life, you will have the opportunity to meets some amazing bands and artist throughout the years. I have spent more time backstage t concerts, than up in the audience, and had some great opportunities to hang out with all different kinds of bands or artists.

One of the moments that sticks out in my mind, was a about 10 years ago, myself and about 5 of my friends got to spend a night on the town in Las Vegas with Richie Havens. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he is an old rocker that performed at Woodstock, and a very talented guitarist.

I remember get lessons on how to win at Blackjack and how the slot machines really work in Vegas. It is always interesting to hear peoples points of view on gambling. As the night progressed, I had the opportunity to ask Richie some experiences and insights in the industry over the past 30 years.

One of the questions that I asked him was, what is your method for writing music? In my head there is a systematic way to do anything, and the answer I got from him was not what I expected. He told me, “that there is no method, and if there was it would have been the death of his career. “ Now that I think back to this statement, I realize that there is a lot of truth to this statement.

There really is no exact science on how to write an amazing song. It just comes to you based upon you experiences and thoughts for the moment, but out of this abstract thinking, there is some steps you can take to assure that your songwriting will exceed the normal. Let me progress…

1.) Your songs meaning has to be bigger than the song itself. First off, your songs meaning could very well be one of the most important parts of the song. People consciously and unconsciously relate to way songs are about and associate them to what is going on in their personal lives. This creativity will come at a moments notice, while you are about to fall asleep, in the shower, or while driving home. Make sure that you have some way to capture that thought and the that moment so you can refer to it and great expand on it as a song. It is not uncommon for a song writer to have a tape recorder nearby at all times to catch a thought or an idea.

2.) Write it, then build it. Too often in modern music, I see that teams of music producers are creating the song, before even planning it out. Often producers or writers will write some song chord progression that they like and create a song basied around the composition. This can really hurt a songwriter, by building the house without a blueprint. It is often more effective to write a song the other way around. Start with an idea or lyrics and develop the song around the blueprint instead of the composition first.

3.) Go for the right brain, not the left. Write a song that strikes emotions in the listener, make them feel the pain, enlightenment, or power of the song through your raw emotions and not try to find the meaning of how to solve a problem. People connect with the music on their right brains, and then will use their left brain to problem solve. Focus on ones emotions and how they feel rather than trying to preach or control their thoughts. It will really take your music up a notch.

4.) Think outside the standard formula structure. Although when it comes time to compose a song, there is formula to structure the song for popular music. I like to call the term “radio friendly”. I have to tell songwriters that it is OK to step outside the verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, double chorus structure. There have been some amazing songs that just tell a story and challenge the conventional ways. It is ok to think outside the box, and challenge your right brain.

Having the chance to talk with music greats like Richie Havens, and other artists has really given me the chance to really expand on my capabilities as a singer, songwriter, composer, and producer. We can learn a lot from simple statements of artist, and then reflecting the why that holds true. Knowing how the randomness of real songwriting works and song simple guidelines of how to make your “random” process more efficient can really make you an effective songwriter.

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