Song Doctor Blog
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How Do You Write Songs?
One of the things we’ve been doing in Songwriting School is looking at how students actually write their songs. The way they do it, when they do it, what gear they use, what rituals they foster, what gets them going and what stymies them.
As an exercise, each student was asked to have a really good think about their own way of conjuring up a song in honest and specific detail and then write it down and post on the Songwriting School forum.
The results were fascinating. They showed that a process is different from a hard and fast formulaic ‘5 Steps to Writing A Hit Song’. The processes were much more malleable and change responsive – evolving as the songwriters incorporated new ideas or approaches.
They also showed how a ‘cookie cutter’ one size fits all formula will never really work because it doesn’t take into account the innate individuality each songwriter has in terms of the experience, ability and motivation they contribute to their chosen creative pursuit.
Writing it down encouraged each songwriting student to allocate some in-depth time to self-reflection, to identify the things they find easier in songwriting and isolate areas that could be nurtured. It also created a wee snapshot of where they are now and clarified what to focus on for the future.
Each account of ‘how I write songs’ had significant differences and some surprises. People wrote while out for a run or watching a movie on their computer (half-screen). Some folks struggled to get a tune in their head without an instrument in their hands while others wrote anywhere anytime. Some were larks and other owls. And one person couldn’t do this exercise because the rest of life was too big that week and that’s just gonna happen sometimes! All good.
The important thing is they got to read each other’s accounts, as well as think about their own way of doing things for better or worse. It’s a stock take as well as a ‘learning moment’ – learning both by committing to doing the task and by gaining insight into other songwriters’ creative processes.
Worth having your own look at how you write your songs now. Professor Andrea Stolpe of Berklee College of Music has a detailed ‘moving song parts’ list to help.