Song Doctor Blog
Read about how to write better songs
A big issue for aspiring songwriters is imagining how on earth they can actually get any time at all in their busy lives. But once you wrap your head around making writing a habit, you find it much easier to get on a roll generating more material more readily. All good.
Aligning what you actually want to do with your songs can help clarify how much time you can spend on writing them. Is it to make your first album? Get something down for your son’s wedding in March? Write your first original song for your band to play at a gig next week? Each of these situations puts a different spin on the schedule. The endpoints are reasonably clear and have associated deadlines – which many folks are used to responding to.
A little trickier to manage but no less valid to pursue are the more nebulous drives to write, like ‘I want to finish a song I’ve been writing for years’ or ‘I’ve always wanted to write songs – I’ve diaries full of poems and lyrics’ or ‘I feel this urge to write songs since my baby was born/ marriage broke down/ kids left home/etc.’. No particular deadline or clear outcomes, but I’ve met plenty of people who have experienced such a profound compulsion to write songs that it can surface a little unexpectedly to friends and family. How do you incorporate that satisfactorily into your everyday life if you’ve a family, a job or a business and all the other commitments of adult life?
I get it. It can be a real head spin. One of the things that can trip us up is that when you’ve been successfully ‘adulting’ for a while, you’ve got pretty good at some things by now – driving a car, making a garden, getting teenagers from a to b in one piece, earning an income, building a deck – all sorts of full on skills you take for granted. Now, exploring this songwriting lark can push you back to L-plate status. And that’s a graunch!!
When I work with teenagers or young adults, they’re a lot closer to doing the one thing they excel at – learning something for the first time. Adults get more frustrated more quickly and are less like to try things out just because. But ‘just because’ is the perfect antidote to ‘it can’t be done’ or more importantly ‘I can’t do it as well as I want too.’
So here is something to try. Book whatever schedule you can manage - once a day or once a week. Choose something you can honestly manage. Here’s one for 15 minutes a day that made NZ author Pip Adam write a book that garnered her a $50,000 prize.
But to help yourself get past perfectionism, use a warm up routine at the beginning of each session.
For example, if you’re able to write for an hour, spend 10 minutes on words and 10 minutes on melody. Take some time to free write or do some destination writing, just for 10 minutes. Then play around with scales and melodic phrases, recording them on your phone. Try some new intervals in the melody – 1 to 3, 1 to 5, and 1 to 7. Vary the rhythm of the phrase. A long note, then two short and reverse it. Just 10 minutes worth.
Then, spend 40 minutes developing any ideas you’re working on. Some lyrics become rhyming pairs maybe, a chord progression that might go somewhere might spark a groove. Try writing the second verse. And that’s it – the hour’s up. You don’t run the tank dry. You make it manageable.
By starting off your session with routine warm ups, just like zumba or running, you can do the equivalent of stretches to get your ideas flowing before you move up a gear into writing your songs, time after time.
Talk more soon
ps Bookings are now open for Tahora Songwriting Retreat 17- 20 January 2020.