Song Writing 101- Tips and Tricks Of The Trade
Song Writing is an art form.
Genres Making Their Pressance Known
- Soft Rock
Do you have a song in your heart?
We stand at the edge of a slightly strange time in the history of music. Song writing has never been so demanding as it is now. Pop sensations come and go so often that song writers are having to alter their craft to make due and in many markets they are losing their touch. Today's music is so varied in it's nature that it is not uncommon for a professional song writer to get a call on a Monday to have a country song done by that Saturday and than get a call the very next day needing a pop hit.
The music industry has become a bit more in your face. Youtube, and Facebook make getting your stuff out there much easier in some ways but imagine for every one of you trying to get their song noticed their is thousands more doing the exact same thing, the exact same way. It makes it hard to be heard in this topsy turvey business.
How To Solo and Write Around Them
Tip 1- Avoid The Steal
A lot of writers manage to accidentally if you will, steal other artist's work. This happens a lot more than most song writers would care to talk about. It is not always the result of a thief however so never assume a song that sounds similar is the direct result of unlawful plagiarism. Sometimes what happens is what we say in the music business is inadvertent cross musical pollination.
OK, OK, let me simplify that one a little more. You may have been listening to Nelly all day and when you went to your work area and set down to write a song, what you think was a great idea was actually something you took from one of Nelly's great ideas. You may not have meant to do it but it happened anyways.
There is an easy way to avoid this issue and that is to simply avoid contact with other music on days you know you will be writing. It can greatly influence where you go lyrically and structurally. I know I have found myself writing hard rock tunes and after a little while I will review my bass line and what do I hear? Yep, Miles Davis' smooth bass progressions have invaded my art, that sly bastard. But in all honesty it happens and it does not mean you are a bad song writer, it simply means you are making the same mistake all of us have made at times.
Just avoid listening to other music on days you plan to write your own music.
Know your style.
Tip 2- Write What You KNow, Know What You Write
I see a lot of young song writers trying to make it and they basically are trying to write variations of someone elses writing. Teens writing about hard times and long lost love when they don't really have the emotional knowledge on the subject to make it sound like a real song. Stick to your guns and write what you know and what you understand. There is a reason punk songs reflect a lot of girl and skateboard rhetoric, it is because those song writers are sticking to their guns.
Try and keep your stuff true to you and who you are. In the end you will get a much tighter flow to your song and it will seem way more genuine than if you just steal the heat from another song.
Cheap Heat is Bad
Tip 3- Cheap Heat
I was a pro wrestler and I know screaming a city's name out or name dropping will get the crowd pumped but in song writing it can make you look like an idiot. I see a lot of what I call twangers, the country singers who have so much twang in their voice you would just assume they are faulty robotic telemarketers as opposed to singers or song writers, trying to play off their home town in an attempt to get big.
No one wants to hear an ode to the town they never heard of and really other than the people from said town you may actually be alienating other listeners away from your music.
Also unless appropriate don't drop names. No stuff like "you ran away and hid, but I am gonna do it like Loretta did". That is silly and really trying to steal another artist's heat says a lot about a song writer like that.
Some times it works, like when Jon Bon Jovi said "like Frankie said I did it my way". That was more or less an ode to Sinatra, not a self plug for Bon Jovi. Be careful about falling into these traps. They can break a song writer before they even get going.
Tip 4- Notebooks Make The Writer
If any tip I teach you today sticks out let it be this one. Always carry a notebook or a voice recorder on you at all times. You never know when that award winning song will come to you and the worse thing is having it hit you and having no way to document it. I always encourage would be song writers to keep a plain notebook and a good pen or two on their person. You might be surprised to learn a lot of great songs have been penned on napkins and guess what kids, napkins are not as sturdy as they used to be!
Having a notebook also helps keep your thoughts organized and that in turn will help to keep you focused on the task at hand, be it, writing a song for that awesome rapper down the street or simply popping out a chorus for the tune your band just wrote last week end. Either way a notebook will make that an easier job for you.
Says it all.
Tip 5- Have Fun With It
I know this does not really seem like much of a tip but I assure you it can be a big part of your writing. Fun is usually what people are listening to music for in the first place. Make sure you are writing what you love to write. Maybe you don't dig on poppy numbers but your passion is in the harder styles of protest rock. Go for it. There is no set rule that says you have to write to a certain style of music and if their is than break it.
Sure I will say this. The more styles you can swing a pen for the more chance you have of getting that song on the radio, or the major star to sing it. That being said at the very least you should attempt to write songs in different styles and approach the same lyrics from different singing options.
You may have written that big chart topper for Brittany, but imagine Bruno singing it in his style, maybe it would still work.
Some after thoughts
Song writing is not one of those jump right in things, at least not in most cases. It takes some time to hone your skills and find the needed ingredients to put together a good song recipe. Some song writers spend years before they find that certain quality to their style that makes their stuff entertaining. It is a feeling out process and sadly that discourages a lot of young guns in the business. They get turned down one time and than they are out of the loop for good.
Stick to it and always try again.