Canadian Musician

EXPLORING YOUR SONG ROUTES

Dale Boyle

How Sting started writing songs again…

November 7th, 2015

This is interesting…A Ted Talk by Sting where he discusses how he broke out of a writing slump by writing about the hometown and community he worked to leave behind years ago…a “write what you know” approach which produced the album, “The Last Ship.”

WATCH THE VIDEO!

The Last Ship

10 Songwriting Tips

August 27th, 2015

Check out the following “10 Tips For Making 2015 a Breakout Year For Your Songwriting” written by Gary Ewer! Enjoy!

Does songwriting provide more frustration than satisfaction for you? If you can’t seem to find the success you’ve been looking for, don’t despair. Frustration usually means that you’ve got an image of what success could or should be. And that mental image is an important first step to improving.

If you’re ready to jump up to the next level and really commit yourself to making songwriting enjoyable and possibly even profitable for you in 2015, check out the following 10 tips that are essentials for doing just that.

  1. Stop judging your songs before they’re finished. Some songwriters write songs that come together almost instantly, but most good songs start as a hodgepodge of ideas that need to be honed and polished. Stay focused on that task, and cut yourself some slack if it takes weeks or months to get a song finished.
  2. Commit to practicing songwriting. Give yourself small writing tasks on those days when you don’t feel overly creative. Every time you write, you gain experience that makes you better. So short songwriting challenges, games and exercises will pay off. Some ideas: read this post for lyric-writing challenges, and this one for melody-writing exercises.
  3. Commit to becoming a better lyricist. I’m singling lyrics out here because most of the time, songwriters are judged by the quality of their lyrics over most other song elements. Show me a list of 10 top songwriters, and I’ll show you a list of 8-10 excellent lyricists.
  4. Commit to developing different ways of starting the songwriting process. If you start all your songs by vamping a couple of chords to see what ideas pop up, I’ll wager that you’ve got a catalogue of music that all sounds pretty much the same. Have the courage to try lyrics first, or start a song by creating a catchy melodic hook, and then add chords, rhythm, etc.
  5. Read what other songwriters say about what they do. Working in a creative vacuum is one of the biggest causes of creative blocks. The internet gives you instant access to what other songwriters have to say about writing. Just hearing them describe the challenges they face as composers can give you confidence that you can become a better writer.
  6. Keep a songwriting journal. The kind of journal I’m talking about isn’t referring to your own songs. It’s one you’ll write about good songs you’ve heard, why you like them, and what you can learn as a songwriter from them. To improve, you need to be able to verbalize what it is about music that you like. If you can put your thoughts into words, you’ve got a better chance of using those ideas in your own music.
  7. Commit to building your audience base. No producer, manager, or other industry personnel is going to take a chance on someone who doesn’t have a healthy fan base. There are very few shortcuts to making music a profession. Practically no one gets discovered out of the blue. It’s almost always the result of good, hard work by songwriters who pay their dues by building an audience for their music, both online and in person.
  8. Commit to building songwriting partnerships. Good, healthy collaborations benefit you in many ways, but the two most important ways are: 1) You can tap into someone else’s pre-existing audience base, building up your own; and 2) You improve your own songwriting technique by seeing how another songwriter approaches their art.
  9. Commit to improving the quality of your recordings. If your songs are great but the performances of those songs (whether live or recorded) are weak, all an audience hears is weak music. Improving the quality of your recordings means improving your technical prowess, but also means becoming a better performer, and finding topnotch bandmates.
  10. Strive for uniqueness. If you want your songs to stand out from the crowd and be noticed, you’ve got to give people something that isn’t simply cut from the same cloth as every other song out there. The best way to do this is to commit to writing music every day. The more you write, the easier it is for you to identify exactly what it is about your style that differs from everything else going on in the music business. And then, it simply takes personal courage to run with it.

If you’re ready and willing to commit yourself to a new and greater level of success for your songwriting in 2015, I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment below about how it’s all going. If you have other tips and advice for songwriters — ideas that have helped you become even better, please feel free to add your thoughts below.

Here’s the link to Gary’s article: https://garyewer.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/10-tips-for-making-2015-a-breakout-year-for-your-songwriting/

Elaborate Arrangements

May 8th, 2015

I recently heard Paul McCartney’s “Band on the Run” on the radio and I was struck by the arrangement! The song has three distinct “movements” (different grooves, keys, tempos) which is an approach to composition that is often more associated with classical music, and not pop music. I don’t hear many songs like this these days, however, the tendency to have “movements” and a more involved arrangements was more evident (IMO) among certain 70s rock artists…Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” or Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell,” are examples. One song that I have not listened to in years is Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” After hearing the McCartney track and reflecting on “movement” based arrangements I did give “Stairway to Heaven” a fresh listen, and it is truly an extraordinary example of performance, songwriting, and arrangement. I then stumbled across a BBC news video of Jimmy Page describing the motivation and vision that led to composing “Stairway to Heaven.” This is quite interesting!

Check it out at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDo4CA13LbY

Embracing a Cliché!

March 21st, 2015

As songwritiers, we try to avoid clichés right? But when is it ok, appropriate, or perhaps ideal to utilize a cliché? Check out this video of Neil Young discussing “Rockin’ in the Free Word” and how he embraced the lyrical cliché!

 

Writing a Hit Song!

January 15th, 2015

Check out this article from Ralph Murphy on writing a #1 hit song…food for thought! Click HERE!

 

Melody Pitfalls

November 15th, 2014

Check out this piece on the top 5 melody pitfalls – and how you can avoid them! Click HERE!

 

The Secrets of Songwriters

October 28th, 2014

“Whether they’re poets or hired guns, modern lyricists are fighting to keep their words in tune with a wildly changing music business. How top writers, from country to hip-hop, nail the phrases they hope will last forever.” Check out this article, “The Secrets of Songwriters.”

http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704164904575421813516451790

 

Finding New Inspiration From Old Works

October 3rd, 2014

I recently dug out an old unreleased full-band demo recording of a song called “No One Lives Here Anymore.” I had all the raw tracks saved in a Cubase project, and for kicks I mixed down a version with all the instruments removed, except for the drum tracks. I had not played the song is years so I thought it might be fun to have the isolated drum tracks to play over.

However, I soon began to play other songs (new songs) over the drum track and I stumbled on a nice pairing with a new song called “Hard Luck Town.” What was interesting is that the drum arrangement, which was meant for an entirely different song, led me to re-arrange “Hard Luck Town.” The drums directed me to do all sorts of things that pulled me out of my comfortable and typical arrangement patterns. To make “Hard Luck Town” work with the drums I had to break in spots where I would typically play straight through; I had to ease off and play soft in sections where I would typically play loud and intense; I had to extend and/or shorten instrumental solos, etc. Not only was this a fun exercise, it totally changed how I have envisioned and arranged “Hard Luck Town.”

So, if you have some isolated drum tracks from your or other artist’s songs, have some fun and try to make your songs fit with the drum arrangement…you might just discover some cool ideas that take your new songs to places you never imagined.

Liberating Songwriters: Singles, 3ps, and EPs

May 9th, 2014

I write on a fairly regular basis and every so often I release an album based on my collection of songs at the time. Even with three or four times the number of songs needed for an album, it is always a challenge to select the best bunch of tunes that work together as a unified full-length “album.” This challenge is accentuated by my tendency to write in a range of roots music styles, from solo folk ballads to bluegrass-flavored romps to full-band roots/rock songs. Now, sometimes, an eclectic mix can work great within one album. Steve Earle’s “El Corazon” is all over the musical map, and it is one of my favorite albums. Yet, sometimes as a writer I prefer to release songs as a package that have a more common sound palate. This is why I have been recently drawn to the idea of releasing EPs (or singles). Rather than trying to force songs into a full-length album, or worse, not recording/releasing cool songs, these songs can simply be released on their own. Simple idea, but one that can be quite liberating for songwriters/recording artists!

I’ll leave with a link to a CD Baby article called “The 3P Concept” that presents the merits of releasing three songs!

http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/2010/10/the-3p-concept-more-than-a-singleless-than-an-ep/

Derek Sivers on Imperfect Mirrors

March 30th, 2014

Remember Derek Silvers from CD Baby? He’s an “Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life.” As Derek states, “I make useful things, and share what I learn.” Here’s a piece he shared recently called “Imitate. We are imperfect mirrors.” The piece talks about the merits of copying existing business models, and he uses a songwriting analogy to make his point!

Check it out at http://sivers.org/mirror 

 

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