In the ever-changing world of creative expression, hearing from others is often an important part in the process of creating art in its various forms. This is especially true for songwriters, which is why we are always trying to share tried and true tips and methods from others in the field.
Helping you make better music is not only good for your career, it's also beneficial to everyone who hears it. The world constantly needs healing and music, through the work of songwriters, is one of the few things that unite people. With that said, we had promised to share some tips from quick-witted songwriters with you some time ago. Those tips are finally here. Below, you will find songwriting tips and exercises from songwriters just like you. Let's go...
"I've been working with my middle and high school students on writing a song using mind maps. We came up with the topic of backpacks and from there branched out into things like what was in the pack, how heavy it was, where they were going with the contents of the backpack, etc. The next thing we did was discuss a mood and what we came up with was that they would have a somber sounding A section and then an uplifting hook (or B section).
The easiest way that I find to do this is by looking at the major scale as though it were a box of crayons and picked the appropriate "colors" to suit our mood. We decided that the song would be in F Major / D minor and so for our somber 16 measure verse with used Dm (vi) and Gm (ii) for the first 8 measures and then repeated four bars of Dm, two bars of Gm and then used the dominant chord, C major, to lift us into the chorus which starts on F major and gives us a feeling that the sun has come out.
So, my point is that understanding the character and function of the chords in a major scale truly help with the "craftwork" part of songwriting, even when inspiration isn't staring us in the face!"
About: Ted is a professional bassist from New Orleans now living in the San Francisco Bay Area. His credits as a bassist include working with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee Zigaboo Modeliste (the Meters), pop icon Jody Walt, American Idol finalist Latoya London, Jon B., Ron E. Back (Tower of Power) and R&B singer Will Russ Jr.
"I often use metaphors in my songwriting in order to write emotional songs that listeners can connect to, and find an emotional tie with.
My songs are about love and people, I just try to take a unique angle each time. I used to write about current events but realized it is problematic because, often, by the time a song gets cut, those events are old news. So I stick to people and love.
I am an introvert, my best thinking occurs when I’m by myself. I’m not opposed to collaboration or discussions, I just need to time to reflect quietly and engage in original thought, and to produce results about which I can feel proud.
It takes me a long time to trust someone, so I’m sorry if I appear awkward. LOL
I am happy to be a Tunedly member, thanks for featuring me."
About: Nancy is a songwriter from Tennessee, who specializes in country and pop music and plays the acoustic guitar.
"I think the only thing that comes to mind right off is to try looking at a common situation from a different perspective. There are a million songs about love, but finding a very unique take on it will make it stick out."
About: Dusty has written more than 500 songs and played on over 500 different albums. His work has seen him win local and international awards, in various areas, ranging from songwriting to mixing.
"I wrote four basic articles about songwriting on LinkedIn. Since then, I've been to songwriting workshops and [have] written more songs but if you are like me - I am always looking for new inspiration. I'm looking forward to what other songwriters publish on Tunedly."
About: Elisabeth Kitzing is a songwriter from Sweden. She's also the owner of Featherhead Media.
"One of my main tips is to not stress it when you don’t know what to write about, or if the words aren’t coming together as you want them to. If I’m feeling tired, I simply take a power nap and then get back to it when I wake up. If I’m hungry, thirsty, bored…whatever, I find that once I satisfy that need and then go back to the task, I can write freely.
As for a songwriting exercise, I try to zero in on the emotion I’m feeling (happy, sad, anxious, etc.), first to try and come up with a songwriting title (although I might change it later), and also to set the tone for the song’s theme."
About: Helen Montrose is a singer-songwriter from Jacksonville, Florida, who loves making music and is a huge Sia fan.
6. Wayne Presley
"I remember being stuck on an idea until I watched the Sting Ted Talk...it inspired me to be free to write the song without worrying about if it had commercial merit [or not] and just be true and focused on the spirit of the idea... It is now one of my favorite and most powerful songs I’ve written so far!!"
About: Wayne Presley is a country musician and lyricist from Calgary, Alberta.
"I don't anticipate that listeners will comprehend where my melodies originate from, on the grounds that I myself don't get it either. I don't know who or what influences me and I simply prefer truly not to address it.
Allow me to share my favorite tips from my own particular melody-composing background:
Take a seat with your guitar or at your piano. Start singing or murmuring, without the hope of making something splendid. When you allow yourself to meander away a bit from the ascertaining parts of your cerebrum and into the energizing woodlands of creative ability and imagination, you can think of fabulous things."
About: Scott is a member of the Guitar Faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). He has won a number of local, regional, and national awards, and has been featured on both local and national radio and television.
"Thinking of an extremely appealing title or catchy sound is a workmanship all by itself for me. On the off chance that you have one, congrats. Once you have it, here are a couple of songwriting tips and exercises to remember.
- Do ensure that everything in your verse focuses to and bolsters your expressive hook. There's a feeling of dramatization and discharge.
- Bear in mind to give your song genuine, passionate substance. It's conceivable to be so centered around the idea, and setting it up, that you neglect to be earnest. While the audience probably won't think much about it, the song simply won't move them as it should."
About: Josh is a songwriter from Chicago. He says he loves the process of listening to an artist's vision and creating lyrics out of it.
"This approach works for me as a songwriter: I endeavor to act naturally and simply take shots at songwriting for myself, with the expectation that others will feel the same when they hear the final version.
This technique, for me, is the most compensating approach, as far as self-improvement is concerned. I'm glad and can finally relax when I feel I am being inventive as a lyricist and that the process includes something about getting to know myself better.
Writing lyrics can be an extremely rewarding and liberating action for me."
About: Born in Jamaica, Susie has been singing and writing songs since she was a child. She recently completed her first professional demo.
"I generally start with a thought or a basic idea or an emotion and write a paragraph about how I feel concerning the situation. From there I try to put together a rhythm/rhyme scheme and melody generally finds itself. Other times, I am just picking around practicing blindly and I'll hit on a chord progression I just can't deny and I'll have to record it and save it for later."
About: Wendell Pops Jones is a singer/songwriter and performer from Tennessee.
"I’m not writing songs about me; I’m writing songs about YOU."
About: Pete Townshend is a songwriter and musician, and the creative force behind legendary rock band The Who.
12. Rick Riccled
"When the inspiration comes, do it! Quite often I haven’t a clue where the music comes from!"
About: Rick Riccled is an amateur composer, arranger, artist, poet, and virtual artist living in the UK. He plays classical, rock, pop, folk, jazz and electronic music.
13. Melanie Jane Banner
"I usually have a specific emotion, or event I want to capture/ crystallize into a song. I work to that brief, maybe with an opening line, a song title, or a chorus line in mind, be it happy or sad. Then the song just happens from there. I may add extra verses, or fine-tune the scanning, if I feel I can better anything, later on."
About: Melanie is a songwriter, writer, and photographer from the UK. She loves rock music, nature, and art.
14. Grey Foxx
"I just let each instrument speak to one another and let the mood of the first chosen instrument guide the mood of the song. When the music is done I let the emotion of the music guide my lyrics."
About: Grey Foxx is a songwriter and instrumentalist. He plays keys, drums, and guitar, and his music is influenced by a variety of genres, including Bollywood, Country, Jazz, Blues, Reggae and synth pop, and euro pop.
"In my case, I receive the melodies. It is like I am singing within myself. So, right away I have to capture the melody. The melody itself is already in a specific genre. It can be pop, jazz, R&B, African, choral, etc, and some other time I listen to it and develop or improve it. When listening to it more ideas come in terms of accompaniment. The lyrics I fit in the melody. It is like an exercise, taking into account the metric."
About: Demócrito is a Mozambican songwriter, composer, and performer. He writes songs in many genres, including R&B, Soul, Gospel, Pop, Rock, Brazilian, Jazz, Instrumental, Mozambican, African, African Jazz, Tropical, and world music.
16. Ian Hudson
"I find sometimes the best lyrics come from new experiences and in everyday life conversations."
I start with the lyrics, instead of worrying about the specifics I tend to just write a page or two of what I want to say.
About: Ian is a songwriter from Sydney, Australia, who has been in the music & entertainment industry for over 10 years.
"It varies. I've woken up with fully formed verses & chorus that need just a few tweaks. I've written complete songs while riding on my lawn tractor. I've heard a line in a movie or tv show & have developed a song around that. Sometimes I bang on the guitar & words fall out. Sometimes things just pop into my head."
About: Stew Crossen is a songwriter and songwriting instructor from Connecticut.
We hope these songwriting tips and exercises will be of help to you. If you think someone else might find them helpful as well, please share with a friend. Have a songwriting tip of your own that you'd also like to share? We'd love to add it to the list. Send us an email and let's talk.
All the best on your songwriting journey! « return to blog