Songwriter Practice

Stringbanger

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Practice? Songwriting?

I recently read an article online where the writer emphasized practicing writing songs.
Now, of course, I can’t find the article, but it certainly made sense to me.

The thrust of the article was that, just like any other skill, one needs to practice it to become proficient. Maybe too many of us wait around for an inspirational idea, or an interesting lick.

I remember when I was in my heyday of songwriting, I actively tried to write songs frequently. I’m talking 2-3 per week. Most turned out to be bombs, but there are some diamonds in the rough as well.

So, it makes sense to me based on my own experience, yet I never perceived it in terms of practicing.

I will post the article if I come across it.
Thoughts?
 

kbold

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Sure

I used to write lyrics just as an exercise. For example, an exercise in imagery.
All my songs are an exercise in imagery.

Consistency evades me: 2 or 3 in a day, often followed by a long pause.
I've paddled too far out, waiting for that one big wave of the set.

Songwriting is hard work: consistent songwriting is harder hard work.
I can't pretend or force creativity: I can just wait for it to happen.

I don't buy into the idea that consistency creates improvement .... perhaps it leads to fatigue.
Elite weightlifters will work out perhaps once per week (the rest of the week is recovery/repair/rebuild).
Perhaps my technique is like that: songwriting to exhaustion, followed by a long recovery. (Perhaps I'm inventing excuses.) :twisted:

I guess some writers work to a formula or system, where consistency is an advantage.
I don't write like that .... I don't collaborate ..... my creativity needs freedom and space.
 

drmordo

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I think writing everyday is best. I know McCartney writes almost constantly, sometimes multiple songs per day. It's ok if they suck as long as you recognize it, but the act of flexing the songwriter muscles makes you stronger.

That said, I have never had that discipline and only write when I am working on a project. When I have a project going I bounce around ideas all day long and sit a the piano for a couple of hours everyday. I carry notation paper with me at work and take time to scribble ideas if I have them.
 

teletimetx

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Seems like you have to figure out how to think about this for your own approach. If a person considers themself to be a songwriter, then writing songs on a somewhat regular basis should be at least an objective.

Not every song turns out to be something you want to play out, but while I’m engaged in the process, it doesn’t feel like practice - I’m trying to write something good. However, in retrospect, some just don’t get there or don’t even get finished.

If someone wants to call that “practice”, ok, fine. I think engaging in the process every chance you get can lead to improvement. Whatever keeps you going.
 

drewg

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Many of my songs come to me in dreams, usually fragments, often with words. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes not, but I try not to censure what I hear and remember. I'm usually aware that the song was much longer and I've forgotten most of it.

I dreamt two song fragments early this morning and I sing/hum them into my VoiceRecord Pro on my iPhone (wonderful free app!). I have no idea if they hold any promise yet...

If a dream fragment song has promise, I think about it and develop it as an idea, like writing a short story or poem based on a prompt.

Where do these songs come from? It's amazing really. They float in on your dreams and I just catch them. It's not me composing the melody.

I highly recommend recording or writing down your dreams. It's not easy and takes almost a lifestyle change. But it spiked my creativity quite noticeably.
 

chulaivet1966

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Practice? Songwriting?.... Thoughts?
Good morning everyone....

In case this may interest anyone:

The BIAB forum reminds everyone every year about the "FAWM" song writing challenge.

My take:
I couldn't write anything I'd be pleased with or want my peers ears to hear in any restricted amount of time but I can understand the purpose of it.
As mentioned, "imagery" is crucial for good song writing from my perspective.
I concentrate on that in everything I write.....of course, whether I'm successful at it is determined by the gracious listeners. :)
I pick a non-cliche topic and finish it before moving on....I must be happy with it (finished recording) which may take a few weeks before I tackle another 'subject' to elaborate on.
Forcing myself to write any amount of songs in within a time frame just doesn't work for me.
Especially, if any amount of them would be an unfleshed out throw aways based on my perception of personal 'quality' vs. quantity song writing.
Plus, I prefer to write alone but I've done a few collabs over the decades.

Have a great day everyone....
 
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Digital Larry

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I'm not at all prolific. I play guitar daily and come up with riffs (mostly very similar to each other) fairly easily. Words happen when they happen.

I did give some thought the other day to different types of songwriting.

a) "want to send a message or say something specific".
b) "paint half the picture and let the listener fill in the other half".
c) "try to make people laugh".

Most of mine are c), followed by a) and I don't think I am capable of b). At least it hasn't happened yet. I think of Justin Hayward (the guy who wrote "Nights in White Satin") as a really good example of b). If you've read or heard any interview with him you know the frame of mind he was in when he wrote it, but I wouldn't say that it is obvious at all.
 

chulaivet1966

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I'm not at all prolific. I play guitar daily and come up with riffs (mostly very similar to each other) fairly easily. Words happen when they happen.
Nor am I Larry....

Somehow I wrote/recorded (4) songs & (1) composition in about (3) months earlier this year.
Thanks to Ken Lasaine they all came out far beyond my expectations.
Where that creative burst came from is a total enigma to me.
Point being, i may not write another one for a year + or -.

I now have to wait for that gripping new subject topic to rear it's head forcing me to buckle down to flesh it out with a very deliberate focus.

No new ideas on my plate at the moment....(Ken is probably elated to hear that :) )

Back to it....
 

schmee

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I had a "heyday" or two. It's a lot of work for sure.
But yes, I think like anything else, writing songs is a learned art and practice helps.
My problem is I'm super critical about my songs and any hint of it being similar to something else I get discouraged.
If everyone was like that, 'the Blues' would not be a "thing"! 🤣
 

roeg

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I have always had to write with at least one other person, preferably a singer/songwriter()...but when i get in that working relationship, yeah i have contributed. i need someone to play off. just works better for me, a spark to generate ideas. Not a solo act here,but, i've been playing so long alone now, my solo playing is not half bad either! Anyway i like it.:)...here is hoping i live long enough to go at it again.
 

Dukex

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Each person's path is different. There are as many different approaches to writing (all writing) as there are writers (seasoned and beginners).

Continue forward, and you will find what works for you. And as you grow, what works may evolve.
 

catdaddy

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I've been writing songs for over 55 years. During all that time, I had one week where I wrote more than one song. Obviously, I'm not a prolific writer. I'm hyper-critical of my writing, and have probably discarded on average 3 or 4 song ideas for every one that I eventually developed into a finished song. It would be counter to my nature to force myself to write something every day. I'm sure for others that could be a productive way to approach improving one's songwriting skills, but it's not for me. I believe everyone has as much their own unique path to successful songwriting as they have their own unique muse for inspiration.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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When I have peace and quiet, I can easily write five in a day, and two will be keepers. But I can also go months without writing a word.

It just depends on my situation. I now live in a small house with another person, which inhibits my writing a lot — too many distractions. So instead, I work on learning what I've already written, which has been a big help to my performing live.
 

Fiesta Red

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Sometimes a bad song can yield a good one—the song (as a whole) isn’t that great, but it has a few good lyrics or a great chorus what can be used in a different song later.

Same way with music—the total of a song might be uninspired, with the exception of a particular riff or fill, which can be reused or recycled into a better song.

Finally, I will sometimes write a song that just isn’t “complete” or “ripe” enough to be labeled “good”…I’ll set those aside and come back later when inspiration hits…oftentimes they become good (or even great) songs…

A few years ago I wrote some music that I really liked—a slightly aggressive, ominous-sounding Stones-y rocker—but couldn’t come up with lyrics that matched the dark feel of the music. We recorded it, and I used (as a placeholder) a vocal track of me singing (in meter/time of the music) the song titles of all the songs the drummer and I had written or recorded together…it was silly, but I really didn’t want to lose the “feel” of the melody and meter.

Two months later, after reading a book about some people whose homes were invaded by the secret police of a particular nation during the early part of the Cold War* (and the subsequent hiding/resistance of their neighbors), the lyrics fell out of my pen so fast I had a hard time keeping up.

I ran to the studio (my drummer’s house) and re-cut the vocals the next weekend…while working on the playback, the drummer stopped the recording and said, “Where the heck do you come up with this stuff? This is kinda dark!”
A good song came out of a half-baked idea.


*please don’t delete my post—I’m just making a historical reference, not praising or celebrating those disgusting people.
 

chulaivet1966

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Two months later, after reading a book about some people whose homes were invaded by the secret police of a particular nation during the early part of the Cold War* (and the subsequent hiding/resistance of their neighbors), the lyrics fell out of my pen so fast I had a hard time keeping up.
Ha...well, that doesn't happen often enough for us self critical song writers.

As I've mentioned before, I always try to pick different topics to write about weather it's my life experiences or just creative license.
The (4) & (1) I referenced previously the subjects came to mind quickly and I managed to be pleased with the lyrics/imagery surprisingly quickly.
I still shake my head at how I pumped them out because I wasn't pressuring myself intentionally.....they just happened.
I somehow got on the creative train and ran with it....and all different topics.
IE: "The Lone Wolf" - "Tranquility" - "Stranger In A Strange Land" - "Wild Ways" - "Atlantis"....I felt pleased enough to upload them for my peers ears.

I'm sure that won't happen again in my lifetime and it remains a creative enigma for my brain to reconcile.

Have a great day everyone....
 

johnnylaw

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All songs are not created equal. Gods be praised.
Mostly, I got “do you”. What you “know” are your natural resources. Following this creed, you have no need to make anything up; you just have to package it.
We are on the other side from the passive listeners. Sometimes we’re too close to zoom in further.
My trajectory involved much trial and error. I came to realize that I’m capable of writing things I can’t deliver. My limitations as a vocalist have coerced me into a narrower lane of options. This is good because it limits multiple tangents of distraction.
Since I’m passable as a country (think Outlaw stripe) singer, I aim for that turf. I create a touch more than half of the material for an Americana/Alt Country three-piece. Listeners are our target audience. Listening venues are our target gigs. The stakes in this game are not necessarily higher than a pop, rock, or blues (etc.) situation, but the currency is different. The songs mostly are vignettes of real people, places, and events that evoke (we hope) some sort of engagement and response from the listeners. This sort of audience come out for this experience. We are NOT wallpaper.
I write intermittently and carefully, fully rejecting, and occasionally resurrecting most of what leaks from the pen.
I play also in a four-piece garage glam retro-pop art rock something something band. One guy writes it all, and the band massages these bits into arranged songs. The writer puts out a song a day on average. He has over 300 on his phone alone. Fortunately, he culls and rejects most. What remains are jems. This material has dimensionality that is up the middle, sideways, helical, historical, hysterical, and more.
This band can do wallpaper. It’s danceable. It’s accessible. It’s quirky and unusual. It’s also got layers to it that invite the interested listener inside the labyrinth to view our same world from peculiar surroundings. The guy is just brilliant.
He loves my songwriting. He says he could never do what I do. I haven’t met anybody that can do what he does.
At the end of all this babbling, I can offer only that the audience tends to respond to authenticity, whether or not they understand it as such.
Do you.
Cheers
 




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