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Monday, 19 August 2013

The Three Stages of Writing Songs

With almost everything in life, you need a plan. You need a clean and concise strategy to achieving a goal. Writing a song is actually a lot like launching a rocket into space.

Why, I hear you ask?

Well, you've got to put a lot of time and energy into launching the song (into space), followed by developing your idea whilst it’s in orbit, and then finally bringing it back down to Earth by rewriting and finishing it off.

You can’t expect a song to be the finished article within the first stage, or second stage for that matter. Very rarely will you experience this moment of genius, and it’s where a lot of people struggle when writing songs on the guitar, piano or lyrics. Next time you sit down to write a chord structure, a lyric or a catchy chorus, try this three-stage writing process – it may help!

Stage One – Let’s Get Started:

Centering your song on a concept, title or an idea is certainly a good place to start. It will give you a something to keep your song focused and relevant, which is very important if you want to keep your listeners involved.

Write down all your ideas. Getting everything down, whether it’s on paper or recorded on an iPhone – having solid ideas to work from always helps during the first stage.

Look over all your ideas again. Do they work together? Can you put them all together to develop an overall idea? By the time you write the first verse or section of your song, you should have an inkling as to where it’s heading.

If you’re struggling for ideas then think about something that you want to write about. Write down a few short phrases that emotionally affect you, words and concepts that mean something to you.

Ask and answer questions. Use lyrics to address and suggest questions that you find intriguing. With all of these ideas, your song will start to come together, or at least a few ideas will.

Stage Two – Going into Orbit, Develop your Idea:

You should have the skeleton of a song by this point, if not more. Now it’s time to add the meat.

Obviously there are no rules when writing songs. Some of the best songs ever written don’t follow the conventional structures we are all familiar with, but they’re actually a good place to start.

Including a verse, chorus and a bridge mixes up a song nicely, and is a form of structure that has proved time and time again that it works. Feature your theme throughout the song, and make sure that it follows what you’re writing about – try not to go too far off into a tangent as you risk alienating your audience.

Your chorus should sum up the heart of your song, supported by a vocal hook or a catchy melody.

Traditionally, verses lay either side of the chorus and describe the feeling of the song in more depth.

By laying out your song in this way, instead of just writing whatever random thoughts come into your head, you will stay focused on a single idea in each verse and you won’t wonder off into the depths of creativity, although it is important to retain the latter.

Striking the perfect balance is key here. Use stage three to adjust the balance and you’re well on your way to writing a great song!

Stage Three – Refine your Ideas, and Come Back Down to Earth:

Your song should be looking, or more aptly sounding, quite healthy now and you’re well on your way to having the finished article. Fill in more lines here and there; add in a few more guitar licks, bass and drum fills or whatever you feel is necessary.

Use this third stage to refine your ideas. Get rid of sections that don’t work, add in verses, remove a chorus – it’s completely up to you!

Use images, comparisons and physical expressions of emotion to make your audience really feel what you’re writing about. It’s not just a narrative of what you've experienced, a great song will identify with the listener and help them experience it too.

Work that into the performance of your song too, remember this is one of the greatest ways to express yourself, so do just that.

Replace a cliché with a fresh idea, punch up your language and bring the song to life.

Don’t force it though. Keep it authentic. This is your song, something that you've created from the depths of your own creativity. Be proud of it, and play it with satisfaction.

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