Tati vs The Internet: Songwriting Tips, Shot Down
Written by Tati
I am skeptical of songwriting tips found on the internet for the following really good reasons:
- Songwriting is a flexible art. Obviously. How-To guides on the internet tend to imply there are ‘better’ ways to write songs than the ones that may work for you.
- How-To guides often make things sound trite. No songwriter, especially bratty ones such as myself, want to feel that what they’re doing can be replicated by someone reading an article on ‘knowing your goal’ and ‘music vs robots’.
- Often they totally sidetrack off writing songs and start going on about why you should write songs sitting under the greenwood tree by a lake. For inspiration, yah?
Hopefully I am not entirely right about this (unlikely, as I am always right, about everything), as I am going on an epic journey that is, no question, going to turn me into a grumpy poop by lunch. I am going to trawl through the internet roadkill brought to me by Google, and see if there are diamonds hidden in the mangled innards of the ‘how to write songs’ articles I find.
21 Songwriting tips by Songwriter Ken Hill
Ken Hill uses a lot of analogies here, like ‘scratching in the dirt’ etc. ‘Minds are like flowers’ tells us, in a convoluted way, that if we want to become good at something, we have to work at it, and stay in practice. A very good point, Ken Hill. I am all for the ‘write one song every week, even if it is only 50 seconds long’ school of songwriting. Good work Ken. He also tells us there should be a reason for everything we write – don’t write filler. I also agree here. He says we should let the song take us where it wants, and that we should keep ourselves healthy. I disagree with these; firstly, health is irrelevant to songwriting, unless you can only write songs from mountaintops. Secondly, I believe that songs still need to be reined in; if you’re trying to convey something with a song, you have to keep it focused. Let a song run away and it ends up with dodgy rhymes and a seven minute long prog rock solo in the middle. That’s not what we want. Although this takes us back to problem no. 1; that might be exactly you want, and my opinion will be worthless to a lot of songwriters. The best thing I’ve got from this article, really, is Ken Hill’s advice to throw out average songs. Definitely agree. If a song is average, it’s not worth singing, let alone rehearsing and maybe recording, or playing to an audience. Anyone can write songs of a low standard; children do it all the time.
Robin Frederick’s Songwriting Tips
Robin actually has quite a few good tips here. She tells us to use contrast to get attention, and that we should force ourselves to be creative rather than waiting around for an idea. This is my music writing mantra, and it’s never more frustrating than when I force myself to be creative and all my creations come out smothered in their own BORING. But I maintain, despite the boring thing, that it’s pretty good advice. Only luvvies wait around for the inspiration of God. Try reading the autobiography of Hector Berlioz, definitely a guest at my invite-anyone-dead-or-alive dinner party in the sky. There’s a whole lot of wild inspiration and passion in there to make up for the fact that he actually has to study his art and work really frigging hard at it. There’s none of this composing-as-catharsis bull (and if that isn’t bull after all, then I am utterly jealous). Robin tells us to look for the melody in our lyric; that we should follow speech patterns to find a natural melody. Very clever, Janacek did that in many of his operas (spoiler: they all end horribly, even the one about the fox). She also tells us to stick to one genre, per song I imagine, rather than per career.
10 Tips On How To Boost Your Creative Side When Writing Songs
Oh dear. This one gets silly. So here, we are faced with gems such as what are your passions, tune into your emotions and do crazy stuff: ‘musicians lead colourful lives’, aka DONiT BE REALLY BORING. We do not want ‘my headband’ here.
So far, so pointless. ‘Writing whilst high?’: question mark allows for personal choice. Okay so everyone can rattle out the Beatles at this point, but I’m going with Thomas Hardy:
‘…however terrestrial and lumpy their appearance just now to the mean unglamoured eye, to themselves the case was different. They followed the road with a sensation that they were soaring along in a supporting medium, possessed of original and profound thoughts, themselves and surrounding nature forming an organism of which all the parts harmoniously and joyously interpenetrated each other’.
Translation: when you’re not sober, you’re probably really boring. And as I have mentioned already, no one likes a boring song. Or person. Just keepin’ it real.
Okay two other tips on this page are ‘leave the house’, ‘use a hat’ and ‘cheat’, so… I’m moving on.
The Essential Secrets of Songwriting: Songwriting Tips by Gary Ewer
Gary Ewer wants us to buy his e-book. These are everywhere. Urghhhhhhh. I really think if you’re that stuck, the worst thing to do is buy one of these books. Personally, I find it really interesting and often helpful (all the best musicians steal ideas) to talk to other songwriters, or listen to really good music (and not get depressed at how I’ll never be that good, preferably), or just read an actual book. Do something that’s actually mentally stimulating instead of buying some hokum book that helps you wallow in frustration. Grrr.
This is actually a pretty useful blog. They don’t go by the list-generic-metaphors school of songwriting; there are actual articles in here that describe how I feel and are a bit soothing (mostly to know I’m not alone, even though I know I’m not alone because, lets face it, all creative people have similar problems. We none of us are that special. Deal with it). Have a browse.
Ultimate Song Writing: Songwriting Tips To Help You Write Better Songs
Probably the silliest songwriting article I’ve ever read, although we haven’t got to wikihow and ehow yet… Tip no. 1: focus on love. Because there’s ‘no point re-inventing the wheel’. Okay, I’m going to stop you right here and point out that this is how Jessie J’s dreadful first album was born. Not to hate on Jessie again, and, indeed, I don’t hate Jessie, I just can’t reconcile myself with the fact that no one mentions how painfully bad that album was etc. She could produce way better content than she does. STEP IT UP JESSIE (Domino, whislt boring, was way better than the album, so maybe she already is)! Suffice to say, advice as generic as ‘focus on love…say what you feel’ is how this happens:
This enlightening songwriting guide to help you write songs also says you should stop thinking about the money (what money?! That’s just smug) and that you should re-write and polish your songs. Brilliant, so that’s what I should be doing with those half finished songs I’m not happy with yet! Wow, never would have figured that one out.
I told you I’d be a poop by lunch. The hungrier I get, the more the grumpus attacks. I don’t know what I’m going to have for lunch yet; we have bagels, but they’re the wrong kind (I like the onion-y ones) and I have some beetroot that needs to be eaten but I’m just not in the mood for salad, or health. I had a really delicious spicy chicken soup last week… mmmm….