On my last post, we tackled the importance of the pre-production process. Today, we’ll discuss the first step of this process – which is songwriting.
I love writing songs. It is when I am happiest and most creative in the music production process. It is when my brain comes up with the most insane melodies and lyrics. I really got into it during a songwriting course I attended some time ago; I remember myself jotting down words that rhyme and connecting them (sometimes furiously) to form a single thought. Mind you, this was before the wonders of the internet, before that magical time when you could simply google what rhymes with what. I had many strokes of genius and aha moments thereafter.
Writing The Song – Express Yourself!
Later on, I had a bandmate with whom I wrote songs for several years. We were both driven by emotions, especially the gut wrenching ones. We reveled in our knack for writing songs that demanded to be felt – ones that tugged at the heartstrings, hard. Our songs were so full of pain and sadness; they were almost depressing. And we wrote quite a number.
And why was that? It was because we wrote songs when we were at the height of our emotions – especially during times of heartbreaks, tears, depression, and even family issues. I trained myself to write songs in moments of weakness, hurt, and pain. Man, our songs delivered the purest of emotions. Raw and unashamed and overflowing. Unfortunately, the result of my training ended up with me not writing songs consistently. I relied too much on the overflow. When I was happy and content, I couldn’t write a single line.
You shouldn’t be solely influenced by one side of the emotional equation. If you are intent on writing songs to have an album or make a name for yourself, there should be consistency in your workflow. If your focus is to write songs as part of your business goals, you should be writing songs as an intentional habit, a daily thing.
So, when you are writing a song – express yourself; create that overflow regardless, if you are in a good or bad mood!
Songwriting is like Poetry in Motion
Martin Nievera, a very successful singer in the Philippines, once said, “Music is poetry in motion,” as he was introducing his next performance on a tv show. As I pondered on his melodious narration, I immediately acknowledged the truth behind those words. Music, indeed, takes you somewhere, or everywhere. Just by listening to instrumentals, you can be taken to a different world. How much more if there are words to express the song’s melody? That would carry you off to somewhere unimaginable.
Poetry in Motion, in urbandictionary.com, means graceful fluidity that moves with tactful elegance, an abstract noun that is direct and completely beautiful to all 5 senses. By this definition alone, a song can definitely directly or indirectly affect, even awaken, your senses. There are songs that can hurt you emotionally, and songs that can make you hungry. Some songs bring back memories from the past, while there are those that make you lust over someone. As a matter of fact, there are songs that push and encourage you to be the best, like songs being played during workout sessions, and songs used for learning and training presentation purposes.
In the essence of graceful fluidity, if you are to study a song, you will see distinct patterns on in the song arrangement – patterns that make the song flow. These patterns take listeners to a journey, from the first line to the last verse.
So, the question is, how can patterns turn songs into a seamless blend of words and melodies, transporting us to a whole new level of experience that poke at our inner senses?
Are there rules to follow in writing songs?
The Rules of Songwriting
I’d like for you to spend time listening to different songs from every genre you know. If you examine hits from today’s music and the past years closely, you’d likely see common characteristics. Is it because songwriters follow a process in writing their songs? Probably. Do they know each other and collaborate? Maybe. Are they being mentored by the same songwriting coaches? Possibly. Do you ever wonder why there are songs that describe the exact situation you are in right now?
Songwriting is a creative and artistic process that doesn’t demand we do it confined to a set of rules. If rules govern the songwriting process, it would be as boring as hell. I am not saying following rules are dreary, but in the context of artistry, music writing would hold no interest for us. Rules are there to be strictly followed. It can be somewhat like regulations you see posted everywhere. No sleeping on the job. Curfew hours. Strictly no entry. No parking. Do not step on the grass. Post No Bill. Lights are shut at 12 MN. These are sets of rules that once broken, have corresponding consequences.
Imagine if rules are applied in songwriting, it could be like this:
- First rule – The title of a song should only be 5 words. Beyond that would result in too long a title.
- Second rule – Never entitle a song using only 1 word.
- Third rule – Always use words that rhyme.
- Fourth rule – All songs must have a bridge or it is not a complete song.
And the list can go on and on.
So don’t fret. The universe still leans toward common sense, and there are no rules in songwriting.
Principles to Live By
Instead of rules though, the art of writing a song is more governed by a set of GUIDING PRINCIPLES. These are ideas that influence and guide you when considering the elements that you put in your song. One good example of this is song arrangement.
Most songs have the Verse-Chorus, Verse-Chorus, Bridge, Verse-Chorus, then Coda arrangement. However, you can also have a different arrangement depending on the mood or the story of the song. You can start with the chorus first, followed by two verses, then the chorus, then another verse, then a bridge, then verse chorus, then coda. Anything goes. As long as you are able to convey the message you want your listeners to hear, then it is a complete song.
Another guiding principle in songwriting is on the song’s energy. The energy at the end of the song of should be at least equal to, or exceed the song’s energy at the beginning. This is what keeps listeners interested. A songwriter should be able to build the momentum and maintain the energy level all throughout. Occasional dips are allowed, creating contrast, which makes some important elements of the song pop out.
So it is crucial that the songwriter is aware on how to build the energy, end with a bang, and keep you breathless/entranced as you listen.
The best way to progress in your songwriting skills is to be knowledgeable of the basic principles of songwriting. As you become more familiar with the guiding principles, you become more prolific in writing your songs. Hang tight and discover the basic principles of songwriting in the next installment of this series.
So what do you think? What will make you improve your songwriting skills? Please feel free to comment away! 🙂
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