Write Songs and Lyrics

Six Ways To Motivate Yourself To Write Songs

Six Ways To Motivate Yourself To Write Songs

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Written by: Cliff Goldmacher

As passionate as we are about our songwriting, the reality is that sometimes it’s difficult to motivate ourselves to write. Whether it’s the fear of plumbing our emotional depths or just good old fatigue after a long day, there are often obstacles to overcome when it’s time to write. While flashes of inspiration are great, we can’t always count on the muse showing up on our schedule. Instead, we’ve got to make our own inspiration. I’ve put together a list of a few things that should help you keep your creative fires lit:

Set up a place at home to write

As simple as it sounds, having a place to go where you can focus and be creative can be motivating. Even if it’s just a small desk and chair in a corner of your living room, the fact that you’ve dedicated it to your art will serve as that little push you might need to write. Keep your writing tools—rhyming dictionary, guitar, laptop, etc.—out and easily accessible. It’s amazing what a difference putting your guitar on a stand versus keeping it in a case can make.  Make things as easy as you can for yourself, and you’ll be much more likely to dig in.

Set up a time of day to write

Routine can be a good thing, even for something as artistic and creative as songwriting. If, for example, you know that every day at 7pm you’re going to write for half an hour, then you’re more likely to do it. They say it takes a few weeks of consciously making yourself do something before it becomes a habit. A daily time to write will go a long way towards the healthy habit of songwriting.

Keep a file of unfinished songs

One of the hardest things about writing is starting with a blank page. By keeping an organized file of your unfinished lyrics and rough recordings, you won’t have to climb the mountain from the bottom every time you sit down. While sometimes it feels good to start with a fresh idea, don’t forget to check your unfinished ideas from time to time. It’s remarkable how a few days or weeks can add the perspective you need to see a partially finished song in a new light and finish it.

Find a co-writer

Nothing motivates more than accountability. If someone is counting on you to show up and work, you’re more likely to do it. Not only that, but halving the burden can make writing a much more approachable pursuit. This is one of the many benefits of co-writing. Other advantages include having someone whose songwriting gifts compliment your own in such a way that you both get a better song than you would have separately. If you haven’t co-written yet, this is as good a time as any to give it a try. Even if it’s not a perfect experience, we all benefit from observing firsthand someone else’s writing process.

Give yourself an assignment

Sometimes the idea that you can write about anything is just too much freedom. Often, it’s easier to write if you have some guidelines. For example, if you tell yourself you’re going to write a song with one chord you’ve never used or a song about a topic you’ve never covered, you’ll find it’s easier to get to work. Anything you can do to give shape and structure to what you’re attempting to write will make the task that much simpler.

Tell yourself you’ll only write for five minutes

This is one of my all-time favorites. On days where you’re really struggling to make yourself write, tell yourself you’ll sit down for five minutes. That way, if nothing is happening after five minutes, at least you’ve tried. It’s astonishing how often those days are the days where the breakthroughs happen. Taking the pressure off of yourself may be all that you need to get on a roll. That being said, if it’s just not coming, stop. There’s no point in making yourself miserable. There’s always tomorrow.

Conclusion

Being a songwriter is a gift, but, as with most gifts, some assembly (otherwise known as work) is required. My hope is by suggesting a few ways to lessen the burden of getting started, you’ll be able to write more consistently and enjoy the accompanying results.





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The Differences Between Songwriting in New York City vs Nashville

The Differences Between Songwriting in NYC & Nashville

By Cliff Goldmacher - Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Written by: Cliff Goldmacher

As a transplanted songwriter from Nashville to New York City, I’ve had the chance to observe, up close, the approaches to songwriting and the songwriting communities in both cities. While there are of course many similarities, there are also quite a few differences. By the way, I feel I should mention that the following observations are really more my impressions than hard facts.

Differences Within The Similarities

In this article, I’ll start with a similarity between New York and Nashville as it’s readily apparent and then explain how, within that similarity, one city differs from the other. One of the first similarities is that both cities have huge songwriting populations. The depth and breadth of talent in both places encompass many more genres than the obvious country music for Nashville and pop and rock music for New York. There are great pop writers in the suburbs of Nashville and extremely accomplished country songwriters living in Greenwich Village.

Finding The Songwriters

One difference between the two songwriting communities is how easy they are to locate. Because Nashville’s artistic community is predominantly made up of singers, songwriters, and musicians, it’s much easier to find the music/songwriting community there. New York, on the other hand, has a wonderful songwriter population, but it’s mixed in with the countless other artists and creative types that live there and is thus less obvious. In other words, it takes a little more effort to find the songwriters in New York, but believe me, they’re there.

Before moving from Nashville to New York, I’d taken several writing trips a year up to New York and, by a process or trial and error, I found a core group of NYC songwriters that became my go-to people on every trip. This way, when I eventually moved to New York, I felt like I was instantly part of the community, even though I had to discover it little by little. I highly recommend this approach for anyone considering a move to New York as it eases the transition and makes the entire process much less overwhelming.

Co-Writing

Although both New York and Nashville have large numbers of songwriters, co-writing is much more a part of the day to day routine in Nashville. It’s not unusual for a Nashville writer to have five co-writing appointments in a week, where they meet with a different co-writer every day in a publishing company office on Music Row. This happens for several reasons. First of all, as a hired staff songwriter for a Nashville publishing company, you are given a yearly quota of songs that you need to fulfill. The more songs you write, the more quickly you’ll fulfill your quota. Publishers make a real effort to connect songwriters they think will work well together and go as far as to set up co-writing appointments for their writers. As a result, it’s fairly common in Nashville to be set up on a “blind date” co-write. Secondly, even though you’re only credited with half a song for a co-write, it’s easier to motivate yourself to write if you’ve got someone to collaborate with. The act of scheduling appointments and being expected to show up significantly eases the stress of having to create on a schedule.

This approach seems odd to a lot of New York writers, who either are artists themselves and used to writing with their own bands or are songwriters used to working with artists whose schedules are much less predictable.

Lyrics

Staying with the generality that you’re writing country in Nashville and pop or rock in New York, I’ve noticed that the rules of lyric-writing between these genres and cities differ significantly. In Nashville, the story is king. This means that the lyric has to make perfect sense, the images are concrete, and the story has a logical flow from beginning to end. There’s not a lot of room for poetic, impressionistic lyrics that don’t have the arc of a story. New York, on the other hand, while it certainly has its share of great songwriter/storytellers, has a broader tolerance in its pop and rock genres for words that “feel” and “sound” good together.

Please don’t misunderstand. It takes just as much skill to write a great pop lyric where the words convey the emotion of the song and carry the nuances of the melody as it does to write a great story in a country song—but it’s a different skill set. I’ve found that switching from one approach to the other can be creatively liberating and quite a bit of fun. Also, it’s interesting to see how one city’s lyrical approach can bleed into the other’s. In this way, you can end up with country lyrics where the words in the story sound good next to each other or pop lyrics with the arc of a story to them.

Labels

Speaking of artists, another similarity in the two cities is that they are both home to major record labels and their signed artists. This alone attracts a huge number of songwriters to both cities. The difference here is that country music artists are still largely dependent upon outside songs for their projects. In New York, bands tend to write their own material, and it is less common for these artists to go looking for outside songs. Occasionally songwriters will be paired with these bands/artists in New York, allowing the writers to end up with cuts on these acts. Of course, all of these distinctions are lessening as more country artists write or co-write their albums as well.

You Can’t Lose

At the end of the day, both communities are great places to work and create. Ironically, after living in Nashville, working as a staff songwriter, and writing for the country market for twelve years, my first cut was with a New York writer and was recorded by an Irish tenor on Universal Records named Ronan Tynan. In my opinion, it was the blend of our New York and Nashville songwriting sensibilities that came together to create that song. What I mean by this is that, somewhere between the soaring melody more suited to pop and the lyric that had more of a country attention to detail, we came up with a classical crossover song. So, if you’re a Nashville writer thinking about working in New York (or vice versa), I’d highly recommend it. Sometimes it’s the differences that create the best art.

Good luck!




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Collaborate: Write a Song with Another Artist

Collaborate: Write a Song with Another Artist

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Experienced songwriters will tell you that one of the most potentially rewarding yet potentially perilous ways to write a song is to collaborate. Unless you’re a solo singer/songwriter who plays the piano, guitar, or some other instrument, you will have to work with others at some point in the songwriting process. Being prepared can help smooth that process out.

The Pros And Cons Of Collaborative Songwriting

The benefits of writing a song with another musician are countless. For starters, you can learn how other artists write their music. Having these methods as options can help you get out of a writer’s block rut down the road. If the musicians are from other bands or genres, you can experiment with different styles and sounds, and the collaboration extends your music to the audience and fan base of your co-writer. The alliances forged during these songwriting sessions can prove invaluable down the road.

Of course, there are risks when trying to write a song with another artist. Going into a collaboration, you have no guarantee that your songwriting skills will gel well, even if you both appreciate the others work. Since it can be tough to hear critiques, you need to have a thick skin and speak thoughtfully. The lack of guarantees, presence of criticism, and a host of other factors means those potential alliances can easily turn into hurt feelings, damaged reputations, and bitter enemies.

Pick A Good Partner For Collaboration

Honestly, making this decision requires a combination of careful deliberation and blind faith. Some prefer to only write with musicians they don’t know, thereby not risking ruined friendships. For others, the opposite is true, as they already trust artists they know. The opportunity to write a song with someone who you know quite well can be just as valuable an experience as the opportunity to write with someone you have recently met. The same is true for known and unknown artists. Each opportunity is what you make of it.

A Matter of Money

If you’re under a contract, you should probably speak to your manager or A&R rep about how to split profits from collaborated projects before you get going on the process. If you’re both independent musicians, agree ahead of time on how the profits will break down. You might split it evenly, or you might base it on the percentage of work done. Some up-and-coming musicians might take less money simply to share the songwriting credits and have the experience under their belt.

Have you collaborated on projects with other musicians before? How did the process go? What advice do you have for those considering their first collaboration?




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Write a Song: Getting Past Writer's Block

Write a Song: Getting Past Writer’s Block

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

On good days, when the perfect lyrics and glorious melody flow with alarming speed, you couldn’t be happier. Then there are the bad days: when the effort to write a song feels like climbing Everest, when the blank page stares back at you for hours, when every bridge is one you’ve heard before. Those days—when you’re crippled by writer’s block—are dark, agonizing, and frustrating. Instead of giving up, questioning your talent, or wallowing in the darkness, give these tips for getting past writer’s block a try:

Focus On What You Know

If you’re struggling to write a song, take a break to focus on what you already know. Jam out to some songs you know very well, whether they are your songs or cover material. Having fun and playing music you are already proficient at can restore your confidence and open you up for inspiration.

Do Something Else

Another good piece of advice for musicians with writer’s block is to do something else. Take your mind off your work. Shoot pool, shoot hoops, or shoot skeet. Watch a movie, make a great meal, go roller skating, go ice skating, go for a walk, or whatever else you want to do. Get out of the mindset that you have to write a song, and the song may seek you out.

Read

This may sound like cheating, but one of the best solutions for being unable to write lyrics may be to read some great writing. The type of writing is up to you; it can be poetry, plays, short stories, novels, non-fiction, or something totally different. But feeding your brain something that’s not music can be just what the dormant lyric writer inside of you always needed.

Remember: Nothing’s Perfect

As hard as this is, you have to stop being your own worst critic. If you find yourself trashing what little progress you have made or constantly questioning your decisions, step back from the song. Don’t pressure yourself to have flawless songs immediately; you didn’t master your instrument overnight, so why do you expect songs to happen overnight? Come back to it in a few days, or (if it’s close to finished) play around with it at a show or two. You’ll be surprised by the way inspiration strikes.

Do you suffer from writer’s block when trying to write a song? What do you do to get through it?

See also: Collaborate: Write A Song With Another Artist




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Writing Song Lyrics: 4 Dos and Don'ts

Writing Song Lyrics: 4 Dos and Don’ts

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Being able to write a song includes being able to write song lyrics. Song lyrics are what people hold onto, what people derive meaning from, and how people identify with your band. By that rationale, you want your song lyrics to be good. Here are a few tips for those struggling with lyrics:

DON’T Forget Balance

When you are trying to write a song, remember that balance is important. The simple chorus lyrics in Gordon Sumner’s “De-doo-doo-doo, de-da-da-da” allow the message of the verses to take center stage. If the entire song is the same, everything gets muddled and nothing shines.

DO Know Your Genre

A death metal song probably isn’t about flowers. Pop songs generally rhyme, albeit often loosely. Pay attention to standards in your niche.

DON’T Be Afraid of Taking Risks

Sometimes breaking the “rules” of songwriting helps a song stand out. If your normal style is a dozen instruments, lots of effects, an upbeat tempo, and five backup singers, a song with slower song with only three instruments and simple vocals will certainly make a difference fans notice. Take these risks when you really have something to say.

DO K.I.S.S.

Having trouble fitting the line about your “discarded heart being combustible” into your song? You might want to remember that above acronym and keep it simple. Try smaller words ending in common sounds and build from there. Also: sometimes those who say the least convey the most.

DON’T Forget That You’re In Control

You have the final say over what goes in your song, where it goes, and what your song says. If there’s an awkward line that’s hard to work with, take it out. If its poignancy completes the song, though, fight to keep it in. The songs are your stories; tell them the way you want them told.

DO Be Realistic

You’re not going to write the best song ever on the first go-around. You will have re-writes, and some things just won’t work. That’s okay.

DON’T Obsess

Don’t let obsessing over certain tricky song prevent you from writing other, potentially-better songs. It’s also okay to put lyrics down for a while; you can come back to them on another day or even another album.

DO Keep Writing

Don’t let writer’s block or a flop stop you. Write regularly, write when you’re inspired, write when you feel nothing. Keep a notebook with you to keep track of random thoughts to revisit later.

Have any of the above tips helped you write a song? What tips can you offer other musicians who are writing song lyrics?

See also: Collaborate: Write A Song With Another Artist




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