I wanted to give you a heads up about a change I am making to our Facebook group. For the last couple years the group has been set to “closed/private." Which means that anyone who wanders by must request approval before they can see what's going on on the inside. It also means that group members can't share posts from within the group to the outside world. This is about to change.
We had an awesome song-critique session with Shane! Thank you Clarissa, Kirsty, Colleen, and Masha for being brave in submitting. I learned as much from watching other critiques as I did from my own.
Here is the songwriting workshop taught by Shane Adams, Berklee professor, and 100 Days of Songwriting member.
Metaphors Exercise starts at: 00:14:18
Song Idea generator starts at: 01:08:25
Here is the recording of my conversation with John Nicholson using the ZOOM app.
John lives on acreage in Queensland Australia. He is a retired business consultant and a full-time singer-songwriter. He also teaches a songwriting course called "Myth Busters" at festivals around Australia.
The first half of our chat covers common problems with new songwriters, unhelpful aspects of the music industry, and how chunking (a collection of basic familiar units that have been grouped together) can help you get in the flow.
In the second half we dive into specifics of the speed songwriting technique he uses to stave off writer’s block and produce hundreds of songs a year.
I have tried speed songwriting in the past but always got stuck. It was never speedy. I think my chat John gave me some insight into why that was happening.
“Structure beats block every time…”
The key is having something super basic and familiar to fall back on.
ZOOM Chat Video
Just a heads up, our conversation ended abruptly when my power flicked off.
You can jump right to the speed songwriting technique at: 34:15.
Speed Songwriting Technique
“...the less you are inspired the more you go to structure...”
- Find a topic. Either use a proverb, an object, or a writing prompt. Example: “Sunshine”: Write about my son. “Here’s my little Mr. sunshine.”
- Quickly craft a chorus idea.
- Pick a standard song structure: VVCVVCBC (Verse 1, Verse 2, Chorus, Verse 3, Verse 4, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus)
- Pick a standard rhyme scheme: XAXA. First and third line don’t rhyme, second and fourth do. This one is the simplest because you only have to rhyme two out of the four lines.
- What kind of genre will it be? For this example: Songwriter Ballad with the basic chords: C, A minor, F, G in the verse and reverse the chords in the chorus to: A minor, G, F, C.
- The chorus will write itself in a couple of minutes. What rhymes with “sunshine”? Fine—”every day he gets up and he’s fine.” Now you’ve got the 2nd and the fourth lines that rhyme and all you have to do is come up with something, anything, for the first and 3rd lines.
- For the verses, when in doubt start in the past and go to the future. Tell the story from beginning to end. At this point you’ll be sitting at about 10-15 minutes. You don’t have to be too clever.
- Create a melody. Take it to the keyboard, guitar, or DAW and come up with something simple. Remember this isn't about creating something amazing. It's about speed.
The power of this exercise is you keep continuity. The problem with coming back to songs is that “you lose your flow..." You can lose the emotion of the original day. Getting back to that feeling can be very challenging.
John also said that his best stuff will often come from a speed songs. The process doesn't allow for overthinking things. What will often come up is directly from the subconscious, which is the holy grail for creativity..
Give it a try and post your work in the group!
"The people who get what they’re after are very often the ones who just stick around long enough."—Austin Kleon Show Your Work!
Imagine if you stuck around for yourself?
If you want to build a creative habit you have to believe that you are worth sticking around for. You have to believe that your heart, mind, and creative source are worth taking care of. If you don't take care of it, it will get taken care of by the loudest voices in your life. The loudest voices in my life are inside my head, "...don't be selfish," or "...just one more episode," or "just one more handful of pretzels..."
I believe that inside of you, me, and of every other person on this planet, is a well of creativity that is deeper than the boundaries of any imagination. When you take care of it, it takes care of you. And then you can take care of others. Is that being selfish?
They say, "love your neighbor as yourself." I say, "Love yourself. Then love your neighbors."
Take care of your creative spark and it will turn you into a shining beacon. Your work will light the way for others on their own journey.
This is the 100 Days of Songwriting highlights reel from our first month of the Fall 2019 100 day challenge. This is also our first highlights reel ever!
I am so encouraged by the ten songwriters who submitted their work—got a little teary-eyed listening to everyone's heart and soul coming through these speakers.
We had fantastic questions, and inspired and in-depth answers from Shane.
You can watch the entire video, or if you need your hands and eyes free I uploaded the audio for your listening pleasure:
“It’s less about what you want to do with the song and more about what the song wants to do with you.” -Erin Rogers
In our conversation Erin shared a journaling practice that she uses in both her songwriting, and performing.