What up party people?
This week I decided to do a blog post on writing songs. I’ve been experiencing writer’s block for what seems like years. I’ll get part of a song written, and then just give up on it.
A few friends and I were talking recently about how we write songs, and it got me thinking about the songwriting process in general.
When I was in high school, I would always be writing. Not necessarily good songs, but I found ideas flowed a lot more than they do now. It’s funny, the older I get, I would have thought I’d have more to write about. I have lots of stuff I could write about, but I’ve been having a tough time getting it out of my mind and onto paper/music.
So lately, I’ve been really trying to push myself to get the ideas out. I have lots of ideas for songs in my head, but I’ve been neglecting them, or haven’t figured out how to work with what I’ve got.
Essentially, what it comes down to, is that I’m thinking too much about what I want to write, instead of actually writing something. I’m thinking too much about what I want the finished product to sound like. This is only working against me. I’m trying to figure a song out before it’s even written. Classic Bailee move.
Lately, I’ll get the first part of the song idea recorded, then get discouraged and scrap it.
If you’re having writers block too, or similar problems – maybe some of these ideas will help you out as well!
In order to put this list together, I had to really sit down and think about the measures I actually take when I write. It’s helped talking about songwriting with other people to see what works for them too! Bouncing ideas, and techniques about writing with other people has been super helpful. It helps you see if your own process can be improved, or what’s working in your writing process. Also advice, as well as constructive criticism will only push you further. It will keep you motivated, inspired, and encourage you to challenge yourself. Plus, a support system in the music community is super important. The more you keep trying to learn, the better right?
Because, lets face it. Sometimes, it’s just hard to get ideas flowing for a song. No matter how much stuff in life is happening.
- First step I’ve taken to fix writers block is…get a fridge full of prepared food – because food is awesome. Plus, you don’t want to be disturbing your creative process by having to get up and cook something, or (if you’re me and you’re lazy), drive out and pick food up. I find I need to just sit down in one go, and get it all out. So, get your beer ready, your water, your coffee, your food, whatever you need to accompany you. Food is, as the kids say, “BAE.”
- Second step is… Buy a notebook. I know everything is digital these days, and its all about phones and laptops. BUT, I find actually writing stuff down on paper makes it a much more visual process. Plus, it’s nice to put the technology away for a bit. Less distractions. Also, by using a notebook, you can cross things off as you go if you don’t like something. You just might go back to it later. I find if I use my notes app in my phone, I end up deleting things, and sometimes that stuff might have worked later on. Using a notebook allows you to see more of where you started, and where you’ve gotten. Although, the notes app is helpful for ideas on the go.
- Third step… Use dat notebook. I start mostly with my acoustic guitar to get the bare bones of a song down. I might end up recording on an electric later, but I usually start with my acoustic. I’ll quickly jot down the chords that I’m experimenting with. I can’t stress that enough – write things down. Even if it seems like the crappiest thing you’ve ever written, a new idea may spring from it. Get your main parts figured out, write down the chords, then try to figure out your other instrument parts to go over top of the guitar.
- Fourth step….is to start writing an intro or verse to your song. Or you might have an idea for a chorus or bridge right off the hop. Whatever the idea is, start with that. It doesn’t have to be chronological. You can figure out where to put the parts of the song after. Don’t rush to finish the song either. My huge obstacle/challenge I face in songwriting, is that I’m a super impatient person – ask anyone who knows me. It’s an annoying quality I have, but songs really need patience. If you have an idea for a verse, don’t rush to get a chorus to match it. Just spend time with the verse. What sometimes helps me, is if I’m stumped on how to transition into the chorus, I’ll start humming a melody along with the verse (which will eventually be lyrics). Through doing that, it helps me get to know what I’ve written and where I want it to go. It sets a tone and melody to the song. My songs lack a lot of bridges, so I’ve been trying to focus on writing those lately.
- Fifth step… record your ideas on your phone/laptop/tape recorder/whatever. This is probably the most important part after you’ve pieced together a general idea of your song. (Even if you don’t have words for it yet). In my mind, the lyrics come second. But, again, this is all just preference! The words are just as important as the music, but I find writing the music is more helpful to me. It helps set the mood and tone of what you want your lyrics to reflect. If you’re having trouble writing lyrics, record a rough draft of the music you have. Listen to the song, and let yourself daydream and figure the words out. What do you want your song to be about? You probably already know, so just figure out a way to put it into words. If you don’t know – just think about what’s pissing you off, or what’s making you happy lately. Then just try and express that through your song. Easier said than done. Trust me, I know. But try humming along with the audio – sometimes just say random words, it’ll get there. One thing I wish I could do more is focus on one thing at a time. I find as I’m writing my music, I’m also trying to write the lyrics immediately after. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Just get the music figured out first. Sometimes you might find that the lyrics come easier on certain days. If that’s the case, write those down, and then structure your song around that. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Also, by recording your songs, you archive them. That way, if you’re really stumped on something, you can leave it for a bit, and not worry about forgetting how it goes.
- Sixth step…write for you. This is something I struggle with. Songs are personal. It’s hard to put your thoughts into a condensed form a poetry, and just let your vulnerability out. But do it. Be vulnerable. Don’t worry so much about what people are going to think about the song. People are always going to think something. Whether that be positive or negative, I find writing songs is the only way I can properly express my emotions. Most people I ask, who also write songs, feel songwriting is the best way that they can express themselves as well. I can never seem to word or express myself the way I really want to in real life situations. I usually just get over emotional, which is counter productive, and stressful. Songwriting is where I can really just pick my brain apart, and figure out what the hell I’m actually feeling. Since I am an over emotional person (I’m still coming to terms with this – ha), songwriting is where I can really get that excess emotion out. Which is why I do need to start writing more, so I have a clearer mind. Since songwriting in general is so personal, it’s hard to release your thoughts into the world. There’s always that concern (for me at least) that I’m too obvious, or too specific. But, there comes a point where you can’t really worry about that. It only holds you back from getting real with yourself, and your view-point on things. Sometimes songwriting can help you see different view points that you didn’t see before. Don’t censor yourself on your first draft of a song – really get the raw emotion out. If you find a song is too preachy, or too much of something – edit it after. But sometimes the raw emotion is best to leave in. People can appreciate and relate to honest emotion. Analyze your lyrics and turn them into something. Sometimes you’ll actually figure out what you’re trying to say after the songs written. That’s the coolest part about the whole process is that you learn a lot about yourself and what’s trapped up in your mind.
Well, that’s all for me tonight guys. Hope some of this brainstorming helped you as well. If you have any songwriting tricks, leave a comment!
Writer’s block always comes back to bite periodically, so the more methods we can think of to combat it, the better!
Take it easy 🙂