Welcome our guest writer, Jacob Burton. Jacob is a vocal coach in Nashville as well as an accomplished songwriter and stand-out performer. Learn more here. He teaches out of the Shameless Singing Music studios here in Nashville.
About six months ago I drove up to Kentucky for a writing session with one of my clients who will hopefully have her own reality show sometime this year. We cranked out four songs in about eight hours, all of which will be used on an album that will be released at the end of her reality show. It was an exciting process to be a part of and to watch. But many people who have never experienced this first hand might have felt very uncomfortable in the middle of a writing session of this nature. As I observed our process and all the progress that were making I took notes of some things that we were doing that made our session most productive.
Here are the 4 songwriting tips for beginners that came out of this marathon writing session:
Start your session with the skeleton of songs already in place.Before I arrived, I had already written a verse, chorus, and bridge to two different songs. I knew in advance that both of those songs desperately needed a second verse and one song needed a lot of corrections with its lyrical consistencies. Because I had arrived at a dead end with both of the songs, it made perfect sense for me to bring them to the table in our writing session and to correct verse inconsistencies together as a group. The inspiration that helped me form the beginning of the song was great, but unfortunately it only provided me half of a song. What our writing session provided, was the rest of that song.
Use rhyme dictionaries and recording devices to quicken productivity.This is simple. Whenever you’re writing make sure that you have some type of tablet or computer that has a rhyme dictionary open up at all times. Because inspiration and ideas come and go like the wind, it is important to have tools like this readily at your fingertips when they strike. I also use my phone to record every take that we sing to ensure that if we do something that we like, we won’t risk forgetting it immediately after. Sometimes using these devices feels like you’re going slower, but in the long run they ultimately quicken productivity because they help you avoid a lot of mistakes and speed bumps along the way.
Figure out what you’re good at and what your partner is good at and capitalize on your strengths.Early on we realized that my writing partner was a master at lyrics and that I was stronger with music. This was an extremely helpful realization to make early on. Knowing this, my writing partner provided for me an encyclopedia of lyrics that desperately needed music. Because music is my comfort zone, I felt like I had found the pot of gold! Instead of forcing her to be musical or forcing me to be a wild lyricist, we capitalized on each other strengths and were able to create songs that neither one of us could have created individually. That’s the beauty of co-writing and that’s the beauty of writing sessions.
Be married to little, and open to all.When you have created something on your own and then bring it to the table in a writing session, it’s hard not to be married to your own ideas. It’s hard when someone wants to change your melody or change one of your lyrics because they claim to have a better substitute. That melody or that lyric came out of your creative energy, and in some crazy way you’re connected to that melody or that lyric. By letting go of that feeling and allowing yourself to be open to the ideas of others, you allow yourself to walk away from a lot of your tendencies as a songwriter that could be potentially making you one-dimensional or monotonous. Also, being unwilling to waver on your creative ideas can ultimately make you a very difficult person to work with, which is not well received in the songwriting world. So if you’re going to be married to something, it better be good and you better have a good reason for it. Otherwise, be open to all.
Those are the few points of advice that I have for anyone stepping into writing sessions for the first time. No matter what you’re doing, make sure you’re having fun. If you enjoy what you’re creating the chances are one day your audience will enjoy what they’re hearing as well. —–Jacob
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