Songwriting a Core Skill

Why is it that it’s the most inopportune moments when a song pops into my head, be it lyrics or a riff, I could be sitting there in a wedding service, or paying for my weekly shopping, either way there is no real way to capture the idea, so I think I can hold it for a while until I do have the opportunity, but inevitably it’s gone by the time I do.  The only way to capture these ideas is to have a recording device with you at all times, not so difficult if you have a reasonably modern mobile phone, but just make sure it’s captured there and then. Don’t worry about looking a fool in front of the cashier, although if you are at a wedding probably best to not sit there humming a tune, other than the songs you are supposed to be singing that is. If it’s a lyrical idea, it’s not so bad as you can generally stop whatever you’re doing and write them down there and then, so make sure that you always carry a pen and paper with you wherever you venture.

More likely you have the age old problem of writers block, this happens not only to musicians but also people writing novels, text books or even posts on blogs, strangely I don’t have this problem writing on the web, but that’s probably because I only log in to write when I have something to stay, whereas when you are in the studio with time ticking away with those pound notes, my mind goes as blank as the next persons.

So what can one do if you have a case of writers block? I often find that not giving up is key, there are many times that my musical cohort Martin has come round for a recording session, we set some drums going, then add a simple bassline, then we start on the keyboards, nothing! Then we get the guitars out, Still nothing! We stop, pour another glass of wine (yeah yeah, I know it’s a bit girly, but it’s cheap!) We try again, then go back to another old song and try the same with that, still nothing, then suddenly, perhaps an hour later, sometimes two or more something just clicks and an idea happens, it could be a riff or lick, sometimes a vocal hook, or it can often be a mistake such as playing the wrong track through the wrong channel, suddenly making a bassline come out through a different instrument a few octaves higher. The thing is somehow we end up with a new idea, so as long as you are enjoying it, there’s no harm in messing about until the idea just comes of its own accord.

Something else I find can work really well is to put some music on in another room and mess around with the treble and bass controls, or graphic equaliser if you still have your old 80’s retro stereo, hearing something like this, somewhat muffled from another room, with the volume down quite low, can make you hear little nuances in the music which you have never noticed before, sometimes something will stand out as you hear new harmonies which you never noticed, this has been the basis for an entire song for me on several occasions.

Remember too that different people write best in different environments, personally I like to be in the studio with the volume at a reasonably low volume, which is of course cranked up from time to time, however an acoustic guitar player is more likely to prefer a quiet room with minimal interruptions. On the other hand a good friend and semi professional musician has his kit at one end of the lounge, so often has his wife tearing round with the hoover, kids playing around his feet and the dog laying on them, but he turns out some great tunes, so it really is a case of working in an environment which suits you.

Talking of bands, I saw a great wedding band play the other day, they were one of the best wedding bands I’ve seen, they did classic wedding songs which everyone loved, the day also started with a cocktail pianist and ended with a disco, if I was going to hire a band for a private function of any kind, for corporate entertainment or needed a wedding band, I would certainly book them, it’s a shame I can’t remembver their name!