Like Olympians, Songwriting Requires Training

"I wrote an amazing song on my first try" -Said no one ever. 

The more I meet successful career songwriters the more I'm convinced of the fact that practice is an absolute must. It's the same with all skills; sports being a great example. Anyone can sit and write lyrics and chords, just as anyone can shoot a basketball. But to perform in such a way that takes notice of conscience observers, you must make decisions  that are clearly more calculated than the average person. You must know when to make lyrical choices and when not to. Additionally, you have to be able to do it faster and more accurate than most others. How? Practice.

You have to make the wrong songwriting choice 100 times to acquire the ability to recognize an error (without outside correction) during a writing session. This is not to say you will always write perfectly on your first draft, but you will start seeing a dramatic improvement on the time it takes to complete a song. That's when your skills really start to show 

Developing your songwriting skills is a numbers game. One song at a time. 

So how often should you practice? Well, how often do Olympic athletes train? There's your answer. Get to it. 

Creating a great HOOK

Creating a Great Hook

Katharine Trojak for Lyricnote

 

“There was a hurricane coming that night, but I didn’t know the storm was in her eyes”

 

Did that catch your attention and make you want to learn more about the story behind that line? Whether you’re an accomplished songwriter or just beginning your first song, you’ve probably been told that a hook is essential to begin the piece. It can draw your listeners in and make them immediately interested in your song, if done right. Though no one strategy will make or break an original song and how it’s received, this is one of the few things that can quickly improve a song or keep it as ordinary. When selling a song, a good hook is one of the first things that a client listens for in order to gauge your talent and the song you’re presenting. Depending on your experience in the art of songwriting, you may barely know what a hook is or you may have written many successful ones. No matter where you stand on utilizing this technique, we’ll help teach you how to bring it to the next level.

 

For readers that have just begun songwriting, a hook is something that appears within the first few moments of a song or the first few lyrics that captures a listener's attention. In most common terminology, a hook appears in the first line of lyrics and gives an opening to the story. As already has been mentioned, a hook has to capture an audience, make them curious to hear the rest of the song, and “hook” them like a fish on a pole into you as an artist. Musical hooks can take place in the music leading up to the lyrics and essentially do the same job as a general hook does, which is make the audience listen to what you’re about to say. Though some songwriters also say that if needed a good hook can come after the first line or two of lyrics, but in practice it’s best to stick with the very first line of a song. After the first line or two of a song, listeners have decided whether to continue to listen to your song or not, and it would take an excellent hook to pull their attention back into the song instead of whatever they’ve been distracted by.

 

Now that you know exactly what a hook is, you can begin to get a feel for how to put it into practice. Most good hooks either include the general theme of the piece, for example a line about breaking up for a break up song, or an interesting tidbit that leads up to the theme, like using a line about how horrible a boy/girl was in order to lead into a breakup song. A rule that should be taken into consideration but not strictly followed is “the more unexpected the better”. Though a surprising line in the beginning of a song will certainly catch a listener’s ear due to it being odd, this should always be taken with common sense. A few sub-rules or grains of salt to take with that rule would be to check if it still fits your theme, transfers seamlessly into the next section of your song and into the general plot, and simply makes sense when you hear it. It’s always a great idea to get others, preferably someone who will be brutally honest, to listen to the hook and a sample of your song in order to tell you if it fits or not. A great hook is almost always needed, but the song’s overall rating shouldn’t be sacrificed to achieve it. The best hooks fit all of the sub-rules and usually seem like they came naturally to the writer, even if it took hours of labor to create it.

 

Hooks can come from a variety of places, depending on the song. Some good ways to begin narrowing down your choices is to first do the obvious, which is to take a good look at your lyrics so far and plot or theme of your piece. If there are any clichés, repetitive pieces, or ending remarks, you can begin with those to work them into the beginning. Clichés can be made fun of or pointed out to catch attention, repetitive pieces can be reworded to give an introduction, and ending remarks can be mentioned in the beginning in order to both introduce the piece and give the entire song a roundabout feeling. If any specific piece of inspiration was used to create the song, such as an image or quote, it’s always a good idea to go back to it and see if there was anything that you missed that you’d like to include in the song, anything interesting about it, or other features that you might be able to weave in.

 

These are all great places to start in order to come up with that killer hook for your next original song, though the best advice that any songwriter would give is to try things out on your own. The best person to test out hooks or methods for your songs is you. You might find that one of these methods works perfectly for your style, personality, and work type, or that blending a few works better. Newcomers to the craft might feel a bit discouraged to hear that coming up with great lyrics and starts take practice, but many people catch on quickly once they begin to understand the technique and their own unique style. The art of songwriting is a completely arbitrary craft and depends solely on those taking part in it. The methods above are recommended by many songwriters and will certainly lead you in the right direction, but the largest rule about hooks to remember is “your song- your rules”. You get to decide what stays in your song and what doesn’t, as well as what your hook ends up being. Whatever you decide on to begin your song, Lyricnote will always be able to help catch all the ideas leading up to, and including, your perfect hook.

5 Songwriting Tips for the Beginning Musician

By David Harrison

bigstock-Female-hand-close-up-playing-o-53096998.jpg

 

5 Songwriting Tips for the Beginning Musician

So you’ve picked up an instrument, you’ve gotten the hang of the fundamentals and you’ve learned some of your favorite tunes. What’s next? Writing your own songs, of course! However, writing songs is no easy tasks. Some artists work on a single song for months at a time, and many never get finished. Writing music for many is a love-hate relationship and a series of constant uprisings of inspiration, passion, disappointment, conflict and resolution. Not just anyone can write a song, but everyone can learn how to write a song. There are several schools of thought on songwriting, and none of them are right or wrong. Here are some tips on developing your songwriting skills.

 

1.           Write a Sequel to a Song You Love

Is there a song you just can’t get out of your head? Maybe a song that you’ve always loved, and know top to bottom. A great exercise for writing songs is to take the style and message of that song and give it a part 2. There are several ways you can do this. You can take the message or lyrical structure of the song and write new lyrics and put it over the same instrumentals. Is the song pretty concise, but has a great beat? Maybe write some solo or instrumental breaks into the song. Using a song that already exists as a platform can help you ease into songwriting.

 

2.           Don’t Try to Force It

When writing a song, the fastest way to come up with nothing is to try and force it. The best songs are born out of inspiration and developed through hard work, not the other way around. Instead of sitting down with the sole purpose of writing a song, get in the habit of improvising on your instrument(s) of choice or just humming random melodies throughout the day. If you mess around enough on your instrument (including your voice) you’re sure to come across something you like, and you can shape your idea from there.

 

 

3.           Write Down EVERYTHING

In songwriting, there are no bad ideas. Some ideas seem bad, but they can later serve as either lessons or inspiration down the road. There are several songs that are recycled parts of songs the artist never completed or parts that were cut out of songs because they didn’t fit. Keeping track of all of your material is paramount to developing yourself as a songwriter, and you’ll thank yourself for it down the road.

 

4.           Write Down Everything as Soon as You Think of It

It can be hard to remember something you thought of the previous day, so getting in the habit of carrying a notebook with you everywhere can help you to keep track of all of your ideas.  Did you have a

dream that included a new melody? Keep a notebook at bedside so you don’t lose your ideas in the morning.

 

5.           Collaborate

Lastly, working with other musicians is the best way to become a better musician yourself. Maybe they know a chord that you don’t that goes perfectly with your vocal melody, maybe they have a cool idea and want to work with you on it. Getting other perspectives and sharing tips and insights into music with other musicians is the fastest way to improve your playing, singing, songwriting and general knowledge of music.

Now that you have the drive, inspiration and a handful of useful tips in your back pocket, get to writing! Remember that every song won’t be perfect (when you’re starting out none of them are) and that you WILL improve over time. Just keep jamming, and see where that takes you.