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pix Songwriting Tips pix
pix pix by Lou Lombardi  

Page added in December, 2009

About The Author

Lou Lombardi is a guitarist well versed in most popular styles with over 20 years of live and studio experience, having performed on stage since the age of 10.

He is currently the owner of YourGuitarist.com, and the touring guitarist for The Shelley Duff Band. Lombardi is interested in building long term relationships with other talented, songwriters, producers and musicians.

Pleas visit Lombardi's web site.

Send comments to Lou Lombardi.

© Lou Lombardi

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  I recently was asked this question, "I see songwriting courses advertised all over the place, and I always wonder if you can actually be taught to write good songs, or is it something you either can or can't do? I'm sure none of the great songwriters ever took a course on how to write songs.

This is a great question! Songwriting can most certainly be learned. Most people, even "the great ones", were not born with songs spewing from their pens, lips and guitars. Actually most of the great songwriters did take a course in songwriting. They studied the songs of the artists that came before them.

If you want to be a great writer, read lots of books - not only read but devour them, re-read them, memorize parts of your favorites. Learn where the author got his ideas. Dig up all the references. Learn who your favorite authors read and read those books too! The next step is to write, write, write! In time you will become a good writer. That doesn't mean you'll be rich and famous but you will master this craft. This process can be applied to songwriting.

You may start by learning the songs of your heroes. For instance, if you love the music of John Lennon, learn as much of it as you can. Learn the words and the music. Pluck out the melodies and learn to strum along with the chords. Copy down the lyrics and learn to sing the songs the best that you can. When you see a reference to something specific in the lyrics, look it up. This will help you to further get inside his head. Then learn Chuck Berry, because he influenced John Lennon. If you really want to dig down deep, learn some Robert Johnson, since he influenced Chuck Berry and probably just about everyone else. Do this same process for other artists that you like. If you feel competent on your instrument, give some lessons and teach songs to students. This will further solidify your understanding. Join a cover band and learn lots of other people's songs.

The next step is to start writing. You will want to jump into this as quickly as possible. That means don't wait until you've learned the entire John Lennon song book before you sit down to write something.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. If you can't think of anything to write, take a song that you like and write different lyrics to it. Conversely, you could take the lyrics and write a different tune. This just an exercise to stimulate creativity. If you rewrite someone else's song you'll have to credit them.

2. Start out by sitting down with the intention to write a song. Be quiet and "listen" to what comes to your mind. Do this daily. Give it at least 10 minutes.

3. Set aside the same time each day to write. This will condition the mind to turn on the creativity, and make it easier (in time) to write on a consistent basis.

4. If you get an idea during the day, in the shower, while driving, in a dream, etc., do what ever you have to do to capture it. Call your voice mail and sing or say the lyrics. Pull over and write it down - whatever you have to do!

5. If you feel really blocked, relax, and enjoy playing and singing some of your favorite songs. Very often you will find yourself inspired to write your own song while doing this. Also, be aware of mistakes you "accidentally" play while doing this. These "mistakes" can often be disguised inspiration. Keith Richards once remarked that when the Stones sit down to write, they'll often start with playing the Buddy Holly songbook and wait for someone to make a mistake.

6. Don't be too worried if sometimes you write songs that are very close copies of other people's songs. That is just part of the process.

7. You may find yourself going through a phase where you feel like all your songs sound the same. There are a couple of things that you can try when this happens. You may simply need to write that song out of your consciousness. Your mind may just be trying to get it out of your head. The theory is to keep writing it down, and in time you will come up with something new. If you don't have the patience for that, go back to one of the other techniques. Keep trying until you find what works for you. However, keep in mind that creativity doesn't usually thrive when forced.

8. Don't stress out if you feel like your songs suck. Just stick with it. A lot of the "greats" have written their fair share of terrible songs. Most never see the light of day. Just keep writing.

9. Live your life! Get a girl friend, take a vacation, go on business trips, make lots of friends, learn a sport, have hobbies, get divorced, change jobs, read more books, see more films. The greatest songs communicate real life in some way. Get out and live!

Song writing is a skill, a craft that you will develop, like your singing or guitar playing. It is a skill that takes practice and time for most people to develop. Take your time. Work on it and you'll be writing cool jams before you know it.

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