Songwriting – Craftsmanship

Woo-hoo! Success at last.  Ok, I haven’t sold a song to a major label.  Or won a Grammy.  But I have completed a song and I don’t hate it.  I broke through my writer’s block – which I finally identified as mostly fear of criticism – and stuck with a rough idea long enough to craft it into something.

My friend David Rotheray, one of the most published songwriters in Britain after Lennon and McCartney, compares his trade to that of a plumber.  He doesn’t experience writer’s block because he just rolls up his sleeves and gets to work every day.  Which is what I’m doing now, now that I’ve pushed past the negative voices in my head (“Nobody cares what you have to say,” etc.)

Using some of the exercises from Songwriters Playground to propel me, I started with a few lines of unrhymed verse and three chords.  I vamped across the chords on my keyboard and came up with a rough melody, and then tried to solidify a form: verse, pre-chorus, chorus.

Then, over the next several days, I worked at my computer on the lyrics.  I tried to figure out what I wanted to say in each section, and then to find a way to say it that fits into the rhythm and rhyme scheme.  This can take hours working on one little line, but its work I enjoy – maybe because it’s creative but at the same time contained within a structure.  At first, its awkward and time-consuming, but as my brain starts to think more in rhythm and rhyme it starts to flow a bit.

This, to me, is the fun part.  Yes, I have had those magical flashes of inspiration in the middle of the night, but only rarely, and I’ve learned neither to wait for them or to trust them.  (Sometimes they don’t seem quite so brilliant when looked at in the light of day.)

I’ve been using a program called Masterwriter for this.  I just found that there are so many revisions that if I write in one of my notebooks I inevitably lose some of the drafts.  Also Masterwriter has some handy functions – a built-in rhyming dictionary and thesaurus, for example.  They’re not quite as good as the best hard-copy versions of these, but they can be useful.  For more tips on how to use rhyme schemes etc., Pat Pattison’s book Writing Better Lyrics is invaluable.

I’m not quite ready to share the fruits of my labors but when I am, will definitely post a demo.  Constructive feedback appreciated!

Update 9/21/12

I  sang the song at Ryles on Tuesday and it got a good reaction.  I had the show videotaped: it it comes out well I will post a video soon!


  1. Peter F Given :

    hi, I am glad to have found this site and to further see other writers having the same experiences as myself. My present direction is now strengthened seeing that (on my own -non musical environment) I have already familiarized myself with some of the professionals & sources mentioned above! “write on”

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