Canadian Musician - May/June 2023 - Page 31


The Steps to Becoming a Songwriter

By Rob Wells

How does one become a songwriter ?

I get asked this all the time , and I understand it can be a question that seems hard for most people to answer .
My answer is always this … to become a songwriter , you simply sit down and start to write a song . Come up with words , melody and chords . Or maybe just words , or melody , or chords . It could be just a verse , or a chorus . Your first song doesn ’ t have to be complete . It can be 10 seconds long , or 10 minutes long . The important thing is to have fun and create something that resonates within you . Once that first song is written , move on and write another song . Then another . Then another … and so on .
It ’ s the same thing as saying that you want to go to the gym and bench press 300 pounds . You can ’ t just walk into the gym and expect those kinds of results right away . Instead , on your first day , you ’ d start using five-pound weights . After a week , you could move on to 10 pound weights . Then 15 , then 20 , then 30 … and so on . After a year or so you ’ ll be halfway to your goal and be laughing at where you started with your journey .
Each song that you start is an opportunity to build your songwriting muscles . Each song you create allows you to learn tips and tricks to use for your future creations .
The next question I usually get is “ Where do you find the inspiration for your songs ?” My answer is that inspiration can be found everywhere you look — you just have to be open and receptive to it .
I suggest unplugging . Don ’ t look for inspiration by staring at your computer screen . Go for a daily walk and don ’ t bring anything to distract you . Let your mind be free so that your imagination can run wild . Observe everything you pass . See the beauty and opportunity in everything . Make sure you have a device with you that you only use to record your ideas and jot your notes down , so you won ’ t forget five minutes later .
I also suggest being a great listener . Listen to conversations happening all around you . Try and pick out moments where someone says something unique that makes your head turn a little sideways . Watch movies . Television shows . Go to the art gallery . Read books . Attend live theatre . Listen to other pieces of music . Read the news . Get inspired by the stories unfolding before your eyes and ears . Write about what you ’ ve experienced . Write about how it makes you feel .
I also suggest living your life without working nonstop . Part of every day should be devoted to hanging out with family and friends . Eating a nice meal while engaging in conversation . Giving the kids a bath and getting them ready for bed . Calling your mother to make sure she ’ s ok . Everything that happens during these times is providing material that you can use to write about the next day . Again , keep your antenna up and be ready to jot down and collect the good stuff as it happens .
The next question I get asked is , ‘ What if I can ’ t play an instrument or sing / come up with a melody ?’, or ‘ What if writing lyrics is not really for me ?’… I will always suggest developing your skills in all areas of songwriting first , but I ’ m also a huge fan of co-writing and will recommend that second . Partnering up with someone who possesses the skills you currently don ’ t have is an excellent way to write a song and have all the bases covered . Don ’ t ever feel pressure that you have to do it all . Heck , even Elton John doesn ’ t write any of his own lyrics ! If you ’ re a lyricist primarily , partner up with a songwriter who specializes in the musical side of things — and vice versa . Try not to double up on skill sets in the co-write . Having two music producers in a co-write can be the equivalent of having two Captain Kirks on the Enterprise . Disaster ! Oh … and one final thing on co-writing — leave your ego at the door . It has no place in the writing room .
There are also a ton of very simple apps out there that can help you with lyric writing , rhyming , virtual instrument playing / performing , drag and drop sampled loops and full-blown music creation . ( Don ’ t forget to check out Songwriter ’ s Piano App by Rob Wells … shameless plug ).
Hopefully this column has inspired you to finally start exercising that songwriting muscle !
Rob Wells is a multi-platinum award winning music producer and songwriter . He can be reached at robwmusic @ gmail . com .