Guess we all know about ‘beating about the bush’, going round in circles thus loosing focus while creating. More often than not, we create best without realising it much, compared to situations where you keep thinking and re-evaluating to no end. We have all heard about the classic songs that were written in a short amount of time, it’s actually not that many out of the lot, but often it’s the better ones. This is my favourite way of working since always and that is why I have invented the ‘One Hour Session’ term for my book about how I write my songs. Naturally, writing songs is not a competition when it comes to time, no fanscare if you write a song in minutes, hours or days, they only care if it’s good or not, but it sure helps nicely that it got an air of the un-expected.
Thus, the goal post of my book – the Art of Modern SongWriting in the Streaming Age’ is the ‘One Hour Session’ – writing a brand new original song within a focused one hour effort, make it two, as the ideas I put down more often than not becomes two songs in the end. So how is that? It’s actually very simple, these 60 odd minutes is all about putting down ideas for verses, choruses and eventually bridges, all in the same tempo and key while firmly focusing on one certain musical vibe and type of song be it ballad, mid-tempo, up-tempo…
In that hour I often ends up with 6 verses, same number of choruses and then maybe 2 or 3 bridges, that’s it. I record each idea with my mobile, one by one, as I go along ending up with loading them onto iTunes on my computer organised in a setlist, always in order of first idea first, second second and so on.
The order is important because I keep building on the ideas. When the transfer is done it can go two ways; If I already got a good feeling I could open up my recording software and get ready to do a demo right away or I could let it rest for the night. Browsing the ideas with fresh ears is a great way to pick and choose the best.
I will then listen, and this only once, to each of the ideas, and divide them into three…
like it a lot, could maybe be something or not working at all…?
Rule of thumb, I need minimum one song, so a verse and a chorus that I like a lot. If I don’t it’s not worth it really, however this rarely happens, more than 99% of the time I have 2 verses and 2 choruses that I like a lot, or at least feel that can get good and then probably a bridge in there somewhere too.
Next step is to put the two songs together from the ideas, maybe take 3 is a good verse that goes perfectly well with take 10 that is more chorus like, take 5 goes well with take 7 etc.. I will then load them up on my Logic software, open a new TextEdit on one side of my screen, get my microphone going and make sure my MIDI keyboard is working.
From there on it’s really about creating a real simple demo, only MIDI, it’s way too early for audio recording yet. By doing MIDI only, I can always transpose the song, or I can speed the tempo up or down. I program very simple drums, I do not yet want to be restricted by rhythm patterns, and finally I put down the chords with a piano sound on top of the beat, simply plugging the chords, no rhythm, both for the verse and the chorus. I might eventually adjust the voicings of the chords or I could wait. I then take my microphone and sing exactly the ad-lib that I recorded on my mobile phone. I write the words down that I came up with randomly in my ‘One Hour Session’ these are the exact words I will sing, It’s still too early to change the topline or the words.
Now I can do one of a few things – I can decide to work it more already, changing bits here and there, putting in more lyrics on or I can make a quick bounce (mix) as mp3 so I can listen with fresh ears later. I do not tend to complete a song in a ‘One Hour Session, I like taking a step back and re-evaluate. I will now, time permitting, do the same with the second song.
I always come back to the songs the following day if I can, by then I have probably already listened to the songs on the go, on my mobile, and have identified what needs to change. This is pretty much it, mind you the lyrics takes a couple of rewrites before I’m happy and sign them off, however all in all, each song, from where I start recording the ideas to finished master stays within a 4 hour timeframe, actually often a little less.
So just to go back to the ‘beating about the bush’ once more, I feel that when you don’t take your time to think too much, and you put yourself under some pressure to perform relatively fast, the results can be amazing, never forget that the more you write the better songs you write.
the Art of Modern Songwriting for the Streaming Age
The Art of Modern SongWriting in the Streaming Age is a complete easy to read Method Book. It seeks to answer many of the obstacles that SongWriters nowadays face in this age where Streaming Services has become king, yet where everyone, with or without a record label, have a realistic shot at releasing Music alongside the most successful Acts of today. However competition for bandwidth is fierce, and though the big established record labels always has the upper hand, that independent Artists can only dream of, you as a SongWriter more than ever before, is in a great position to have a real go at it.