Songwriting & Composing
Interviews, Tips, Pro Advice..
More interviews with songwriters & composers coming soon, with more tips/advice too...
Ian (former frontman of Scottish 80's pop band H20), teamed up with Fife composer Jeff Bernstein, resulting in producing a stunning piece of work, released as their Single "How Beauty Sounds". We spoke to Ian to find out more...
Songwriting Tips/Advice from Pro's
Louise Quinn (A Band Called Quinn/Gates of Light)
"You can get inspiration from anywhere; a song on our current album called Mary And The Apocalyptic Woman was built around a sample of a Fisher-Price toy our twins play with !
Always trust your gut and never listen to anyone else. Make a playlist of songs which you think are amazing to inspire you. Sometimes you need to break from the noise and a song will find you in the silence.
Co-writing can be an amazing experience and help you find melodies and lyrics which you wouldn't have found on your own."
JJ Gilmour (The Silencers)
"Here's a few notes on my understanding for songwriting
Firstly I think you should act on an idea as soon as possible, even if you're in bed sleeping and have an idea, have a notepad somewhere or record it to your phone before you regret it in the morning.
Songwriting is an art in my opinion and therefore, we should study that art, look at songs you like and gauge your songs honestly next to them, that'll help you improve on that front. Don't look at it critically, but constructively and use it as a measure on how to improve your songs or ideas.
Lastly, if you find you're not making the right progress with your writing, try co-writing or attend song writing classes, live events or online, some can be free, so have a good look around, but I feel this can help by looking at how others work."
Ian Donaldson (H20)
"Give the song EVERYTHING you have. Work on it until it is the best you can make it. Break your heart if necessary. Also work hard on getting the arrangement and musical parts right. Don’t release anything that you are not 100% happy with. You will only be disappointed later. Harmony within a band is crucial if it’s going to stay together. Challenging each other musically is healthy too. Be encouraging when you do this, not confrontational. Enjoy it. If it’s not fun, what’s the point in doing it ?..."
"Look for memorable hooks within your melodies as you are jamming out vocal ideas. Record everything with voice notes as you go, so you can extract the gold when you're deciding on the final melodies and hooks. And don't settle for the first thing that comes along, it's always worth trying as many different variations as you can to increase the likelihood of finding something original with banger potential!
Always work out what key you are in so you know all the options for chord progressions and how you can break the rules in an interesting ways like using borrowed chords, modal interchanges or parallel scales to spice things up a bit.
Find out what the dominant and subdominant chords are within your key, so you can figure out the most harmonically satisfying progressions for hooks and potential chorus sections. Make your lyrics relatable, but with quirky stand out moments to keep the listeners interest, a good way to do this is to start with something a little different for the first line.... i.e 'You used to get it in your fishnets' Arctic Monkeys...Quirky first liners rock"
"Write down daily observations and feelings, I usually take a notebook everywhere I go or take notes on my phone when I forget. Whether you are walking to the shop, sitting in the park or waking up in the morning. This can help with writing lyrics or spur on a whole concept for a song.
At this gathering of ideas stage, try not to be overly critical of what you are writing, you can refine ideas or images later. Collect any ideas for melodies that come, again a phone can come in handy to capture these when they come, as you are out and about. The other part of this would be to try to listen to all these collected ideas every so often. I come to listening to my voice memos when I feel a little stuck for ideas or a song needs another section.
Experiment with different tunings. I find this can break me out of a songwriting rut, as before when new ideas feel a little dry and stuck, trying a new tuning can loosen me up as I find myself being much more intuitive and have that feeling of freshly exploring something, so I may try things I don't usually do.
Play your instrument of choice everyday if you can. If you are playing covers, you may stumble upon a new chord that you could incorporate into your songs. I don't tend to play many covers, but I find just experimenting and playing around with different shapes on the fretboard leads to things I think sound nice, for that to happen though, it helps to be open to playing things that don't sound "good" to get to the ones that do."