The Art and Skill of Writing a Song

Song is perhaps the single most important evocation that defines and documents ourselves, our peoples and cultures, our histories and our hopes and fears for the future. A song can evoke moods and feelings that other historical documents lack. Songs are rarely objective, they inevitably say something about the attitude of the author as well as the singer and as such are very important in narrating ourselves and our experiences in a way that newspaper clippings do not. Even badly written songs can tell us a lot! But a good song will endure through many generations as a capsule of the essence of that time. It is important, therefore, that as a people we are always writing songs and passing them on.

What follows is a presentation given by the author at a seminar for New Zealand songwriters in Gore in May 2007. It is about getting started as a songwriter, establishing the discipline of writing, overcoming "writer's block" and completing the work. It presupposes no particular musical ability (many of the greatest songwriters had little or none). It also looks at the differences between right- and left-brain thinking and how to use each, as well as learning to recognise when we are being “original” and then developing that ability.

  1. Getting Started: Establishing the Disciplne
  2. Overcoming Obstacles: Right and Left Brain
  3. Right/Left Brain Inventory
  4. First Thought, Best Thought: The Ideas Phase
  5. The Cluster Exercise
  6. Developing the Idea
  7. The Home Stretch: The Completion Phase
  8. Starter Ideas

Remember, writing songs is about doing it, not thinking about doing it. Start now!

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