Wednesday, October 27, 2010

5♥ Your weapon of choice

5♥ Five of Hearts in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

The Five of Hearts asks you to let your angry emotions inspire you. Write as if your song were a weapon, and your intention is to hurt someone. It helps if you’re actually angry at someone. But if you're not, just pretend. (“It’s called acting!”)

It's likely that many fine songs were written this way, although you'd have to actually ask the songwriters to know for sure. In any case, anger is a powerful energy that can be used for constructive purposes in your creative life. So don't just sit there seething — write a song!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

8♥ Round robin

8♥ Eight of Hearts in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

Eight of Hearts suggests a songwriting game that you can't do by yourself. Gather a group of 3-6 songwriters for this game.

Here's how to play: Get a pad of paper, and sit around a table. Decide who gets to start. That person writes down a single line of lyrics, and passes the pad to the next person, who writes the second line of lyrics. As you continue, each person writes one line of lyrics in turn.

Don't talk, don't make suggestions, and don't coach each other. Each of you might have a different idea of where the song is headed, but none of you is individually able to control the direction the song is taking. Just let the song emerge.

"Slow Dancing Beast," on Left Brain's Raspberry Park album, was written this way. The songwriters used Scrabble Sentence Cubes, a game with words printed on dice, as a random element to create the first line of lyrics.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10♦ Write every day

10♦ Ten of Diamonds in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

The Ten of Diamonds suggests that you try, for at least a week, the practice of writing a new song every day. And don't spend all day on it! The Ten of Diamonds insists that you spend an hour at most, from start to finish.

To fit this writing chore into your daily routine, you might have to scale down your expectations. Your song might be very short, or very simple, or very repetitive. It might express a simple and mundane idea that you wouldn't ordinarily think of as song material. Whatever you come up with, it's okay, as long as it's a new creation.

The next day, write another song. It's okay if the second day's song is just a variation on the first day's song, as long as it contains some new element that you've never used before.

Even if none of the songs from your daily writing practice are good enough to use, this practice will strengthen your songwriting skills in a powerful way. You're learning how to write in an easy, comfortable, everyday way. The next time someone hits you with a real-world songwriting assignment, you'll be able say, "No sweat! I can handle this. I write songs every day!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

7♠ All tied up and nowhere to go

7♠ Seven of Spades in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

The Seven of Spades reminds us that creativity is spurred by necessity. Surprisingly creative solutions can emerge when you have to work within extreme constraints.

Can you write a convincing song that uses only two chords? How about a song that runs exactly two minutes and thirty-seven seconds in length?

Can you write an entire lyric using only one-syllable words? Or without using the letter "i"? Or limiting yourself to words that were in Shakespeare's vocabulary?

Decide on your own set of arbitrary constraints, and then see what song you're able to write within those limitations.