Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to frame your new songs before you write them

My last several posts have described what you can do in general to get ready to write a lot of songs in a short time. But you can also start working on individual songs, without actually starting to write them. I call this work framing a song, because it's kind of like putting together a picture frame before you start painting a picture.

Framing means getting a clear idea of what you want a song to accomplish. Creating the frame, in a way, is like formulating a question, and the song itself, when you finally write it, is the answer to the question.

Framing can take many different forms. You might have a song title in mind. You might have an experience or emotion that you want to convey in the form of a song. You might have a technical musical goal, such as writing in a musical style that you've never worked in before. You might gather a few pictures and create a little collage that conveys a mood that you want to translate into a song. Or you might have a specific song that you like, or a group of songs, that you want to try to imitate without copying directly.

Ideally, framing means gathering together your best inspiration, love, and enthusiasm into an organized space where you can use its energy to help forge your newest creation.

If you've decided to pursue the FAWM 2012 goal of writing 15 songs, here's an example of how you could start framing your songs now so you'll be ready to start writing on February 1.
  1. Count out 15 sheets of blank paper. (If you use them up, you can add more sheets later.)
  2. On each sheet of paper, try to write down at least one idea or goal that could serve as the starting point of a new song.
  3. Look through the sheets of paper a few times over the next several days, and see if you can add ideas, words, images, or musical strategies to flesh out each song frame. (To stick with the rules of FAWM, don't start writing actual lyrics or music until 2/1.)
I know that some people find it hard to start with blank paper. If it's easier, you can start with these three forms. These are PDFs that you can download, print, and fill in:
Of course, these PDF forms cover just three out of many possible approaches to framing your songs. You might find that you can invent your own forms that are better suited to your own musical goals.

If you've fully framed a song before you start to write it, the music and lyrics often fall into place very quickly. In practice, the framing — getting clear on what you want to write — usually take more time than the writing itself. That's true whether you do it formally on paper or whether you just muddle through it while you're trying to write the song.

February 1 is just a few weeks away, so it's not likely that you'll get 15 songs fully framed by then. It's okay if you don't — the point of this exercise is just to give you a head start.

No comments: