What’s Your Current Songwriting Headache?

4463850560_d17ede1c8c_z by democlezIf you’ve been banging your head on the piano, banging your guitar against the wall, or perhaps even banging the piano with your guitar (shout-out to all you fancy multi-instrumentalists), I’m just curious:

What’re you struggling with?

I’d like to hear about what’s been giving you trouble lately.

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Posted on March 30, 2012

20 Responses to What’s Your Current Songwriting Headache?

  1. prufock March 30, 2012 at 14:53 #

    My current songwriting headache is a product of group dynamic. My band has some varied influences – bass player is a big classic rock/metal fan, loves Deep Purple, Pink Floyd; drummer is a hip-hop and nu-metal fan; I’m a blues, country, and heavy rock guy.

    The thing is: we never agree. It took us months and hundreds of suggestions to come up with a band name. We’re having similar issues now with logo design. But the biggest headache is songwriting clash. If I come in with 10 ideas, I know that 9 of them will be rejected outright, and we’ll probably spend a session or two on the 10th, only to dump that too. It’s driving me nuts to have a catalog of songs sitting there not getting used.

    In a year, we’ve managed to write about 12 songs upon which we agree.

    • Nicholas Tozier March 31, 2012 at 00:47 #

      Hmm. I say write those rejected songs on the side and play ’em solo if you can.

  2. Matt Blick March 30, 2012 at 15:22 #

    Enough time. I’m recording a EP, finishing up a free album of FAWM songs and trying to write new songs. No scratch that. Setting up a website to put all my demos ON is the thing that’s making me miserable and sapping all my energy. That and studying the Beatles worst album (Let It Be). But I’ve nearly done with that.

    • Nicholas Tozier March 31, 2012 at 00:51 #

      Ah, the work ethic that borders on death wish. 😉 I admire it.

      If there’s anything I can do to help with the website, let me know. Happy to help.

  3. Brianna March 30, 2012 at 15:28 #

    I am struggling with writing new material. I am afraid to write something awful. I doubt myself as a songwriter because I feel like in not writing any new stuff. I don’t want to write about Love and break ups, but I can’t think of anything else. I don’t want to write like the stuffy songwriter who has only anger and a lane guitar riff, I have looked everywhere, no one gives me the advice I need like how to rewrite a song well or how to phrase well or how to create the music and etc. I feel very trapped into writing on a whim and writing sub par lyrics.

    • Nicholas Tozier March 31, 2012 at 01:20 #

      I hear you, Brianna.

      A book I feel good recommending is Pat Pattison’s Writing Better Lyrics. It doesn’t cover all of the things you mentioned, but it’s amazingly useful. I promise.

      Be stubborn. Keep writing. :)

  4. Michael March 30, 2012 at 20:35 #

    Originality haunts me. It corrupts my dreams. It blackens my corners and yanks my bedsheets. I write and write and flounder in shallows where depth should be. Oh that my gray matter may conceive a single, fresh, new idea! Wouldn’t that be novel?

    Don’t even get me started on spontaneity.

    • Nicholas Tozier March 31, 2012 at 00:54 #

      I’ll bite. What’s eating you about spontaneity, Michael?

  5. Sly March 30, 2012 at 20:55 #

    My biggest issues are coming from annoyingly old and crappy sounding equipment and no money to get new stuff and also the fact that I feel like I can never put anything together.

    • Nicholas Tozier March 31, 2012 at 01:24 #

      Equipment can be a downer, but then again some of us actually like the sound of Lo-fi recordings. I know I do.

  6. Max March 31, 2012 at 23:20 #

    combining lyrics, melody, and structure when drafting. Sometimes I think it’s possible to know too much about songwriting. should it rhyme or shouldn’t it? Should it be a six line section or a four? Melody, music, or lyrics first? After the initial sketch, drafting seems a bit rough and sometimes too much to take in.

    • Nicholas Tozier April 3, 2012 at 02:59 #

      I hear you Max. It can take a long time for all these concepts to settle in and become instinctual. Usually I follow this rough scheme:

      1. Free write/nonlinear brainstorm
      2. Pull out the good stuff & organize it in one place
      3. Use a rhyming dictionary to generate more possibilities
      4. Start slotting lines into a linear rhyme scheme and structure

      At any point I might return to an earlier step, but usually that’s the progression.

      And of course I overthink most everything along the way, but I try not to let it freeze me. Push on!

  7. Jocelyn April 2, 2012 at 22:59 #

    Getting something down on piano. I’m completely out of melodies in my head at the moment, but when I finally do have one or a even a couple, I can’t seem to get my hands to play what I hear in my mind. It’s quite frustrating.

    • Nicholas Tozier April 3, 2012 at 03:00 #

      Your head will always be somewhat ahead of your hands.

      Practice! Practice! Practice! :) Ear training is especially helpful here.

      And until your hands catch up, sing or hum the melody into an audio recorder of some kind so you don’t lose it.

  8. Martin April 19, 2012 at 08:13 #

    I’m currently working on a song that’s in 3/4. The problem is the verses sound much better in 4/4.

    Now, I know it’s quite a common trick to use 3/4 verses and change to 4/4 choruses; that often adds energy and interest to the song. But how the hell do you go from a relatively lively 4/4 to 3/4 and add energy at the same time?

    Don’t think I’ve heard a song do that. Any tips?

    • Nicholas Tozier April 20, 2012 at 06:42 #

      Hmm. Interesting!

      Switching to 3/4 in the chorus could actually be very exciting. What if you kick the chorus up to double time? Or the volume and instrumentation amps waaaay up? Or both?

      In any case, the shortened lines of lyric in the chorus section will definitely create a sense of acceleration. Those rhymes at line-ends hit our ears that much faster in 3/4 time.

      Have you got a recording of the song posted online anywhere, Martin? I’d be curious to hear.

  9. Skip April 26, 2012 at 16:13 #

    I can’t write a bridge to save my fooking soul… I haven’t let that hold me back from writing, but I feel that my songs would be “better” if I could figure out a bridge for them.

    • Nicholas Tozier April 26, 2012 at 16:54 #

      Sometimes a bridge really does breathe new life into a song. If you don’t know much music theory/chord theory yet, Skip, I’d definitely recommend digging in. Just a few minutes a day will really make a huge difference to the way you write within a few weeks or months.

    • Ruth June 12, 2012 at 02:57 #

      I love writing bridges…a perfect song=one verse, one chorus, one bridge. I’ll write your bridges…