Jane Taylor is an award-winning singer-songwriter and winner of the UK and International Songwriting Competition. Here she shares her top five songwriting tips.
- A song is no different to any other art form. It’s an expression of what you think and feel and what you’re learning. If you want to write a great song, as well as finding a beautiful, inspiring tune, you have to get to the heart of what you really want to say. What was the most important thing you’ve learned from the experience or relationship you want to write about? That will be your chorus. Your point. To get to the heart of what you want to say ask someone to interview you.
- Show don’t tell. Show us a scene. Show us the tiny detail that makes your story personal. Stay clear of descriptive lines we’ve all heard a million times and show us the uniqueness of the subject you’re writing about.
- What to do if you have a tune and can’t find the words – There is a thing you can do to bring you closer to the words. Try and sing in a made-up language full of consonants and vowel sounds. It may sound bonkers to begin with but eventually your brain will believe you are singing words and actual words will start to form. Also, it’s a great way to start to inform the rhythm of the melody. Just singing “Ahhh” in a melody will make it harder to bring in words as “Ahhh’s” always sound easy on the ear. Try it.
- What to do if you have the words but can’t find the tune – You should be able to “rap” those lyrics without a tune first. If they don’t fall into a rhythm naturally then you’ll need to edit those lyrics further. If you can do that then it’s a lot easier to find the tune from there. It will help if you can at least get a chord structure together before you tackle the melody of the song. Once you have done that, take the first chord and sing into it, freely. Don’t even think about the words yet. Explore how high and how low you can go in that chord. Jump between notes in the scale. This will free up your voice to get it going and give it confidence to find the melody. Repeat this exercise for all the chords and then see what happens. Melodies, as a rule, start in a lower register for the verse and build up to the higher notes for the chorus but of course none of this is set in stone. Explore doing the reverse and see what happens to the dynamics.
- If you can, record your chord structure on the instrument you compose on. Then walk around the room freeing yourself up to find the melody with just your voice. Sometimes sitting at the instrument we compose on, can hinder our vocal range. By focusing solely on the voice rather than the voice and an instrument can create better results when we’re searching for the melody.
Jane Taylor runs weekend songwriting workshops set in the Somerset countryside. The workshop is open to all levels of songwriters, from beginner to professional.
To book a place on her workshop on 19 and 20 May, 2018, or find out about other workshops, visit janetaylor.co.uk/music.