Songwriting Workshop with SWMS

Happy Valentine’s Day indeed…well for me it was! Not only did I get a lie in from my toddler, a scrummy breakfast, an evening beautiful sri lanken dish including a traditional ‘love cake’ with rose petals scattered on, BUT I also had the pleasure of working alongside some talented and inspiring music leaders and students at South West Music School.

This workshop was a Songwriting one led by Dean Brodrick and accompanied by Kate Graham, Matt Harrison, Patrick Duff, Andy Moore and myself. After warming up, shaking off those tensions, yawns, worries, nerves from the outside world, we all had a giggle, a stretch and a go at writing a quick song about ‘red shoes’. See, anyone can do it- just have a go!

So off we went into groups of various instruments and just had a go! I was working with an energetic bunch – full of talent and enthusiasm. The group included guitar, sax, trumpet, violin and vocals.  

So what is the creative process to writing a song? 

A question with a million answers. Sometimes I write in a dark room trying to concentrate on images coming to mind and sometimes I just hear a melody and think ‘quick, get to a piano NOW!’. Others may write lyrics or see one word on a poster and create a whole story based around it. Some may be having a practice on their instrument and think ‘oh, I like that riff, yeah, that is staying!’

In my Light Bulb Sessions we focus on the imagery, the lyrics, the stories in songs. We use visual resources and reflect and analyize as we craft our lyrics and music, pouring meaning and depth into every word. We look at symbolism and the main message.

So it was a refreshing change to try ‘another approach’ with young songwriters and start with the music first as chosen by the group I was working with. Dean came into our small group and said ‘this is the delicate first stage of the creative process and never say no to any idea‘. So that’s just what they did and poured out their ideas. We started with a simple jam on the chords C and F. This lead to a melodic riff repeating which became the main melody line. I said ‘look around the room and say a phrase, a sentence, a word that comes to mind – let’s sing it to the riff‘. We looked around the room which was a History classroom covered in posters from most eras, great historical events and quotes from around our world and one of them said ‘You can’t change the past, no point in dwelling on it‘. Fantastic – this then became the main theme of the song.

Then the guitarist said ‘ I want to add a Gm, Dm and Am’. Ok, do it, see what happens, what does it sound like? Mysterious, ambigious, emotive. This became the verse and a story emerged;

Verse 1: The Moon reflecting on my skin, I don’t know where to begin.

(The character is reflecting on some event that has happened. They are by a calming lake and the moon is reflecting making them feel overwhelmed and not sure how to work things out)

Chorus: I can’t change the past, no point in dwelling.

(A positive message of being positive and present in the moment. Acknowledging the past but not dwelling in it and looking forwards) 

Verse 2: Don’t lose yourself, live your life, lift your chin.

(The character is moving on to new pastures with new hope)

The end of the day saw performance from all the groups and the results are fantastic – so may variations of methods, genres, styles, lyrics, instrumentation! It was such a great display of songwriting and I felt very privileged to be there.

So, if you want to write a song for whatever reason, just have a go. there is no wrong or right way. Happy writing.