by Clay Mills
Sep 7, 2016
Where should I take the second verse? Should I switch to first person? What is the chorus missing? Is my set-up line better using the opposite technique?
Songwriting choices. Many are conscious, and many are made so fast we don’t realize we’ve made them. But, no song can be written without making choices.
Many writers approach writing by intuition…
…without making conscious decisions: whatever comes out they insist is “great” and “perfect,” inspired, perhaps, by a life event. It feels real to them. They spill the words out on paper as if writing a diary entry and wouldn’t dream of changing a word. As a result, these songs often are just like diary entries. They make the writer feel better, but won’t mean much to anyone else.
I’ve been fortunate over the years to have written with some amazing writers: Hall of Fame old-timers, young and brilliant up-n-comers, and charlie-hustle tunesmiths who have cranked out big song after big song just by working harder than everyone else.
The one thing that all great writers have in common is they know what questions to ask while they creating their art.
They review the options and seem to select the right choice to solve the questions that arise during the writing process. They are not afraid to look at all the angles, knowing that a single subtle word change can drastically effect the impact of an entire song.
When I began teaching and mentoring writers through SongTown a couple years ago, I realized that my approach to teaching would follow a different path than what a college professor might take. How could I not? Being a full-time songwriter for 25 years—a songwriter whose livelihood depends on my ability to deliver songs that impact audiences—makes my perspective different.
Wise songwriting choices leave little time for theory or cleverness.
No, I have to be real. Be interesting. Impactful. When the rubber meets the road, I have to deliver. So I wanted to teach what’s real and what’s going to help aspiring writers get better at writing!
So, I began teaching from Questions, because knowing what questions to ask while writing is Job #1. Job #2? Choosing from all the available options. Should this be 3 BPM’s faster? Should I change the third chord to a minor? Does this song need a bridge? How you answer hundreds of questions develops you into the writer you’re meant to be.
Write On! ~Clay
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