Updated: Apr 10, 2020
We will always be taken on difficult paths throughout our lives, creating challenges as well as testing our strengths. As musicians and writers, we are all having to detach ourselves from sessions, live events, rehearsals or networking collaborations, but more importantly, we are blessed that music will follow us wherever we go and be our guardian angel throughout challenging times.
As we all go through this pandemic together, it is a priority to look after ourselves, loved ones and our music collaborators.
We have put together important techniques and concepts that we currently use with UB's writers in development as well as professional musicians in the industry and we are now sharing this so that you are able to come out of isolation personally and professionally stronger.
One of the most important tools to continuously improve your music
One of the biggest aspects of building your repertoire will be to ensure you are creating great ideas rather than writing an uncountable amount of ideas. Quality, not quantity. This doesn’t mean to stop writing every single day and cut down the number of hours you spend songwriting, but this more so means to begin to learn to pick out the ideas that are great vs the ideas that are only taking up hard drive space.
As a songwriter myself and from knowing many personally, I know desktops, dropbox folders, and general digital storage for songwriting can become extremely unorganised, especially when you’re in the zone and nothing else matters other than getting that hook down.
Building up your catalogue is not only the most organised way, but the most proactive way for your future, start with 3 folders; Vocal Melodies, Lyrics, and Concepts. For producers, your folders will be Beats, Hooks, and Vocals. I have added in detail below of what these folders will involve.
This can be anything that includes a melody which will be designed into vocals. 99% of this folder will include gibberish for lyrics - perfect. As long as the vocal melody idea is coming across, that’s all you need. Using notes on a guitar or keyboard to portray a vocal melody also does the trick.
Nice and easy, this folder will all be lyrics, poetry or even just a couple lines of words. Usually, this will include a whole bunch of pdf files or screenshots from a mobile or computer.
Concepts are simply an idea of a song; the story. What’s the plot? What happens?
Again, this could be pdf files or screenshots of your mobile notes. Voicenotes even. Whatever works best for you.
Self-explanatory, this will be your drums, percussion, anything that underlines the tempo of the track. Any ideas that will inspire something more to work from, short, long, simple or complex is perfect.
Your hooks folder will be anything that you feel will lead the song. Something that really takes your song idea to the next level; this could be using a synth, vocal melody, instrumental loop, it is all down to you. Some of these ideas may cross into the Beats or Vocals folders, but as long as you feel this is a HOOK and a melody that really excites you, keep it with the hooks.
This will be you, the producer, writing melodies that you hear as a great vocal idea. Or of course, vocals that have previously been recorded by a singer that is not currently being used. This folder will cut out hours of a writing process and give an artist or writer something to work with and be inspired by.
What Do I Do With These Folders Now?
Starting out, you will simply fill out these folders with all the right melodies, hooks, beats and whatnot. For the first couple weeks of writing, do not focus as much on trying to fill the folders with the best ideas you’ve created, just fill them up for now.
Once a month, perhaps once every two months depending on how often you’re writing, go through each folder and remove the ones you feel are either not strong ideas or ones you don’t see any further inspiration from. Really think about this though - if you think it’s one for the delete pile, ask yourself why? What makes this melody or track not savable? Compare it to something you have kept in the folder, one you are excited about; is there anything you can do to bring it up to this standard? If not, why? Ask yourself these important questions, and not for the reason to criticize yourself, it’s about training your ears and understanding a good or bad song vs a great song. Become your own A&R so to speak.
Once you have gone through each folder, you will be left with ideas you feel confident and excited about. These folders will practically be your bible from now on.
Finding inspiration, an idea, a lyric or one little hook for a current song in the process can be beyond frustrating. Using your folders of exciting ideas, pick them out and use them to their advantage. If it’s not working, don’t be afraid to scrap it and put that original idea back into its folder. It’ll find a home soon.
Not only will these benefit your creative process and strengthen your professional mindset, it will be great for when you are looking for sessions, or if you feel extra confident about them, you can use them to shop to labels or managers also. They’re easy to send across, and it gives professionals a good idea of your style and strengths.
Will my progress be hindered if I am not co-writing as much?
Co-writing is a huge part of songwriting progression and usually is the bread and butter to most writers' great songs. Collaborations can still be active while self-isolating, with thanks to the beauty of the internet. This can be live Skype sessions with as many writers you wish, or this can be by sending over tracks, lyrics or ideas to your co-writers.
Whether you decide to be online and collaborate every single day or not at all throughout this period, your progress will not be affected unless you were either doing nothing to actively work on your music or if you were falling into old habits that were not beneficial to you previously.
Use this time to go back to basics and learn who you are as a songwriter, producer or artist. We all started writing a few lyrics or tracks by ourselves in our bedrooms, right? We still progressed and made sure we were learning new tricks and techniques to ensure we were doing an even greater job than the day before, so there is nothing at all stopping you from bettering yourself, your music and coming out of this time even stronger.
Reconnecting with yourself to inspire a great song
All writers I have worked with, at some point through their development, whether this be while they are going through writer’s block or feeling overwhelmed with their music career, I have always commended in taking a step back and learning to love yourself and your passion for music.
Self-Isolation can be distressing and very lonely, especially if you are living alone and as we are apart from our closest family and friends. It can most definitely become a time where writers will put far too much pressure on themselves and begin to overthink their career and personal life.
Therefore I stress to all writers out there to use this time to look after themselves as much as possible and take time away from your music if you feel the need to; this will most definitely not halt your progress in any shape or form, and it will have nothing less than an incredible impact to your creativity and enthusiasm once you step back into it. Put your health first always, and most importantly do it now through this difficult time in our lives.
Please look after yourselves and especially those who are self-isolating alone.
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