What are some typical mistakes you think beginning songwriters make? Do you have any advice about how these mistakes can be avoided?
A singer/songwriter from Cincinnati, Ohio, writes:
I think that one major mistake that beginners make is conforming to boundaries that they believe exist. Expand your horizon and try to stretch any limits. It helps to create innovative ideas in your songs. Don't place limits on your own ideas or trash anything. I disagree with the theory that you should only work on one song at a time, simply because I've become more prolific by working on multiple songs simultaneously. By having more than one idea open, it lets your mind created new and different ideas more freely.
A singer/songwriter from Illinois, writes:
I know the biggest mistake I made six months ago was believing a man who wrote to my friend and I about composing music for our songs. We only knew him through e-mail. The whole thing completely backfired when we stopped hearing from this guy, who now holds one of our songs in his possession to do whatever he wants to with it, although it is unofficially copyrighted. I think you should get to know a songwriter/composer over the Net before giving them your lyrics. (Editor's Note: Unfortunately, this sort of thing does happen. While the net is wonderfully open place, it's also a very easy place for predators to hide. Please do be *careful*. --Jodi)
A 12-yr. old, unprofessional (of course!) singer/songwriter, writes:
I think that they often write songs that all have the same main idea, or similiar phrases in them, because they are only inspired for the 1st song. Like a movie and its sequels... they keep on repeating the same point. I think you should wait until you're inspired for each and every song. Write one at a time.
A wannabe guitar player who writes songs in her non-existent free time, writes:
Well, considering that I really started writing in the fifth grade, it's hard for me to think back to what mistakes I've made . . . I'm still making tons of them, and I know it! In the 5th grade I didn't have the grasp on the world that it takes to write something that won't make you cringe in embarrassment when you're older, but I think it helps you to learn the difference between what works and what doesn't in a song. If I could change things that I've done in my writing, though, there would be a few things. 1)Don't let the line get away! If you come up with something that sounds good, get that sucker written down, because no matter how much you think you'll remember it later, it's not likely. I had to sit on a tractor for a whole day once singing the same chorus over and over so I wouldn't forget it. It's either that or take paper! 2)I wish I had started earlier thinking about what words you don't hear a lot in songs. There are some great writers who sound original simply because they're using words that you don't hear every day. *Singable* words, still, but new ones that haven't been beaten to death. I still don't have the copyrights I should have. So that would be 3) Copyright things, or obtain rights regularly on your material, then you can use it in more circles than your own tight one. That's probably my biggest mistake right now, is putting that off. But I'm really not all that experienced. In fact, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. But I'm sure having fun!
A singer/songwriter (alternative country), writes:
The main problem I see in my own writing is, not focusing on a single idea or emotion. The song is going in too many directions. How to avoid: Before writing the song, summarize in one line the point of the song. It might help to finish this statement "and this is why I say (fill in the blank)" That should provide enough focus to write effective lyrics.
A 13 year old girl who sometimes comes up with some songs or lines, from Israel, writes:
I think one of the biggest 'problems' (not exactly a mistake) is to censor or throw songs into the rubbish bin, always keep them somewhere, even if it's in the bottom drawer, just don't throw them away!!! When I started (not that it was such a long time ago) the songs I wrote really frustrated me becuase I thought that they were really crappy and I threw some of them away and I really regret it now, and also you get better with time. I think that at the start you have to write only when you're inspired, when you have a few lines floating in your mind, don't force yourself to write a song, atleast not in the beginning... After a while it's easier... And another 'problem' is rules; Personaly, I don't think there are supposed to be any rules in expressing yourself, or writing songs for the matter, it doesn't have to rhyme, it doesn't have to be a hit, it doesn't have to be at a certain length (no matter what people tell you...) etc...
A beginning songwriter from Toronto, writes:
As a beginning songwriter, I used to try and write like people I had listened to heavily and compare whatever I wrote to their material. That didn't help me progress at all - I listen to Elton John and Billy Joel! I went out looking for books, searching for websites, scouring everywhere for information. It taught me some things, most importantly: GET YOUR OWN STYLE! Have big ears and incorporate everything. It's just like what Charlie Parker said: Learn as much as you can, and then forget it all!
A songwriter and music lover from Fort Jones, CA, writes:
I think beginners tend to write lyrics that are too litteral in meaning, and too personally graphic. to relaye a personal experience speaking to another, it is necessary to to speak litterally, and choose words that best describe what your talking about. Not so in music..."We shared love" sounds better than, "We made love". Its more poetic. To begginners: Try using metaphores, plays on words, double meanings,etc to get your point accross. Another trick is to swap parts of lines, ex: "We share our lives, living for today. We We share our love, in love in every way"...to..."We share our love, living for today. We share our lives, in love in every way". Try writing things that mean something to everybody, and still retain the meaning you want to convey. Remember not every one will derive the meaning you intend, but if you can move more people...Thats what counts!
A songwriter from Montana, writes:
Many times beginning songwriters sacrifice quality lyric trying to get it to fit into a musical scheme. Either they try to fit too many syllables into the rhythmic structure or they chop up the lyrical content, so it is really not natural or comfortable to the singer or the listener. I have also noticed that there is a tendency in beginning songwriters to distort (to an unnatural and uncomfortable state) the meterical and symetrical elements of a song to fit in some extra words. A good song is a marriage of text and music. The goal being that both elements can stand alone, but together they create the magic of a good song.
A singer/songwriter/producer from Largo, FL, writes:
Some typical mistakes beginning songwriters make are using the same words and/or phrases in all their songs, sticking with one restricting song format, and not revising/re-writing. The best fix in all cases is TO GET EDUCATED! Words and phrases are a dime a dozen. You have dictionaries, thesaurus, cliche`s abound and the like. Why not make a play on words? (i.e. "Un-break My Heart") As for the song format, listen to how the latest songs are arranged. Not everything is the old A-B-A-B-C-B style anymore by a long shot. This is even ties in with re-writing/revising a song. If a format isn't working, don't be limited by sticking to it unnecessarily. I've re-arranged songs by lines, verses and format. I keep notes along with all of the work just in case a previous fix may have worked better. It is important to never limit the potential of the song.