Posts Tagged ‘singing songwriting’

Songwriting – Helpful hints

March 9, 2010

By Ayo Awosika, Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Ayo Awosika, Voice & Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Ayo Awosika

Once a month, songwriters will gather at The Lesson Studio for a Singer Songwriter Class I host that focuses on sharing ideas, songs, and lyrics. As songwriters, one difficulty we face can actually be a lack of ideas. Where does our inspiration come from? Our own experiences? A fictional character or story? Some days ideas flow out of us like they were just waiting to be released, and other times it feels like we can’t find any words to express the things we want to.

I once took a Songwriting course with wonderfully talented songwriter Mark Simos (written for Allison Krauss among others) and he introduced me to the concept of object writing; an exercise for songwriters that is not only beneficial, but can be essential to our writing process. The way that object writing is usually presented for songwriters ( e.g. in Pat Pattison’s books – if you haven’t checked them out, do!) is as a technique that teaches us how to focus, be more detailed in our writing, engage and utilize our senses, and be free while keeping ourselves within a few guidelines.

Here’s what you do. Sit down with a pen and paper (or laptop if that works better). Pick a subject – it could be anything from a dirty sock to a piece of fruit. Set a timer for say, 5 minutes. Remind yourself of the 5 senses (sight, taste, touch, sound, smell), and write freely for 5 minutes everything you can think and feel about that subject. Don’t censor yourself! Even if your mind begins to wander and through free association you begin to write about another topic (ex. Dirty sock -laundry detergent – a teddy bear – cuddle -a warm bed – taking a nap) that’s ok! Let it happen. The idea of this exercise is to be in the moment; you may do 100 object-writing exercises that you never look at again – but you will have learned much from the repeated process.

It works best as an early morning exercise, stimulating and engaging our writing mind for the rest of the day. Mark refers to it as “morning pages” (much like the well-known morning process from  the book “The Artists’ Way”)


The key things to remember:

–  Stick to a strict time limit. Do not allow yourself to write more or less than the time that you allot even if you feel like you need to.

–  Don’t write in any verse forms, or with rhymes – just allow yourself to free write. The idea is to come up with material that may or may not be used later.

–  Remember to use your senses so you are describing all aspects of the object.

–  This is fun! It’s not about using this exercise to write your next hit song, (although it could be!)

Happy Writing!

Can You See What You’re Playing? And I’m not talking about the notes on the page.

March 9, 2010

By Hollie Bennett, Intern at The Lesson Studio

You know you’re a true music nerd when you start finding all the similarities between everything you do or see and how it could relate to music. And you know you’re especially bad when you just see something and bam! Now that you watched that special on the Discovery channel about outer space, you know how you can explain vibrato to the twelve year old. But really, finding those parallels between, let’s just call it this for fun, the “real world” and the “music world” can help you understand exactly what you’re doing even more than before.

Imagery is such a staple part in music, at least for me. Hearing a piece of music that really attaches itself to me makes me feel in colors, imagine stories and truly understand the emotion that the composer or performer was trying to convey. Part of me thinks that as a musician that is your true purpose in life is to tell the story, show the audience what is happening, even if you don’t know, you need to show that you do. Sometimes doing crazy things like pulling out your box of 64 Crayola crayons that you haven’t used since the fourth grade and literally coloring your music the color that you thinks conveys each part of your piece can do wonders. Even making up words to go along with what you’re playing or seeing a story that can play out in your head can get the emotional and expressive side to connect with the technical of your playing.

One of my favorite topics to bring up to students is the Olympics. I’ve probably been driving my students crazy trying to convince them to watch everything from figure skating to the super-g to curling. The parallels between musicians and athletes are really interesting to me. How much work each party puts into perfecting their own craft is mind blowing: hours in practice versus hours on the ice or snow. You can find so many similarities. Figure skating spins and trills is one of my own teacher’s favorite analogies. You can also think of the idea of balancing between technique and musicality as the way a speed skater like Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski balance around their turns with speed skating. So go out and try to find those parallels and start imagining them will you play. It might just help even more than you’d think!