Songs are magical things and can seem impossible to fathom where they came from. Great songwriters can seem like a different breed to many and it is true that a certain amount of dealing in magic does go on. This does not mean you cannot write your own song though and I hope this piece convinces you why.
Nobody else in the world will write the same song as you.
A song is simply a combination of words and music (With a bit of magic on top). We all have thoughts, opinions and feelings that are unique to us, even if you don’t believe me, it’s true. People often say to me, “I bet loads of people say this” when writing their songs. My response is always that others may write on a similar theme but they won’t write it the same. For example, a lot of people might write songs about their significant other. Each of these relationships is completely unique though and each writer will use language and music in a different way. Even though the sentiment may be the same, the songs will always come out different and unique.
You can write about whatever you like.
Sometimes people ask me “what does the song need to be about?”. Songs have no strict rules and if you search the archives you are likely to find songs on almost any topic you can imagine ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. You may have an idea in your head of something you would like to express in song, it could be a story or a feeling, a piece of advice or wisdom you want to share with others. Alternatively you might enjoy stringing random words together and seeing how they sound, the ridiculousness might be amusing or you might stumble onto some beautiful abstract poetry. Maybe something amused you that you think would work in a song. I once wrote a song called “I want to smell like fresh baked bread” following a conversation about what food we would most like to smell like if we had to.
You are more musical than you think (Unless you think you’re a perfect musician).
It is very common for people to be very nervous about attempting anything musical. Often this is started from an embarrassing experience of someone being mocked for not performing something perfectly on one occasion. Music like anything is a skill that takes time to develop and unfortunately many people are deterred from developing and enjoying their musicality because they weren’t a perfect singer the first time they tried. You wouldn’t expect to be high level at other skills without any practice but for some reason many think being musical is something people are born with. If you practice anything musical you will get better. It can take a long time to really develop these skills but your starting point is probably a lot better than you may think. Your heart beats, there are chords in your spine and bass in your voice, you have music in you. You can also decipher between music you like and don’t like. Knowing what kind of music you want to make is a big part of writing songs. The voice is a deeply personal thing and this is what most people are most shy about. You may not sing like an Adele or Barry White but you can use your voice in a way that is unique to you and will be meaningful to the people you love. There are also a great many ways of using music without needing to play an instrument too. You can find music online you can use or if you have any musician friends you could ask them to help you. Or of course you can contact us at The Swan Song Project for help.
There is no objective scale for good or bad songs
People will tell you if a song is good or bad but this is purely opinion. There is no objecive scale for measuring how good or bad a song is. There are any number of technical assesments one can make on a song, such as the standard of the musicianship, the depth of meaning or poetic devices used in the lyrics or the production value. These aren’t consistent measures though, some people love music that is very technical, some people love music that is very simple. Some people like lyrics that are complex and poetic, some like simple to be point ones. Many of the most popular songs are incredibly simple in both musical form and lyrical content but something about them resonates with people. We shouldn’t be put off writing for fear that our songs won’t be good enough as this measuring device doesn’t exist.
When working with people through this project we often set out the aim of the song at the start, this may be “I want it to be something my family will enjoy listening to”, “I want it to express my gratitude to those who have loved me” or “I want my song to make me feel like this other song does”. If we achieve this goal at the end, it is a good song in my mind. A song doesn’t need to be for everyone, a song can be for one person to hear. There is room for them all in the tower of song and your song might be just what someone needs to hear.
It is such a pleasure to breathe life into a song that would have otherwise been unsung. The process should be fun and playful as well. Grab yourself a pen, start tapping on the table or listen to some songs you like and think about what about how your song might go. I hope you enjoy the process and would love to hear your song.
Ben Buddy Slack
Founder and Creative Director of The Swan Song Project.