Thursday, March 27, 2014

Talk About It Thursday (#6): Songwriting

Every other Thursday I will make a post that's meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate.

If you didn't know already, the reason I was on hiatus in February was largely because I was participating in FAWM (February Album Writing Month), which is basically the NaNoWriMo for song writers. Basically, the goal is to write 14 songs (roughly the length of an album) in 28 days. 

Sounds relatively simple right? You don't even have to write a song every day. Yeah, it's not as easy as it sounds. Firstly, just like with NaNo, you lose steam. This is my third year participating in FAWM, and I know I'm going to lose steam. Maybe I'm already losing steam (this post is being written on 2/6). They have some great ways to help out, but there's also the sad fact that FAWM is smaller than NaNo. Not as many people know about it and participate. There aren't as many resources (I love their Titular tool though!). There isn't as much funding. And there certainly aren't any cool "prizes" for winners. All we get are 14 new songs, pride, and possibly bragging rights. So why do I participate? Much for the same reason I participate in NaNo. This year, it's only day 6, and I've already written some of my best work yet (at least in my opinion). The sad truth is that if it weren't for FAWM, I never would have taken the time to write down these lyrics. I never would have forced myself to get words down on the page. Are the songs perfect? Of course not. But they're something, and I am PROUD of them.

Where does this become a discussion? Well, the truth is that a lot of people don't necessarily appreciate songwriters. When you listen to a song, you usually care more about the singer or band than the person that wrote the lyrics, right? Okay, not everybody. But for the most part, yes. It's sad but true. I try to support singer-songwriters, but I'm guilty of this too. One would think that writing song lyrics is easy, right? Just a few lines, a verse or two, a chorus, etc. It's short, right? Easy? Quick? Simple? Nothing like writing a novel, right? Right....WRONG. Okay, so maybe it's not the same as writing a novel, but songwriters put in just as much into their writing. We also lose our steam. We also have days and months when we don't want to write. But we do. We still have to edit and draft and figure out what we want our songs to get across. Maybe it's not to the same extent as an author (I know, trust me. I participate in NaNoWriMo too), but it's still something. 

And easy? Quick? Simple? HA. IF ONLY. No, writing songs can take time. Sure, sometimes I just spit out words, but then there's the whole editing and revising process. I have to figure out what message I want to get across. Did the words come out the way I wanted them to? Do lines have a similar number of syllables? Should I use artistic license and break some grammar rules? How short or long do I want the song to be? Do I want to follow the traditional structure of a song? Do I want the meaning to be obvious or ambiguous? Yeah. All of that and more. Yes, I'll admit that I tend to spit out words and write a song in 20 minutes tops. But I still think about these, especially if/when I go back to fix it. But I get stuck too. Sometimes, I write a verse that's just so pretty or different that I can't figure out what to write next. I used to have a file of pieces of songs, whether they were verses, bridges, outros, choruses, or a mix. (I don't anymore because my laptop broke, and I lost all of my files. *cries*) And sometimes, you can't find the right words. Sometimes it's because I need a word to rhyme. Sometimes it's because I need a word of a certain meaning but with a certain number of syllables. Sometimes it's just because the words won't come to me. Songs are shorter than novels. Though important in novels, diction is almost even more important in songwriting. Every word matters. Every word has to do something. It's hard to find the perfect word or phrase, whether you're writing a novel or a song.

So why don't songwriters get the same amount of credit, especially if a popular singer or band sings the song they wrote? Even the cheesy, annoying, repetitive songs required a lot more thought than you'd think. They must be tailored to the singer. They must appeal to certain audience. Yet, many people forget these behind the scenes people. Even sadder is when singer-songwriters don't get as much credit as other singers. These people write or co-write most, if not all, of their songs AND figure out a melody to them AND sing them! That's a lot, isn't it? So why are they generally not as appreciated? I really wish they were. 

It's hard to find the right lyrics. There are so many artists I look up to because their lyrics mean something. They make me think. They make me feel. They're beautiful words. They're carefully picked words. They work. They shine. And it amazes me. 

Here are some examples of singer-songwriters/bands that I admire (in case you're interested): Nat & Alex Wolff, Sara Bareilles, Anna Nalick, Sara Haze, Vanessa Carlton, The Civil Wars, The Hush Sound, Snow Patrol, OneRepublic, David Cook, Imagine Dragons, Elenowen, and Laura Jansen.

What's your take on songwriters? Do you think about them when listening to a song, or do you sometimes forget? How do you view songwriting? Have you written a song before?

(PS. If you'd like to see what I'm writing for FAWM, this is my account.)


  1. I've never heard of FAWM! Buuut, that doesn't really surprise me because I'm not really into writing music or singing. It's mostly instrumental stuff for me. And when I DO listen to lyric songs, eh, I hardly ever understand the words! (I think I have bad hearing, though.) I definitely think it'd be hard, though! My mind is blown at how you could possibly fit an entire story into a few verses! And make it rhyme (sort of). And make it flow. Sheesh. I take my hat off to you songwriters.

    1. It's not very well-known, so don't worry about it. ;)

      Hm. That's interesting! I mean, I love instrumental music/scores, especially for when I'm studying or writing, but many artists are pretty clear when singing. There are definitely some that are hard to understand though!

      Yeah! I'm amazed by some of the depth found in many great songs/lyrics because it's just like HOW?!

      Why, thank you. ;) I'm hoping to improve on my songwriting, but it's hard stuff! (Just like writing a novel.)


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