We’ve been teaching many of our students how songs are structured and how to formally set out a song – see our recent blogs – however, we have also been exploring the meaning behind a song and the connection between the lyrics, melody and structure.
Our first approach has been to ask the students to think critically; trying to get them to think objectively about a song that they do not like and a song they love. We want them to take a stand back from the song and break it down. What is it that you do not like about a particular song – is it the words, the flow, the melody, the instruments used, the tempo? There are so many aspects to explore and the same goes for the songs they love.
While we’ve been working with our students, we have found that it is often the lyrics and the connection it has to the music style and the personal connection the listener makes that makes a song a favourite.
But when it comes to writing your own song, which comes first – melody, structure or lyrics?
“People ask me how I make music. I tell them I just step into it. It’s like stepping into a river and joining the flow. Every moment in the river has its song.” Michael Jackson
Ultimately, it’s a matter of opinion and personal preference. Some musicians start with a beat and the tune and fit in lyrics around the structure, while others focus on the lyrics and then fit the song structure and music around. There is no right or wrong way. Indeed, some song writers cannot even play an instrument but are fantastic lyricists and then collaborate with musicians to fit the song together.
From the heart
“My experience with song writing is usually so confessional, it’s so drawn from my own life and my own stories.” Taylor Swift
For many artists and, indeed, music lovers, the words can have a great impact and really touch our heart and souls. It may be reminiscent of an experience or it may be something you wish you had. For many musicians and song writers this is a great starting point and can be something of a confessional that becomes a song which really connects with its audience.
“If anyone asks me about song writing, I guess I’d say that you just gotta do it.” Alex Turner, Arctic Monkeys
There is no set time scale to write a song. Some musicians take days and months, while others can find inspiration and creativity in minutes and hours. The main thing is to try. Repeat this. Practice it. Tweak it. Try again! This is something we make sure we teach our students – to always try and develop as learning continues.
“I consider myself a poet first and a musician second.” Bob Dylan
There are so many songs which really do speak to our souls and often, if you read the words without the music, many of them are beautiful pieces of prose. Poems that speak to your heart. How many times have you felt inspired or motivated from listening to a particular song, or felt that it’s synonymous with your own life experience? This is the magic of how inspiring and soul-feeding music is.
As we continue to encourage our students to write their own songs, keep a listen out – some schools are focusing on students writing songs to perform at the end of year concerts in July. We’ve been most impressed with the interaction and feedback so far and it’s an interesting journey discovering which songs are loved and an inspiration and which songs are reviled.
Harmeet April 26th, 2018
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