Try A Songwriting “Sprint”June 30, 2008 6:00 am Songwriting
Usually, I want to put as much time into writing each new song as it needs, sometimes setting it aside for a short (or long) period of time and returning to it later, maybe a few times, before finally declaring it “done.” Even if a song comes quickly and seems to be “ready to go” an hour after you started writing, I would still recommend letting it sit and stew for awhile. You will likely find yourself making small fixes and improvements that, taken together, will make the song really great.
The trouble with this approach is that it’s so casual. Without any pressure to work on them, some songs never do get finished. (Perhaps that’s for the best.) The casual style is fun and easy. But oftentimes, people do their best work, including creative work, under a time constraint or other kind of limitation. It might be worth it for you to experience some pressure in your songwriting and see what results!
One way to set up some time pressure on yourself is to commit to writing and recording a complete song in one evening. You start right after dinner with a blank pad of paper, and before you hit the sack you have to have a complete song with instruments and vocals all finished and at least a rough mix produced. (I guess you can go back and remix it later if you must.)
As Samuel Johnson said, “The prospect of being hung in the morning concentrates the mind wonderfully.” It works the same way with songwriting!
The practical result of using this “sprint” approach is that you find yourself making a ton of decisions and judgment calls, and making them quickly, as the evening wears on. You will likely feel super-focused as you move from one part to another, knowing that you will need to keep a lot of first-or-second takes and ideas and just run with them. It’s a very condensed process. Plus, you end up with a new song!
A variation of this idea is to have a songwriting friend (if you have one) also do a “sprint” session on the same evening, with both of you starting with the same specific title for your quickie songs. I tried this once with my music buddy Jack. I had heard someone on a soap opera say “You can’t win twice,” so we each committed ourselves to writing and recording a song by that title on a specific evening. It was fun!
You can listen to the song I wrote and recorded for that title below. I don’t have a mix of Jack’s “You Can’t Win Twice” song (which was completely different, of course) on hand, but I’ll try to locate one and update this article with it in the near future.
(Please enable popups for this site if the mp3 player does not appear, or just click the mp3 link to listen.)Tags: challenges -->