Lyrics and music: songwriting masterclass part #3, advice

Having looked at what can inspire their lyrics and music and also how they take that inspiration forward into a finished song, our three experts in this final part of the masterclass series share their advice for people who need tips and encouragement for their own songwriting.

My grateful thanks to our three masterclass experts who have so kindly contributed to this series of articles: jazz vocalist Jacqui Dankworth, pianist/vocalist Charlie Wood, and South Sea Company vocalist/bassist James Miles.

So – what are the key points?

James Miles: “you’re free to write whatever you want”

“The most important thing to bear in mind is that you are free to write whatever you want. If you write about an issue and you want to really open up and start spilling your emotions, then feel free to do so. Equally if you just want to write funny lyrics or aren’t particularly interested in writing serious lyrics, then you should feel free to do so. Never feel constrained by anyone or anything, when it comes to writing,” says James.

“It is quite likely that to begin with, it won’t be as easy as some might think, but the trick is to persevere, and over time you will find that certain styles and topics will suit you more than others. To begin with, I found myself getting quite frustrated, because I couldn’t express myself in the way that I wanted to, and I couldn’t stop myself from using clichés. But nowadays I write a lot more comfortably, having learnt a few lessons along the way.”

Charlie Wood: “keep it simple”

I know some good guidelines for writing:

Don’t explain; describe

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Embrace randomness

Let your thoughts wander

Don’t allow your rational mind to limit your imagination

Let go of the steering wheel

Writing should be easy

Let the song decide

Jacqui Dankworth: “leave some elements open-ended”

“I agree with Charlie – keep it simple. Don’t feel you have to be too clever, especially as simplicity can be very, very effective. Work out what it is you’re trying to say, and don’t worry too much about messing around with words – they don’t necessarily need to be perfect in order to tell your story well,” says Jacqui.

“In fact I find it’s often effective to leave some elements open-ended, so your audience can place their own interpretation on your lyric. That brings them closer to your song, and to your performance; it makes them feel more deeply involved so they’re experiencing it on more than one level.”

“Finally, listen to the great writers’ music – to what they do, what you like about them, and gain inspiration from other people’s music that you’re really passionate about.”

 

Once again, my grateful thanks to our three masterclass experts who have so kindly contributed to this series of articles: jazz vocalist Jacqui Dankworth, pianist/vocalist Charlie Wood, and South Sea Company vocalist/bassist James Miles.

If you have any questions about songwriting, please leave them here as comments so when I next run some posts on the subject, I can be guided by what you want to know.

Until our next masterclass series!

This article is one of a series of three. Links are as follows:

Part one: inspiration

Part two: techniques

Part three: advice

Want to set your writing to music?

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

 

Photograph of James Miles – many thanks to Kristell Gathoye

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