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  #1  
Old 20-10-2018, 05:39 PM
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Anyone been on a songwriting course?

There seem to be quite a lot of these around. I've seen a few short courses for around £300 which seem decent value especially if you get a good group who can inspire each other and an experienced teacher. But would be interesting to get feedback from someone who's been on one.
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Old 20-10-2018, 07:08 PM
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Well I’m no use to you as I’ve never been on one, but I’ve often wondered what it would be like as songwriting has been a passionate pastime of mine since I was around 10 years old believe it or not. When I was in my 20’s and having the time to write constantly I can’t really remember any such courses being available. Probably would’ve gone for it if there was.

Can’t see how going on one of these courses would be a bad thing. Like most things you glean what you want from it. I’ve forever read and listened to interviews by mostly famous songwriters and taken bits of advice from each. Would’ve loved to go on a course headed by some of the songwriters I most admire. Saw a video of Elvis Costello doing a songwriters workshop once and was very, very jealous of those that got the chance to learn from a master.

Part of me though has always resisted trying to learn too much. I’m a self taught guitarist and writing songs has just always felt like a natural, fun and cathartic thing to do, and there’s that fear that if you learn by rote, a) it will take the fun out of it and b) it would make the act habitual and dampen that creativite spark that somehow comes from the subconscious.

Obviously, you need the conscious mind to edit the song and structure it into a finished product, but I’ve found that initial creation of a song comes when you’re almost ‘switched off’, maybe feeling something or just doodling on an instrument. I’ve just listened and learned to play songs I enjoy and they somehow mix together and work their way into my songs. What goes in must come out.

This all sounds very ethereal and maybe I’m not the best person to take advice from - I’ve clearly not made my millions from any of the millions of songs I’ve written...although in saying that, after many, many years I’ve finally started earning (very, very little) writing educational children’s songs - I found my level

Back to the question in hand; it’s difficult to advise whether the £300 is worth it without knowing the qualities of those running the course. But i can see how getting face to face lessons can give you the confidence and foundation tools to really hone your craft. There are so many ways to go about writing a song, and it’s always interesting seeing how others go about it and can be very refreshing and inspirational too.

Good luck.
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Old 20-10-2018, 07:44 PM
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Is concentrating on the words or the tune?
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Old 20-10-2018, 10:47 PM
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Soda Jerker podcast is very good on the songwriting craft
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Old 21-10-2018, 02:17 AM
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Soda Jerker podcast is very good on the songwriting craft
Cheers for that, never knew it existed. Right up my street. Already listened to one and will no doubt trawl through the rest of them now.
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Old 21-10-2018, 06:48 AM
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I did a weeks songwriting class (as part of a bluegrass week) - I found it very useful.

I've written songs for as long as I can remember and Ive found the more you write the easier the songs come. When I in my 20s I was writing nearly every day and songs just flowed. Now Im alot older I dont have the time and so, when I do try to write, its either a hard, hard slog or, more often than not, it never comes.

So doing that week's course unblocked the songs as I was try to write everyday for 8 hrs. So it was nice to know I hadnt 'lost it' but merely hadnt applied myself enough.

On my course we did a lot of free association writing. Blank page and just write whatever come without thinking. The more I did that the more free the free associations came (if that makes sense). Then out of the 4 pages of unconnected nonsense song ideas leapt out. I was a really useful tool.
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Old 21-10-2018, 09:57 AM
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Part of me though has always resisted trying to learn too much. I’m a self taught guitarist and writing songs has just always felt like a natural, fun and cathartic thing to do, and there’s that fear that if you learn by rote, a) it will take the fun out of it and b) it would make the act habitual and dampen that creativite spark that somehow comes from the subconscious.
This is a strange line of thought which I've encountered in some of my students too, the assumption that knowing more things will somehow make you write in a dull, uncreative way. The truth is the things you learn become second nature to you and appear in your subconscious thought after a while. If you never learned about major/minor chords (even in a non-educational setting) you wouldn't be able to hear them when writing so would never use them, and subsequently have one of the most boring songs ever written. Take it to its extreme and you would agree there's clearly no way you could be using negative harmony in your writing if you never learned it, but spend a good few months working on it and getting the sound into your ears you'll never be thinking "OK now I'm going to flip my chord progression over the major 5th axis of the tonic to access different sounds in resolutions". That's the kind of thing you learn whilst studying, but you would just hear it in your head when those lovely moments of inspiration come to you. Learn as much as you can, and then forget all of it. It'll stay in your ear.

Obviously I was talking about learning harmonic ideas, but songwriting courses are unlikely to focus too heavily on that and I would assume focus more on form/structure, lyrics and sound. The type of advice you'd receive on those areas are unlikely to be very prescriptive and will instead give you a bank of ideas you can use to start writing when you're not feeling creative, or how to polish up and finish a song.

I would have thought there are different people running different courses so can't vouch for all of them, but I've worked with a brilliant singer who said doing one of those courses was the best thing she's done and without it she wouldn't have been able to crack the professional scene. £300 does sound like quite a lot to me though, for that money you could have 6 hours of 1-1 tuition by a top teacher, splitting it into three sessions and bringing back things you've been working on to be critiqued and specific advice given to you is the route I'd go down. But then personally I find composition to be a solitary endeavour, and the act of performing it is where I get the social kicks, but we're all different on that.
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Old 21-10-2018, 12:05 PM
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£300 does sound like quite a lot to me though, for that money you could have 6 hours of 1-1 tuition by a top teacher, splitting it into three sessions and bringing back things you've been working on to be critiqued and specific advice given to you is the route I'd go down. But then personally I find composition to be a solitary endeavour, and the act of performing it is where I get the social kicks, but we're all different on that.
I am no songwriter, but admire those who are. Historically. so many of the classic songs are a result of partnerships and collaboration. There are many creative musicians and also many who are talented lyrically, but people who are truly great at both are rare gems.

The likes of Goffin/King and Sedaka/Greenfield sat from 9 to 5 in rooms in the Brill Building churning out wonderful songs. As individuals they were good songwriters, but it was that spark and inspiration they gave each other that produced the quantity and quality. Amazing as they were teenagers with so little experience of life to draw upon.

Many successful songs were created from a half forgotten musical snippet or a few words on the back of a fag packet, just waiting for the input of someone else to become something worthwhile.

Bubbs mentioned Elvis Costello, a great wordsmith and hugely talented composer. But he had little success with his large portfolio of songs until another musician, Nick Lowe, identified what was needed to make them commercial and offered to produce his first few albums.

As you say, everybody is different. But I think there are many aspiring songwriters who would gain from the input of other like minded individuals on a course. And perhaps also meet people who would continue to exchange ideas when the course is over.
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Old 21-10-2018, 12:08 PM
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This is a strange line of thought which I've encountered in some of my students too, the assumption that knowing more things will somehow make you write in a dull, uncreative way. The truth is the things you learn become second nature to you and appear in your subconscious thought after a while. If you never learned about major/minor chords (even in a non-educational setting) you wouldn't be able to hear them when writing so would never use them, and subsequently have one of the most boring songs ever written. Take it to its extreme and you would agree there's clearly no way you could be using negative harmony in your writing if you never learned it, but spend a good few months working on it and getting the sound into your ears you'll never be thinking "OK now I'm going to flip my chord progression over the major 5th axis of the tonic to access different sounds in resolutions". That's the kind of thing you learn whilst studying, but you would just hear it in your head when those lovely moments of inspiration come to you. Learn as much as you can, and then forget all of it. It'll stay in your ear.
Of course, you are totally correct and that last line there about learning and forgetting is the way to go. Learning more music theory definitely should open your mind to more possibilities, not close it, but...you’re dealing with the human brain and forgetting is easier said than done. Very easy for the brain to get set in its way and follow the same formulaic lines over and over again. It feels safe. Good creativity I’ve found comes from straying into that area which is personally unchartered waters, and that makes you feel uneasy, so few people like to feel that anxiety so stick to what they know. Of course it’s all down to the individual and their ability to learn then ‘switch off’.

Popular music is awash of songwriters that basically make a career of writing the same song over and over again - today more than ever. The songwriters that have inspired me most are ones, mainly from the 60’s and 70’s funnily enough, that kept growing, changing and searching for something new and a lot of them just picked up the rudimentary music theory.

It’s an age old argument, but would Lennon and McCartney have written so many pioneering classics if they had been classically trained as children. Yes, they picked up chords and harmony etc...but just enough to get by. Maybe they would’ve been even better? I’ve certainly heard some musicians suggest that in the past.

When I was playing with lots of different musicians and working out live arrangements of my songs, I have to say I enjoyed working with the relatively ‘untrained’ musician more than those classically trained. I found it frustrating playing with the schooled cellist and violinist say, as I just felt what they were playing was all very correct and perfect but lacked flexibility and feel and when asked to do things out of their learnt comfort zones things became difficult.

I guess it’s down to the individual and they were not good at forgetting. In conclusion, I think I’ve made your point stronger than mine, which leads me to suspect my laziness against trying to learn more theory has hindered my craft. Oh well...
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Old 21-10-2018, 01:29 PM
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I found it frustrating playing with the schooled cellist and violinist say, as I just felt what they were playing was all very correct and perfect but lacked flexibility and feel and when asked to do things out of their learnt comfort zones things became difficult.
I had a similar experience on a Bluegrass guitar course - we were all learning to play fiddle tunes. The one bloke who really struggled was a classically trained guitarist who, unlike the self-taught guitarists, had never had to learn something by ear. If it was written down he could do it, but without the notes he really struggled.
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Old 21-10-2018, 02:07 PM
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I second the bit about collaboration. I think my song writing has improved dramatically since I have been writing with someone else. This is the most recent song I wrote with my friend Rory.

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Old 22-10-2018, 01:42 PM
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Thanks all, interesting replies so far
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Old 23-10-2018, 09:47 AM
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This is the £295 songwriting course I saw, it's at Goldsmiths College. Obviously this one's already started, but if I can afford it, I might go on a future one.

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Old 10-07-2020, 11:48 PM
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Just did a search for 'songwriting' and found my old thread ...

Late last year I went to a one-day seminar near Oxford Circus run by Martin Sutton of 'The Songwriting Academy' ...

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(note: I have no interest or relation to them). I thought it was very good and at a price of around £30 was certainly good value considering the content.

Just looking through their current courses, they've rapidly moved to online ones which seem to be a lot more expensive, and you obviously lose the interaction with other people. I won't be enrolling in any of these at the moment. Personally, I prefer real-life in-person courses and I'm reluctant to pay anywhere near their current online prices.

But in my experience their content is good, as I think can be seen from some of their Youtube videos. Martin certainly seems to know what he's talking about ...

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Just searching around, someone here has arranged free online group songwriting sessions via Zoom (I think) ...

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It looks fun but I would want to be comfortable using Zoom before taking part. It looks as though the organiser runs a paid-for online community and I imagine he would promote this in the free group session.
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