Free-for-all Songwriting

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on February 1, 2010

Sometimes it’s easier to settle differences of opinion when you have three writers rather than only two; two of you can always gang up on the other one. But sometimes even that doesn’t work; there’s always the chance of a three-way split.

Here’s a fun experiment for you: get several talented people together— maybe a band or even a class, and try writing a song together. Some may be better at lyrics, others at music.

• First, establish some ground rules. You need a warm, nourishing atmosphere for your plants to grow, so Rule One is that anybody can throw in ideas without fear of rejection. Arctic winds chill creative juices.

• Agree on a topic, an idea, then brainstorm together. Begin cluster•ing. Assign one person to write on a board all the concepts that are
presented and someone else to play musical ideas as they arise. Ideas
spark ideas.

• Set a groove. Develop a chord progression. Find a motif and develop it into a melody. Let words and music grow together simultane•ously. Suggest better words, ideas, chords, hooks, keep improving. See where this takes you. Someone (the teacher?) must be the final arbiter, or maybe you can arrive at the finished version democratically.

This is lots of fun and sometimes has produced good songs.
You might want to get together with a group of likeminded songwriters about once a month and get opinions of your works-in-progress from one another.

When you’re critiquing, be kind. First say what feels good about the song. If you have problems with it, say, “ ... but it has a yellow flag (or a red flag),” then point out the problem. If they try to justify and explain it, say “I’m not going to let you get away with that. This is too good a song. Put it back in the greenhouse. Water it some more, worship with it.” It’s amazing how “iron sharpens iron” and creativity begets creativity.

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