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Transcript of Songwriting Workshop

My Example

what we're going to do today is we're going to talk about songwriting. And we're going to focus on two things, mainly sensory writing and writing through a lens. Now, this workshop is for songwriters. But if you're not songwriter, and you're just a writer, so for example, you write short stories, or you write or you're writing a novel. And this can actually apply to you as well just take the word song out of the equation, a couple of things won't really apply to you. But most of it will.

And why you need is a pen and paper. And that's about it, we will actually be very practical. So I'll start with a couple of things that are, you know, more theoretical, but we will get very practical. So don't you worry about that. And so this workshop is for you, if you are wanting perhaps to write in a different way, maybe you you tend to kind of stay in a comfort zone. Or maybe you are bit stuck, you need some inspiration, we are definitely going to get it because this workshop is a very, very effective at just opening your mind a little bit. I recently came across this information from various sources. And I like to just share with you what I've learned. So let's see if I can find any comments here. Just in case. Very strange.

I hope I as this is working, because I'm not seeing anything on Facebook, but Oh, well. I'll have to just hope that it is. Let's see. Let's let me check one more time. Saying waiting for video. Oh, no, I am live. Okay, cool. All right. So let's get going. Second. So I like to know, what you struggle with the most is that melody is or harmony or lyrics. I know myself that I might, you know what I find really easy with from writing his lyrics. And melody is pretty easy for me to I'm sure that I could write even more free melody. But Armani is the one that has struggled a little bit more with.

And so when when I say harmony, what I mean is, you know, chords, the music that goes with the writing. For those of you that are beginners. That's what I mean. Okay, so now there's a couple of tools I'd like to share with you before we start the workshop proper. that you can use if you struggle with the structure of the song or the harmony, itself. And so these are chord scape. So chord scape is very good for when you want to find a progression. That is not the usual progression that you're used to. It's it's a programme that you instal on Windows, unfortunately, it's supposed to be able supposed to be on Mac too. But to be honest, I could not find it for the life of me. But I did find it on Windows. It's not an app. It's an actual programme. It's very, very easy to use, and it's absolutely free.

So don't pay any money for it. I know that there's another plugin called chord scape for logic, I believe that's not what this is. This is simply a very, very basic programme from Windows, and you have to get it from Windows Live. You know, Microsoft.
It's good though because it gives you new ideas. It doesn't tell you what to do. It's always up to you to Choose what you want to use what chord progressions you want to use. So it's not prescriptive, like many other apps you may find out there.

It gives you, however, the freedom to choose what feels right to you. Even if you do not read music, even if you just write using your ears. That's why it's very good also for beginners, but not only, you could be a seasoned songwriter, and kind of be stuck always with the same kind of chords, I know that I've been there, and not not long ago at all. And it has helped me recently, to just write a song that I would probably never have written otherwise.

Because what you do is you start with one chord, maybe minor chord, maybe a major chord, and then it will suggest different kind of chords that would fit with that chord. And it will colour code them. So they according to what's closer to the original key. So that basically, you can't really go too wrong. But you just need to focus your, you need to focus on your hearing on what feels right to you what sounds good.

The second app is an actual app. And it's called Oblique Strategies. I believe it is actually by Brian Eno. And it's very good. If you are stuck on a structure of a song, you don't know where to go next, and will give you prompts, it will give you ideas of things that you can do. And of course, it's up to you whether you're going to follow that or not. But it's very oblique, it's kind of on the it's makes you not think in the box, it helps you to think outside the box. Now, um, if there are no comments, let us move forward. Let me just double check once again, because I can't really see many comments. Well, I'll just, I will just trust there will appear.

So let's move on. Now very, very quickly. I don't want to go through spend too much time on this. If you're watching this, you probably know who I am already. But if you don't very quickly, in my background, you know, and why would I Why would you listen to me at all. I have got about 20 years experience as a songwriter I've been writing for a long time. I'm also guitarist, drummer singer producer.

I've produced I've recorded and makes 12 albums. And I've got a Graduate Diploma in electronic music performance. I did one year just school. Very excitingly, I'm doing a songwriting course, a Berklee School of Music. I love Berklee School of Music, check it out, because it's a wonderful place to learn music. And I know, logic, mostly, and also a bit of Ableton, and I'm also a freelancer on Fiverr. So this is sort of my background in terms of music. I also do coaching and hypnotherapy.

But I'm not going to go into that, because it's not really relevant tonight. So let's move on. And let's just before again, we really get into the nitty gritty. One important thing to notice, I think is really, really important to move away from the idea that to write songs, you need to be inspired. This is an idea I used to have myself, but really, it is not a good idea to just rely on inspiration, because your inspiration may come may go. And you could do that. But if you do that you're always going to be an amateur.

And you know, it doesn't matter whether songwriting is a hobby or not, when you treat it as a as a profession when you're professional about it. So you give yourself a bit of time. Whether is it is one hour on a Sunday, or every day for an hour or whatever it may be. When you do that, and you set aside regular time to hone your craft. Well, you become much better at songwriting. It's like, think about it this way. If you had a job, even say a shop, okay, sandwich shop. Would you go to the shop only when you felt like it?

Probably not. Because if you did you get fired, right? And this is the same with writing. Another example is when you want to lose some weight until you want to get fit. Do you go to the gym whenever you feel like it? What if you do that you're never gonna get fit. You need to go regularly. So it's actually more important to develop your craft. than to simply rely on talent, because someone with talent, if they don't hone their craft, they're not going to go very far. Even if you have less talent and someone else, if you hone your craft, if you practice, you're gonna get further than them, meaning you're going to get better songwriting, you're gonna write better songs, you're gonna feel it's so much easier for you to do.

So it's like, you need to flex that that muscle, you need to be more disciplined, and practice. And now one thing that I would suggest is to pick a time and have that say that hour every day or every week, or three times a week, or whatever is appropriate for you. And make sure you don't go over it, you don't go under it. So you don't overdo it or under do it. Right. And build this builds the discipline to really keep on writing.

Even Nick Cave does this job he, he goes to rice, every day at nine o'clock, if he's at five o'clock, and liquid that has got him, you know, it's too easy to think other people can do because especial, the reality is we're all have the capacity to write great songs, it's just that we need to believe that we can and then actually do it, actually sit down and put in the hours. Now, of course, little caveat, you can't quite read it, because my faces on it. Do take care of yourself.

So you know, sure have discipline but not to the point that you push yourself when, for example, you are like feeling sick, okay? Or you're really tired or stressed out, you know, we are in a time right now, that is really tricky. And it's easy to say, Well, I should be able to do this every day because I'm not working or whatever. I would say take care of yourself. First, be disciplined, but also listen to your body. If you're not feeling well. You can skip a day. It's not the end of the world. Okay. Right. Let's move on. Now, what we're going to talk about today is not rules. So not rules of songwriting. Although there are there are many, but tools.

Okay, so with for the rules of songwriting, you probably want to go to a course because it's going to take a long, long time, but definitely more than an hour to figure out rules, okay. And we can look at that a little bit and the weeks and months to come. But today, I just want to focus on tools. So these are tools that you can use, no matter what genre you're in, does not matter if you're writing metal songs or classical music, you know, or folk dance doesn't matter. It's all the same.

We're just going to use tools to write. So let's do it. Okay, so what is a sensory writing? sensory writing is when you write, with no metre, but only using sensory prompts. So using the sense of touch, smell, sound, taste sight, and you're not, you're not focusing on thinking. So what you're thinking what you're feeling, because this will help you to write less cliched songs. And I'm going to get a bit more in depth about this. Do let me know if you've got any questions though.

Because I would love to answer them. Right? For example, a sensory prompt can be an adjective. So a descriptive word, such as beautiful, for example, and a noun that that word is referring to. So for example, smoky river, that can be a prompt, okay? There are other prompts you can use. But for today, I'm just going to mention this very, very simple, easy one. It's accessible to anyone, adjective and noun. Okay? Right. So what do you do with it? No, well, I'm going to fast before I tell you what to do with it. Where do you find these prompts? Well, there's many places,

you can go on Pinterest and just write some prompts. And you'd be surprised how many you can get there's tonnes and tonnes of people that are posting on this. So you can do that if you've got an account. You can also do that without an account. So Pinterest is one way you could also Google a random word generator. If you're you, like you know your computer to figure it out for you. You don't want to have any input in it. Just Google random word generator you find tonnes of them. And then you can use those right. You can also you use books and the old fashioned way.

So you could get a book from your bookshelf, open it up in a random page, close your eyes point to a word. And there you go one word, and then you just open another page, point to a different word. And then you have another word. Okay? So that's, that's another way I used to do it that way. Sometimes you have to do it a few times until you actually find an adjective, and a noun, but it's, it's easy enough.

On the other hand, I have also started a daily new podcast called daily musician, and it's just 90 seconds of daily song prompts. That's all it is. So if you want to have an automatic one that just comes to you every single day, you can go to anchor FM, slash daily musician, and actually from tomorrow or the day after, there will be a Alexa skill called daily song prompts. So you can just enable that skill. Put that skill on your daily briefing, and then just say, Alexa, give me my daily briefing on you get your song prompt. How cool is that? Right? That's super cool.

So that you really got no excuse, you can go so many ways of finding daily prompts. Right. So what next? Okay, so what do you do with this daily prompt? Once you've got it? You set the timer for 10 minutes. And you write all the things that come to mind using only sensory words. So no thinking of feeling words, just sensory words. Okay, and I'll give you an example of what I mean. So, for example, this is a non sensory writing. The prompt is the wind. Okay, when I think of the wind, what do I think I think of the weather, I think of the changing season.

I feel sad about the shorter days, and I feel nervous. Sure, I could write a song about this. But it is pretty abstract. And it is quite difficult to really connect to this. It's very general, huh. A lot of people probably have thought about these things. It's not helping me to really connect. Okay, next, an example of sensory writing. So, sensory my mascot has just come with a little kitty kitty has come to help me She always wants to be here when I do live stuff, live videos.

So sensory writing could be something like the wind is cold against my skin. I smell burning leaves from the garden next door, I pull my soft wool wool scarf around and that should be around not around my neck. So just look at this writing and see the difference. It's not for me it is much easier to really visualise and really connect to this kind of words. I feel that skin getting hold I I smell the burning leaves.

I really get a feeling of what it's like to have the cold wind and and the cosiness have the scarf around my neck. So it's easier for me to connect to this and it's I bet it would be easier for most of us to do that. The difference as well is that I am showing with this I'm not telling I'm not telling the listener or the reader what to see what what to feel, or what to think I'm actually suggesting it and then they get to feel whatever they want and, and see or imagine whatever they want.

Right. And I think that's a lot better in writing as well as songwriting. Okay, so here's the time. Here's the task. We're going to do this together now. Right? So take a piece of paper and a pen. Here's my pen.
On Instagram, you can see the pen because it's green. And we're gonna set a timer for two minutes.

And we are going to use the prompt. I see. partner. Okay, no thinking no feeling words. Once again, I'm going to check that there's no comments. Just in case someone asked a question and I can't see it. But I don't think I can see it so fine. We'll just assume there's no questions. You can always ask me a question. After anyway. So let's get started. I'm going to set the timer for two minutes now. Come on. Okay, stopwatch. So I see partner no thinking of feeling words. Let's go.

Okay, we've got the two minutes. So why have you written? I'd love for you to share that with me. And I can also share that with you what I wrote, just to get a sense of what it is that you came up with, you know, and there's no right or wrong words, right or wrong.

Just jacking here. forget anything. I know those people watching but for some reason, I'm not getting the comments. Hey. Okay. So I give you my example. And so I got sour apples on a dusty table, a darkened room. I stopped clock. blank wall. And so that's all I got for now, not not a heck of a lot. But I don't respond well to pressure.

So normally you give yourself 10 minutes, not two minutes, so you've got a bit more time. And so take a little bit more time when you do this on your own, so that you can really flesh it out. Yeah. Remember that? This this stage? You're not trying to figure out what's good, what's bad. You're just writing whatever comes to mind using sensory words.

Okay. So then what do you do? Since I can read the comments, I'll just go move on. Okay. So next, you want to remember that it is good to share with other people, even if the song isn't ready yet, even if you're just at the stage. Okay, because when you actually start writing songs, in even if you've been writing songs for a long time, one of the things that I've seen most is this fear of, of being ridiculous or members are being judged, basically, or being vulnerable, because no one wants to be rejected.

Yeah. But the thing is, if you want to be a songwriter, you've got to be vulnerable. vulnerability is what is going to allow you to be to connect to your audience, okay? So you want to get started by, by maybe just sharing nuggets with other people, just getting an opinion.

And if you're worried that you know about haters, or people that don't know you being nasty, well know that just by virtue of seeing this, you can always talk to me, you can always go on the dare to be seen community calm, and there's never going to be any hate there, there's only going to be supportive comments, you know, there's always going to be productive, positive comments that are going to help you.

So if nothing else, here know that you can share your writing with me and with the database in community. So just wanted to say that, that's out there. And also remember that we know you, we all suffer a bit from anxiety, anxiety is totally normal. But when you just give yourself an opportunity to be seen, to be known, because when you write a song as you're sharing your soul, aren't you, when you give you a bit of a portunity, to get some feedback, and to be seen, then you feel less nervous or less anxious the next time. And also you find your tribe, you know, you find people that actually get you, because not everybody is going to get you, but some will for sure.

And that's what really matters. So once you find your tribe, and it might take a while you it is so healing and it feels and that's why we're writing songs. And we that's why we do it because we want to connect, we want to share what can't be shared normally, right.

Now, let's move on. And,
and this is about what we were talking what I was just saying as well. It's like why why even use sensory writing? Why not just stay with the thinking feeling writing? Well, one way, one reason is that they're sure you want to have your unique voice expressed to you songs. But also you want to connect to other people, and you want to make it accessible to other people. And you want to try and not be too cliche, okay?

You want to express your individual voice, but you want to make that voice accessible to others. And when you write using sensory writing, it is easier to do so because everybody feels everybody can imagine what it's like to have a scarf wrapped around the neck, you're not telling them how to feel, and only leading them with the way that you feel on demand in a different field. Instead, you're suggesting that what it's like to have a scarf, for example, wrapped around your neck and they will feel their own version of cosy.

Okay. Now examples of sensory writing are Tom Waits, Cosima Nick Cave, there's a few others of course, but just to give you an idea of if you want to figure if you want to, you know, go and listen to some songs. And we're gonna go more in depth into sensory writing in just a minute. But just before we do that, if you want to know more about how to do it, I like the pros do right. I would suggest checking out Tom Waits, checking out Cosima.

I think it's Cosima. Nakajima and then checking out Nick Cave. So Kazuma specifically writes a song called and to build a house. And it's very good song. Even if you don't maybe like the genre doesn't really matter. But what I would suggest is to really look at the lyrics and how she uses the song using the lens of a house to talk about relationships.

And Nick Cave uses a lot of religious imagery, a lot of the time to talk about the things that are important to him. And one of his songs that I would suggest you look at is called abattoir blues. So That will give you another idea of sensory writing. Now as songwriters, you know, we explore topics that are that have been explored millions of times before, right? For example, love relationships. But how do we do that in a, in a new way, in a way that's different.

So it's not just the same old thing, the same old cliche? Well, we do that writing through a lens, writing through a lens, okay, like the lens of a camera. So, for example, what would you do, you could pick up a one word prompt, just one word prompt, for example, house and write for five minutes, everything you know about that word. So everything that you can think of about that specific prompt, right?

For example, say that the prompt is trees. Well, you dried things like leaves, fruit, wind, nature, branches, life, roots, wood, etc, etc. that becomes your lens. The lens is trees, and now you have a language, the language is made out of the words that you've come up with during those five minutes. Now, the lens is trees, but you're not gonna write about trees, you're gonna write about something different about a different topic that is close to your heart, something you care about. So for example, you could write about racism through the lens of trees.

Now, that might seem insane, like why would you write about racism through the lens of trees, because it is a lot more interesting and a lot more original and a lot better to actually show what you mean through a metaphor. In this case, please. So for example, I'll give you an example of this song called Strange Fruit.
And it's done exactly that. Talking about racism through the lens of trees. So I'll read it to you. If you're an Instagram, just listen to me. On Facebook, we've got slides.

Okay. sourthern trees bear Strange Fruit, blood on the leaves, and blonde and the route. black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, Strange Fruit hanging from the popular trees. So I read it again. sourthern trees bear strange, strange fruit, blood on the leaves, and blood on the route. black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, Strange Fruit hanging from the poplar trees. The song goes on, but as you can see, I'm sure it's so evocative, isn't it? And there's no cliche here.

You get it, you get the feeling of it, you get to, to feel your own feelings about this. But immediately, you can see the trees you can see the blood on the leaves. You can feel the breeze. You can visualise the black bodies and you and you see the fruit hanging. And it's, there's no one telling you what to think. There's no one telling you what to feel. But I bet a lot of people will probably think and feel the same thing. Right? Tell me if I'm wrong. Right? If you think I'm talking absolute craziness, you can think that let me know though.

So let's do something practical. And let's write through a lens, shall we? So what I invite you to do now is to take that piece of paper for two minutes. We're gonna write words to do with house just to do with house. Okay, so two minutes, one word, just one word like desk, kitchen table, sink, okay, stuff like that. Just that Alright, so let's get going.

Okay, we've got the two minutes have passed. Now of course, come on stop now. So stop writing. Now of course, if you do this again, I would suggest to spend a little bit more time than two minutes, I would say 10 minutes, something like that, or five minutes up to you. But don't spend too much time do you know you decide and then stick with that.

So now this is our lens. And while I was doing that, I realised that the topic I chose to write about, we could choose a different topic, you know, it's up to you, but something that it's important for you. Now you could choose the topic anxiety, for example, but then I just thought, Well, before we're talking about relationships, didn't we? I see partner.

So perhaps you could choose the topic of love. If you didn't want to talk about anxiety, but you could talk about anxiety, you could talk about whatever you want. Just choose your topic, right? This is one possibility among millions. Your own work is to write a song about your topic, whether it's anxiety relationship or something else. Something important to you, though, that you feel strongly about through the lens of a house.

And my challenge to you is to actually share it just share the lyrics to share with you got doesn't have to be perfect under there to be seen community calm, because we are all singer songwriters, interested people interested in singing songwriting, and we're all positive people, there is no bullying, there is no judgmental comments.

And if there are the will be deleted. So there is absolutely safe, you know, for you to, to share what you've come up with. And, you know, I've got, I've just wrote a song this week using this method after months of writing nothing. And so I really, really loved this method because it very much helped me to get out of a rut. And again, inspired. I also use the card and the the app that I mentioned before, chord scape that's it to, to read the song. And I would be extremely curious.

And I'm really excited, actually, to read your new lyrics. And I can share my lyrics if you like, you know, remember that all that we write kind of you know, is completely unique and there is no right way to write. It's just being really honest about your, how you feel. And then using some tools and tricks of the trade to make it interesting and to make sure that other people can connect to your song.

So I think we've got to the end of this tiny little bit this presentation. I hope you Go Oh, yeah, I think so. I hope this was useful for you. And the replay will be shared under there to be seen and will also be shared on my website. If you've got any questions once again, just ask just either DM me if you're listening on on Instagram, or you can send me a message on

Facebook or on the community there to be seen you can listen to the daily musician on on anchor FM or their to be seen podcast where I interview singer songwriters every week. So see you next Sunday, every Sunday at 7pm Uk 2pm PST, 11am PST, I will share a free online workshop for you. So if you've got things that you'd like me to cover, do get in touch. You know, I'd love to hear your comments. Otherwise, see you next Sunday. And thank you for listening. Bye bye.


About the Author

Elisa Di Napoli is a Mindset Coach with 25 years of experience in holistic life coaching, clinical hypnotherapy, performance, and creativity based in Wellington. She is the author of the "Dare to Be Seen" series and practices as a musical artist. She specializes in helping creatives bring their projects to life, command the stage and magnify their presence so they can share their gifts with a larger audience. She also has vast experience in treating anxiety, helping with confidence, sleep problems and most psychosomatic disorders. She gives talks on wellbeing featuring various topics such as overwhelm, procrastination, goal setting, dealing with uncertainty and change and more.
She has been featured on radio and podcasts, and her articles have been published on blogs and online magazines. Elisa's background in comparative religion, music, and acting allows her to offer creative strategies for her clients, while her motto “dare to be seen” urges them to shine their light on the world.

Elisa Di Napoli

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