Songwriting & Context – ST8: Review, Instrumental Composition & Analytical Understanding

I have chosen to review an article from Berklee Online. The article in question is called ‘Songwriting Advice from 10 Grammy-Nominated Songwriter,’ and takes pieces from interviews with each artist about their songwriting process. In terms of accessibility, the article is quite succinct; it doesn’t use masses of technical language or talk of complex ideas. The only prior knowledge required to interpret this article is the names of, and a vague familiarity with, the songwriters’ work.

I particularly enjoyed Carole King’s admiration of her husband and lyricist, Gerry Goffin, explaining that ‘What made him so extraordinary as a lyricist was his ability to say in really simple words big ideas, big feelings, big thoughts.’ It made me think of my own practice, and how it could benefit from simplification. I think the advice given in this article is very relevant to my own songwriting, especially Leonard Cohen’s ideas on inspiration. He says ‘Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work. … A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.’ The reason this resonates with me is that I feel like it is somewhat accurate of my own process. I often find myself procrastinating around songwriting because I don’t feel inspired, but perhaps I just need to ‘show up and get to work,’ and not think about it so much. This article has definitely given me some food for thought.

Unfortunately, I missed the lecture in which these tasks were given and because of this, I had to write the instrumental track myself. I feel a lot more comfortable writing in this style of music than I do with more lyric-centred genres and as such, I feel a lot more confident in this track than I do in any other. It is based loosely on the droning, repetitive, almost modal-feeling pieces by composers such as Ramin Djawadi in his work for Game of Thrones. 

Finally, the song I would like to understand more about is Hugh Laurie’s cover of Changes, by Alan Price. I’m interested mainly in understanding the way the arrangement and instrumentation work together, and how I could go about implementing more of this style into my own songwriting.


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