How to have a day job AND be a good songwriterBy Don • Category: Inspiration, Songwriting Articles
Are you a family man (or woman)? Some will get up early in the morning, others will wait til the whole family goes to bed at night. Others will have a regular night and will spend the rest of the week capturing songwriting ideas.
Maybe you’re not a family man but you DO have a social life (do other songwriters actually HAVE social lives?). Perhaps you even have a job that requires extra hours, etc. You can certainly do the same thing.
Personally, I have experienced both. In any situation where time is valuable, a songwriter needs to be able to start writing at a moment’s notice.
That’s what we are going to talk about today – being prepared for the unexpected songwriting opportunities.
In it’s purest sense, creating an ideal environment for songwriting is rarely different from creating an ideal environment for any kind of creative pursuit: minimize distractions, have all your tools handy, make time to work on your creations, etc.
As someone who was married for 12 years I know a little about being a family man and a songwriter at the same time. I used to complain that I never had any time to write songs, and quickly learned that complaining about it wasn’t gonna change things – I needed to change the way I approached songwriting.
Here’s what has worked for me:
Be willing to write at a moment’s notice
Perhaps your spouse is taking the kids to a little league game, or grocery shopping. Perhaps the kids just put on a movie and you will have two uninterrupted hours of songwriting time. Look for ways to “make time” in this respect, and you’ll find you can spend 10, 15, or even 20 hours a week in uninterrupted songwriting time.
Of course, being willing to write at a moment’s notice means you have to be prepared …
Have all your songwriting stuff in order:
This means having your guitar out and ready-to-go. My main acoustic sits on a stand in the living room. A shelf on my desk has all my journals, notebooks, lists of possible song titles, an Olympus WS-311M digital voice recorder where I’ve hummed in some melodies, paper, pen, etc.
This is important. When these blocks of time suddenly manifest themselves, you don’t want to spend the majority of that time finding your journals, finding a pick (if you play guitar), finding a pen and paper, tuning your instrument, and whatever else might be involved in getting the songwriting process going.
Get the family involved
My oldest daughter likes writing stories and poetry. In the past we have sat down and had songwriting sessions together. She writes stories and we take the main ideas and make songs. I’ll record them on my laptop and it’s a real blast for the kids to hear their own song. I’ll print out the lyrics for her and we’ll sing it every so often. After a while she began begging me to sit down and write songs with her.
There are multiple benefits to this: First, you are introducing your child to the concept of songwriting and nurturing their creativity. Second, you are letting them into an important part of your life – songwriting – and they’ll understand on the occasions that you need to hole away and bang out a song.
Capture your work
Because any songwriting session in a family environment will often end with “My sister is picking on me!” or “I spilled my soda on the floor!” it’s quite possible you won’t be able to wrap up your songwriting properly. With family emergencies you may quickly forget or lose that great idea you had been working on, so it’s important to have tape (or disk) running while you work.
While I do have a Pro Tools setup at home, it’s not always practical to fire up the rig if I only have an hour or so of creative time. So what I did was bought a copy of N-Track Studio and a cheap audio interface from Behringer that I can’t stop raving about. This way I am able to record some pristine guitar and vocals and get a rough idea of the song or bit I have been working on.
These are just a few suggestions. I’m sure people have other suggestions as well but these are what work for me.