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20 Songwriting Tips from Bryan White

Monday, October 24, 2011
Our Live Guitar Lessons continue to grow and we are able to attract more and more notable names as guests each month to dispense their guitar knowledge to us and you. If you joined us on October 11, you were able to see and chat with me and Bryan White as we discussed songwriting and guitar (watch the recording). Bryan brought quite the resume, which includes a Grammy, 2 Gold albums, 2 Platinum albums, 6 number 1 hits, and a little ditty he did with Shania Twain "From This Moment On", with him to the humble set of Live Lessons. He downloaded a wealth of songwriting information for guitarists and I've distilled the hour-plus lesson down to Bryan White's Top 20 Songwiting Tips:

  1. Songwriting takes different approaches: an idea, a title, a portion of a chorus is the catalyst for the song, other times it may be a musical idea triggered by an open tuning or new chords.

  2. Stay disciplined: A song may start with a flash of inspiration but discipline is what gets the song written.Songwriter Bryan White

  3. Point back to the main idea: The individual phrases of the song need to point back to the main idea of the song - every part of the song needs to point back to the main idea.

  4. Keep people wanting more: don’t give away too much before the first chorus.

  5. It helps to work with others. People you feel comfortable with where no one is worried about what the other person thinks.

  6. Dare to suck: my personal favorite!

  7. Force yourself to write: It is good to occasionally force yourself to write and be creative even when you don’t feel inspired. Putting yourself under some constraints helps you to be disciplined about your writing and the process of writing.

  8. There needs to be a cadence to the rhyme scheme of the choruses or other parts of the song.

  9. Start by writing out your thoughts: At the beginning stages of the song sometimes it helps to just write out a “stream of consciousness” of random, unedited, free-flowing thoughts about what is on your heart, or whatever is bothering you about the world, or perhaps a relationship - writing exactly what you are thinking. Then take those pages filled with thoughts and put them away for a couple of days and then come back to them.

  10. Answer these questions when writing a song: What are you trying to say? Who are you trying to say it to? Why would anybody want to hear what you’re saying?

  11. Co-writiers can be a big help: When you get stuck creatively, a co-writer can help give you a different perspective or give you the key to unlock the stuck part of the song to get you moving again.

  12. Hum or sing while writing: Singing melodies or “dum-dum” lines before the lyrics are done can help solidify the melody.

  13. Know your creative times: we all have certain times of the day or week when we're most creative. Know these times well and use them.

  14. Be goofy: When writing have fun, be free, do something goofy to keep creative and loose.

  15. Know what inspires you: Like #13, surround yourself with the things that make you creatively come alive.

  16. NSAI: Nashville Songwriters Association International is a great place to submit your material.

  17. Songwriting is tough work: keep at it. Like learning guitar, it takes hard, consistent work to produce great songs.

  18. Think of a song as a short story: often we think in stories and it can help to write the same way.

  19. Don't try to impress others: songwriting is about your individuality more than anything else.

  20. Find out what the best style is for you: listen to the songs and writers that inspire you & learn from them.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Bryan and I at the Live Lessons set"]Bryan White and I before Live Lessons[/caption]
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