Written by Jesh Orquina / Graphics by Jillian Bueno
A lot of people are intimated by songwriting when they shouldn’t be. Songwriting is one of the most creative ways to express yourself and connect with other people. If you’ve ever wanted to write a song or if you’ve been writing songs and are looking for ways to improve, here are 5 songwriting tips from award-winning songwriter Brian Lowdermilk.
5 Songwriting Tips As Told by an Award-Winning Songwriter
5. Give the song a good start.
Nowadays, people discover new music through streaming sites such as Spotify. If you want people to get hooked to your song, don’t put the good part in the middle or at the end. Make sure that the first part of the song is something that people will really want to listen to. Brian uses Ed Sheeran’s Castle on the Hill as an example. “Even if you stop listening before the chorus, it still would’ve been a great song.”
4. Find a hook and build on that.
It’s important to decide on what your song’s central hook is. In fact, Brian thinks that the best way to start a song objectively is to decide on a hook. Once you’ve decided on that, keep finding more ways to make the song better. “If you think you have a great hook, the good thing to do is repeat it and change one note. Then go into your next hook. Get as much mileage as much as possible.” Brian cites Katy Perry’s Firework and Broadway song Defying Gravity as good examples.
3. Use a lot of open vowels.
“There’s a reason why a lot of songs keep using ‘tonight’, it’s because open vowels sing really well.” In fact, he says, “To pretty much any song, you could pretty much just add ‘tonight’ and it works!” If you can’t think of any open vowels, Brian suggests using “Woah” and “Ohh” to fill in spaces. “That’s my cheat for you,” he says.
2. Start with three notes.
Probably the easiest way to come up with a melody is by deciding on three notes you want to use. Take these three notes, stretch them out, and just keep using them. Ask yourself this question: “How can I use the least number of notes to tell the most?” Use techniques such as repetition to come up with your melody.
1. Be restless in writing songs.
The only way to really grow as a songwriter is to keep writing songs. Try out different ways and experiment with different styles. “When it feels good to you, when it helps you reach out to people, please just do that. Just keep making songs.”
Brian Lowdermilk is an American musical theatre composer and lyricist and is one half of the duo Kerrigan & Lowdermilk. Last month, he conducted a songwriting and song interpretation master class in the country hosted by Sixteen Bars, a performing arts education company whose goal is to provide the needs of the community of burgeoning theatre practitioners in the Philippines — artistic training and comprehensive education in music, acting, writing, dance, and other theatre-related fields — through activities such as masterclasses, workshops, and other unique educational opportunities.
Kerrigan & Lowdermilk