Category Archives: Songwriting

Vlog 142 Songwriters self-doubt

In today’s vlog we get into songwriting once again. This time we are going into the deep end of the pool, so bring your snorkel with you 😉 I break down the emotional process of songwriting. I try to explain why I don’t believe inspiration to be an external thing. Why I believe it is all about the hard work.

I know my handwriting is horrible, but I hope my scribble diagrams help to make some sense of the process. And I hope you can take something away from this and put it to use. And even if you are not songwriter, I believe you find some of this interesting. Let me know what you think.

J.P.

The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE

Vlog 114 On songwriting part 2

In today’s vlog I once again talk about songwriting and the importance of building a consistent routine and your surroundings. After over two years of writing, recording and releasing a new song every week, I believe I know a thing or two about how to become more prolific with your songwriting. The truth is that most of it is about turning up to do the work in the first place.

J.P.

The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE

Vlog 72 On songwriting

So as I promised, I will be including occasionally also some of the stuff that in the past I posted in the blog posts in the vlogs as well. Monday’s have become my dedicated songwriting days. It is not the only time I write songs, in fact I am always working on an idea at the back of my mind. But rain or shine, on Monday’s I sit down to write a song. In today’s vlog I talk about songwriting an share some of my small tips. If you guys like these, I will include more of them in the future. And once again you get to be the fly on the way as I work on a new song.

I also talk about Ryan Kairalla’s new book Break The Business, which is just fresh of the press and available on Amazon right now HERE. I got to read the book before it came out, and I must say it is one of the best music business books I have ever come across, and even more so it is relevant right now. If you are or try to become a professional musician, you owe it to yourself to read this book. I have not been paid to say any of this, I just believe in the book.

Back for more tomorrow 🙂

J.P.

The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE

We Travel On

Let me get a little bit geeky about songwriting and guitars for a second. The idea for the music for this weeks song We Travel On actually came from listening to a recording of a piano player, and wondering if similar approach could be done on guitar. These new D’Addario N6 Alloys definitely helped a lot. They have a quality to them that lets my guitar shine even on a low volume. I am actually extremely happy with the results.

The lyrics kind of took care of them selves. It once again is a very seasonal song. These winter times can be tough to cope… But also I have noticed my self detaching from the concept of staying put more and more. I would like to be able to travel even more in the future (I know, I travel a lot already…) and some day in the future even divide my time between places. And that desire is where the concept of “Travel On” comes from.

Also to me good relationship is almost like journey. We have ups and downs, but if you love each others, you look forward to seeing what is coming around every bend.

Go ahead and grab your copy of this weeks song We Travel On right now from my Bandcamp page HERE. And share the song with the world 🙂 Let me know what you think about the song, and also I would like to hear what kind of video you would imagine for this song? I’d love to make one for this one 😉

J.P.

The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE

On songwriting part 14 How to get better at songwriting

songwriting is a craftWhat I am about to tell you is the most important lesson for songwriters, but still so many of us refuse to believe it, or put it to practice. How do you get good at something? You simply do it over and over again. So how to get better at songwriting?

Books can only teach you so much. I never had a single lesson on songwriting. A friend of mine spent two years in a rock school, where he had weekly songwriting lessons. In the end he gave up music as in his own words he did not have good songs. So as you can see, songwriting is one of those crafts, where we can teach you the techniques, but at the end of the day, you need to learn yourself how to write the songs.

I actually been thinking about how songwriting is being taught in music schools. I would struggle to teach anybody songwriting for a semester… Sure I could do it, analyse the songs of a great song writes, come up with songwriting assignments and give an overview of the technical side. But what I could do really well is coach. I could do a good hour-long session where I could show how to break creativity block, and how to improve your story, write the song from the perspective of the listener and a lot more. But after that it would be up to you to go out there and write those songs.

Allocate time every day, even thirty minutes a day and write. Write if it rains or shines. Write if you are on the mood for it or not. Every day, week, month and year. Soon enough you will see a big improvement in your song writing.

There are no short cuts, or secret tricks. It all comes down to working on your craft, putting in the hours and in the process getting good at it. In my personal experience also sharing the process with people, does give you more perspective on the work. It also makes you more countable.

I’ve been writing songs since I was fifteen, but in the past two years I probably wrote more songs, than I did in the ten years before it. I did it because I committed to write, record and post a new song every week on my website. By publicly committing to this schedule, I made myself countable. I made my self share something every week, and if it was not “good enough,” I’d only had myself to blame.

This has been the best way to make sure I work as hard as possible on every song. And what does it come down to? You need to put the hours in. You want to be a better songwriter? Write more, write every day, and finish every song. Don’t make excuses, don’t give yourself a “way out.” Songwriting is not some mystical event, where the stars need to be aligned correctly for you to be able to “create.” Songwriting is a craft, that requires you to do the work.

J.P.

The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE

On songwriting part 13 Visualise your story

on songwriting 13Would you like to be able to tell more visual story in your song? Bob Dylan is a master at painting pictures with words. But also as we study his work inevitably we end up trying to replicate something similar, but only end up being half successful. The common mistake you as a songwriter commit, is to imagine the story in your head, but only half tell it on the paper. The song might make sense to you, but does it make sense to anybody else? Do they know the back story you imagined in your head, but left out of the song?

Also the problem is if we play the song to someone else to get a second opinion, the music might make up for what the lyrics are lacking. And this makes your friend’s opinion maybe not critical enough. So what should you do?

Well I have one solution for you to try. Write the lyrics down. Record your self speaking the lyrics, not singing. Then take a break, go for a walk, do some chores, just anything that will take you away from that songwriting mode. Even fifteen mins can be enough, as long as you try to think about something else than how great your new song is and how it is going to be a number one hit.

Then come back, put headphones on, close your eyes and listen to the recording of the lyrics. Can you visualise the story in your head? Do the words give you detailed enough information to paint the picture in your head?  If not, you need to rewrite parts of the lyrics. Add detail, be descriptive and choose your words wisely. You need the words work hard as you don’t want your song to be too “wordy” no one likes to listen to a novel in a form of a song.

Try this out and see how it works for you. Always try to think the song from the listeners perspective, will it make sense to them? And remember, the better story-teller you become, the better songwriter you become. Happy songwriting.

J.P.

The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE

The so-called plagiarism

Robert JohnsonI’m sure many of you heard the story that made the front page music news about Irish singer songwriter Hozier and the plagiarism claims. In fact it is so well documented, that I won’t even go in to the details here. Lets just say it is all sorted now.

But I do want to talk about the subject of the so-called “plagiarism” in music. The lines have blurred a lot since the days Vanilla Ice got accused of using the bass riff from David Bowie and Queen’s collaboration song. This was an obvious case, that these days would have been treated just as “using a sample.” Using samples has become part of the process of making music. But if you use a sample from someone else song, you do need to pay for it and clear it using the proper procedures. So what I am talking about here is not sampling, but genuine plagiarism in the songwriting process.

A lot of the claim in the Hozier case was base on a chord progression and time signature. Let me just point out that you cannot (nor should you be able to) copyright either. The same three chords have been recycled since the beginning of time. Think of blues for a second, or the early rock and roll. They were mostly based on strict structures of twelve, or sixteen bar blues. Everybody was happy and no one got sued. I don’t think any historian interested in the history of rock n’ roll would deny the influence Robert Johnson has had on the music we listen today.

I also hear a lot of my older fellow musicians talking about how there is no new music these days. And they very much like to point back to bands like the Led Zeppelin. Well, Led Zeppelin “borrowed” heavily from left, right and centre. If the stories are anything to go by, maybe the “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” made the lines in the songwriting sessions bit blurred. But then again I ask you, did they “borrow” or where they just heavily influenced by other artists, maybe even inspired? Either way, they revolutionised rock music.

There are several chord structures, for example (sorry for getting bit theoretical here…) if we take the first, fifth, minor sixth and the fourth chord of any scale, we can sing on top of those chords hundreds if not even thousands of songs. So I think we need to relax on the subject a bit. Plagiarism to me is someone copying a song on purpose, but if you write something similar, are you not being inspired by someone else’s work?

And you know what? That is how music has evolved over decades. We take something old and make something new out of it. Do you think your music is totally original? Do you think you have not been inspired by anything, or anyone? Did you live in a bubble for all of your life? Are you trying to tell me you have a control of your unconscious mind, where a lot of those ideas actually happen? We all are inspired by millions of things in our lifetime, and most of it without us even knowing about it.

Every time you hear about another plagiarism court case, guess who’s making the money? The system, the labels who usually are behind taking the case to the court and the law firms. And every time this happens, little bit of creativity gets destroyed as songwriters are scared their song sounds like some one else song…

I am not trying to tell you that you should not care about his at all, I have thrown away some of my songs as they sounded too similar to someone else songs, or even some of my own 😀 But I do believe we need to relax a little bit about who owns what. At the end of the day, it’s all music.

J.P.

The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE

On songwriting 12 Why do you write songs?

acoustic songwritingOne of the big benefits of taking time off, is the time to reflect. Time to take distance from everything you do and kind of look at it with a fresh eyes. When I set out to write 52 songs in 52 weeks, obviously I had concerns. I never wanted the songwriting to turn into a chore, where I need to write songs only for the sake of writing songs. I wanted the songs to come to me, I wanted to be the vessel between the songs and the world we live in. I know that sounds bit spiritual in a way, but I strongly believe I should never see the songs as something that I created. In away this approach keeps me much more grounded. I write these songs to tell stories, to me people think, not to raise my self up on a pedestal.

I think the reason behind your songwriting is very important. If you write songs to become famous, I doubt there will be much depth in them. But if you write for the people, you in away remove your self from it. This does not mean you should not write from your heart, or from your own experiences. This means you should stay true to the reason why you write music in the first place.

Music in my mind should not be an egotistic thing, it should be a means to communicate, to tell stories and connect with people. And you as a songwriter should feel privileged to be able to share your music with people. Without them you are nothing more than a lonely soul writing music to your self. To put it into other words, your music is just a hobby that never leaves your bedroom.

So I ask you, why do you write songs?

J.P.

The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE

Modern-day bard

bardI write songs all the time, that’s no secret anymore. Along the way I have been asked several times how can I write so much. Well, you see, as I mentioned so many times before, a lot of it has to do with turning up to write in the first place. But the more you write, the more you start to feel like a vessel. You feel like your job is to bring perspective into things you see in the world around you.

Yeah, writing about tragic events can be a dangerous game. It is so easy to slip into using clichés, and the results will not have the desired effect. You see as a songwriter you want to make people think. And if all the listener can do is cringe or laugh, we have failed, unless comedy is what we aim for of course.

But when you have mastered the basics, you hit the point where you see something that evokes a strong emotion, and not writing about it is not an option anymore. You feel it is your responsibility to do so. You are the modern-day bard that records the events and relates them to people even after we all have become numb to the images in the news.

This is why I think art in all of its forms is so important. When we are supposed to take an analytical look at any situation, the artist can introduce empathy or show as a different perspective. So why artist? Because by the nature we are wired just that little bit different. We have desire to express our emotions in a way that can be easier for the rest of the people to digest. In a way through the art we give you permission to feel and digest those feelings. We are the outlet for everyone else.

In the celtic mythology bards played an important part in the society. History was not allowed to be written down, as the writers interpretation could be miss understood. So the bards wrote songs and poems about the events, that were passed down generations. The celebrity status of a musician has been reasonably late introduction in history, before this being a musician was a profession, a well-respected profession.

And now, unless we fit the stereotypical concept of “fame”, we are considered somewhat of a dreamers. I’ve been told before to “get a job.” But even though there are people out there who do not see the value in what artists do, I will keep walking this unknown path in the new music industry. For every doubter there is a believer as well. There are many of you who see the value in the work of the modern-day bards.

J.P.

The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE

Start working and inspiration will come to you

inspirationWhat if I told you that you are in control of your own creativity? How often have you put aside your creative tasks just because you didn’t feel inspired? I hear this all the time, “I need to wait for the inspiration to come.” What other profession could you just wait around until you “feel like dong something” before you get the work done? If I have learned anything from the past year and eight months of writing and releasing song a week and writing 650 blog posts, it is the fact that if you really want to get something remarkable done, you need to turn up and do the work!

Now don’t get me wrong, I do have days when I stare at a clean page and wonder what on earth am I going to write about. And the temptation to walk away and come back to it is overwhelming. Staring at a white page not being able to write anything is like someone reminding you constantly that you are failing. And if you can’t break past that initial few lines, your self-doubt starts to play havoc on your mind, and the rabbit hole just gets deeper by the minute. In other words, it’s a surefire way to jump head first deep in to depression.

And those of you who look artists from the outside wondering how volatile and moody we can be, well the above is very much the reason behind it. Don’t ever underestimate how difficult it can be.

But I still believe that you are in charge of your own creativity. The trick is to trigger it. I know you need to, or want to write about specific subject, but sometimes you need to go off the rails to get started. So if you are stuck, try this:

Choose one of the subjects below and if you are a songwriter try to write something about it in a song format (rhythm and rhyme), if you are a blogger, or any other kind of writer try to write about it in as descriptive way as possible. Describe the surroundings, sounds, smells, feelings. It’s a simple trick, but I find it to be surprisingly powerful. Don’t worry if what you write does not stand up to your usually high critical standard. I am giving you a permission to write rubbish here! What we want to do is just break past that mental barrier we have created in our mind.

So write me about:

– What you had for breakfast.
– What happened when you went for a coffee on your own in your local coffee shop? (Beer in a    pub will do as well)
– Pick up an item in your surroundings, for example pen, TV remote, phone charger… It can be
anything. Imagine it becoming alive while you are away. Now write about it’s adventure
around your house.

As you can see I picked three everyday scenarios, with different levels of imagination required for every one of them. So just get writing, don’t overthink. Remember no one needs to see it anyway. It’s just an exercise for you to break through your creative block, and take control of your own creativity.

J.P.

The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE