Rewriting your songs?
The A&R guy says “Fix this part”.
The Producer says “What if…”.
Even worse, your significant other says “It’s about me, isn’t it”?
Alter the whole and utter zen of my song? Really?
We’ve all read about the songs that “almost write themselves” in ten or fifteen minutes … a hit. It happens, sure … rarely.
Rewriting your song is an important step in the songwriting process.
Whether in seeing the project through to a satisfactory completion, or scrapping it and finally moving on to another idea.
Rewrites can occur at any point in the writing process, and for any reason. Your song, written with a female vocalist in mind, might need to morph into a male vocal driven lyric line. You might feel the need (or be advised) to target a younger or perhaps, older audience. You may just have the title in mind and if you tossed it around for a few days, it might become even more magical.
Writing successful songs is 10% writing and 90% rewriting.
One of the differences between a pro and amateur songwriter is that the pro recognizes that she will no doubt use the rewriting process to improve the song as it develops. On the other hand, the amateur has bought into the idea that everything he creates in his original, inspired state is golden and shouldn’t be messed with.
The latter is the songwriters worst enemy.
Most writers go through this stage of development with difficulty. The first time a budding songwriter is met with a rejection or a rewrite suggestion by a producer or a publisher, he rebels, thinking, “What? Paint over my Mona Lisa”?
Take the suggestions, rewrite, and you will almost always be happy with the result. Once you have gone through this ‘growth period’ the new perspective will make you more open to change, especially if it means a song gets published or recorded. This doesn’t mean that all criticism you receive is worthy just because it comes from an ‘expert’, just learn to keep an open mind even if you decide to leave the song unchanged.
Especially if you’re in the early stages of your songwriter development, I encourage to seek criticism. Use Broadjam or OurStage for free general peer group feedback. Try SongU.com for peer group and individualized coaching. Enlist song critique services like TAXI or BarbaraCloyd.com (two I have used and loved) for a more refined, specific critique. There are many out there. Find one or two you like and stick with it. It is money well spent. Remember, it’s important to follow through. If someone you trust encourages rewriting your songs, give it a try. If their advise rings in your end, wrap your arms around it and bring your song to the next level.
Sometimes it’s valuable to imagine yourself as your toughest critic hearing your song and picking it apart. This often brings flaws to light that you might not have noticed before.
Jason Blume writes in an article for TAXI:
“I once read an interview with legendary songwriter Leonard Cohen, in which he said that when he writes a lyric, he might spend the day filling an entire notebook and if one line actually makes it into the song, he’s had a good day. At first that seemed incredible to me, but then I realized that most songs don’t have more than eight lines in each of the two verses (sixteen lines); a maximum of eight other lines in the chorus, and at the most, another four lines of lyric in the bridge. That’s a total of 28 lines (and many songs might have less). Taking 28 days to write a song with each line being an extraordinary line could produce twelve incredible songs per year. It’s easier to get one great song published and recorded than a hundred pretty good ones”.
Go through some of your catalog. I’ll bet you’ll discover at least one or two lines that can be strengthened. Perhaps your musical skills have improved since you wrote those old chestnuts and if you move around a few chords, viola! You might find a song that screaming for a bridge or a pre-chorus. Plug it in.
Make rewriting your songs an integral part of your process.
Write, write and rewrite,