Have you seen the NY Times video on Taylor Swift, where she shows us exactly how she composed her song "Lover?" If you haven't seen it yet, here it is:
Here are 5 Songwriting Lessons we can learn from her:
1. The song doesn’t have to be complete when you begin.
This is where a lot of would-be songwriters get stuck. They get a little idea for a song but then give up because they can’t envision the entire song. Taylor Swift knows that this is still an early stage in the development of a song, and it’s important to record the initial wisp of melody or lyric so it can be developed into a complete song.
2. Know the difference between “Inspiration” and “Craft.”
Inspiration is the initial idea, however slight it may seem to you at the time (see #1 above.) After that, it’s about using craftsmanship to flesh out the rest of the song (with the possibility of inspiration happening at any time!) Swift speaks about this directly at .42 in the video.
3. You can begin with a general type of song you want to compose.
In Swift’s case, she says that for years she had wanted to write a song that “people in love would want to dance to.” The Beatles did this too, on their famous White Album. They decided to write a lullaby which became the tender “Goodnight.” A new birthday song became “Birthday.” Having an intention like this can stimulate our creative impulses.
4. Be able to play an instrument.
This sounds so obvious, but I’m always amazed when I hear how so many music producers these days can’t play an instrument. They know how much this limits their ability to recreate the sounds they hear in their heads, but they won’t take the time to learn about basic chord progressions and music theory. Ignorance may be bliss in some cases, but not when it comes to music!
Swift, however, knows how to use her musical ability to her composing benefit: watch her play the chordal “walkdown” on piano at 3:43.
5. Have patience.
Taylor Swift didn’t decide to write a dance song for lovers and then give up when it didn’t happen the next day. She waited for a long time until the idea took shape in her musical imagination.
In summary, we can learn a lot from a talented and accomplished songwriter like Taylor Swift. I tell my piano students that since they’re smart, talented, and love music, it’s just a question of applying themselves to their music, whether it’s playing the piano or composing. In this regard, Taylor Swift is an inspiration and excellent role model for us!
Enjoy the journey and “let the music flow!
PS - If you’re an aspiring songwriter, you may enjoy using my Songwriter’s Template That Really Works. Click HERE and good luck with your songwriting!