HC: When I look at a poem I always know immediately if I can set something as a song. Songwriters vary a lot so one friend of mine can set poems that I would never touch! Songwriting can be a way of illuminating a poem and bringing it to a wider audience.
What is the biggest challenge you, or your students, have come up against in songwriting?
HC: Repetition. While it is wonderful that each composer has their own style it is equally important to develop the ability to vary and keep exploring new territory.
What are your top three tips for someone with writing experience wanting to start a songwriting career?
HC: 1. Welcome all ideas and edit later. The worst thing you can do as a songwriter is to be too critical of yourself initially. Nothing gets made that way. I always ask course participants to focus on what they like in each other’s songs. This leads to more confidence in one’s own creativity and in the power of the group. Fine-tuning comes later.
2. Improvise a tune from your text holding a device like a smart phone to record your improvisation.
3. Work fast. That way you can get on with it and bypass the critical mind.
Helen Chadwick is a tutor on the Songwriting course taking place at Totleigh Barton in June.
This course will feature daily group sessions to explore melody, harmony, accompaniment, rhythm and lyrics. You will try creating songs in different genres, and there will be plenty of time for solo and small group work and some individual coaching, including performance where desired. Bring texts for songs that inspire you or which you have written/half-written as well as something to record and play back your musical ideas (for example a smartphone and/or MP3 player). The course is aimed at those with some experience of songwriting or for experienced writers who want to expand their range. Please send examples of two songs you have composed as MP3 files to firstname.lastname@example.org.
More info and bookings – http://www.arvon.org/course/songwriting/