“I know we live in an era of beats. But the public wants something they can sing along with. So write songs. He or she who writes the songs rules.”
– Bob Lefsetz
Songwriters rule. But there’s no one way. There’s no right or wrong or easy way. There are no songwriting rules for the rulers. But as I tell my songwriting workshops: there are conventions. So I think there are important basics that each student should expect to learn from their teachers.
One: Songwriting Instruction. Well, yeah! I mean, that’s why we’re here. The hardcore fundamentals of how songs are constructed can be taught—and that’s my primary focus. Week by week and step by step, we explore the classic structural elements of chorus, verse, bridge; the forms and sequences they may follow such as A/B/A/B/C or A/A/B, and many others; deconstructing the mysteries of memorable melody and seductive, storytelling lyrics, how the best songs often create a seamless marriage of both; the basics of words and music in songs: rhythm, rhyme, tempo, beat, register, chords, harmony, modulation, and more; and the two critical components of songwriting creativity and success: art and craft, drafting and revision. We unlock inspiration, discover the artistry in freely drafting original, compelling song ideas/titles/hooks/choruses; and learn the craft of revising—to mold, shape, and complete our songs so our first inspired ideas reach their full finished potential.
Two: Business Savvy. We call it the music business. It’s about the music and the business. In today’s DIY world, more than ever, we probably cannot succeed at one without the other, and an obsessive dedication to being expert at both. Write great songs, and then get them out for the world to hear. Play/sing/perform/gig—you’ll be heard. Master the programming of a DAW: making demos and commercially viable recordings of your songs is affordable and indispensible for the independent musician/songwriter today. I also teach the basics of the songwriting business with hands-on advice based on what I’ve learned from decades of being a full-time musician, with a few songwriting Emmy awards on the shelf, and years of teaching this: pitching and understanding the language of clients and briefs such as Broadjam opportunities, what artists cover and music supervisors license; the basics of copyright, PRO, writer/publisher splits, sync/master/200% pre-clearance; and how to conduct ourselves professionally in the music business workplace as the indie entrepreneurs we are and must be.
Three: Face Time. The interactive, group workshop creative experience is a special opportunity to learn—by performing or demo-ing our songs in progress. Members of the group provide the perspective of peer review that is really valuable for the songwriter. As the teacher and group leader, I manage that feedback to insure that it’s constructive, and use each demo as an opportunity to provide instructional commentary. It’s not surprising, and kind of cool, that what most students seem to want most of all is what I call ‘face time,’ their chance in the spotlight to share their work. I’m committed to providing that—along with a balance of the music and business instructional basics that we all need to learn.
Four: Support. My groups are designed to support the indie songwriter on the road to success—in a positive environment that is educational, empowering, career building, fun… and ultimately profitable. Songwriting is arguably the most fun you can have with your clothes on ☺ But, honestly, it can also be frustrating and hard sometimes. Focused practice and dedication are required to hone your craft over time and realize the dreams of doing great work and making money making your music. Writer’s block is common; I have specific strategies to deal with and overcome it. And whereas there are no rules for songwriting, I do have “rules of the road” for workshop conduct: one of them is, “Nobody gets to trash anybody’s song.” We always find something positive in someone else’s work that they can build on, before commenting on anything critically. In my groups, I want the risk of us songwriters wearing our hearts on our sleeves to be rewarded. When it is… and we succeed… we rule.
Andy “A.J.” Gundell is a 13-time Emmy award-winning songwriter, composer, music supervisor and producer, and currently the founder and CEO of next gen music library, Future Hits. A.J. has worked with ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN, MTV, NBA-TV, HBO, Netflix, Disney, Spirit Music Group, Opus 1, PolyGram, WB, Sony, Cherry Lane, Proctor & Gamble Productions, Discovery, A&E, Viacom and AT&T
Now, A.J. presents ”Songwriting 2.017: The Music and the Business with AJ Gundell” - a six-week interactive course! Click here to register, the first classes start Saturday April 8th!