Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers author of The Complete Singer-Songwriter, is hosting a Live online workshop today! Just pay what you want and login to start watching. You can also receive the Almost There album download for just 10 dollars! The live online show starts today at 8pm, you don’t want to miss it!
The Complete Singer-Songwriter is the ultimate guide for the modern performer, chock-full of tips, tools, and inspiration for both aspiring troubadours and those looking to take their craft and career to the next level. Author Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers draws on firsthand interviews with songwriting legends and rising stars; expert advice from managers, agents, lawyers, and publishers; and his own experiences as a performing songwriter. He offers this invaluable companion for singer-songwriters on their journey from idea to song to the stage, studio, and beyond.
Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, author of The Complete Singer-Songwriter, offers some tips on how to keep your ideas flowing. Courtesy of SonicBids Blog we have a inside look at some of these tips. Read below for more!
Every songwriter needs a nudge sometimes to keep writing. There’s no better way to learn and grow creatively than by simply finishing songs, but that can be easier said than done. What do you do when inspiration is not sweeping you off your feet, and the song ideas that you come up with seem dull and hackneyed?
One approach used by many songwriting groups is to play different kinds of creative games that involve writing a song according to specific parameters and setting a deadline. Yes, this is a form of songwriting homework, but the process of writing to spec like this can be playful and fun. It’s a relief sometimes to be given direction rather than always having to find your own way, and it will lead you to very different songs than you would typically write. Here are a few types of games that can help keep the ideas and songs coming.
The simplest songwriting game is to start with a word or phrase and write a song that incorporates it – the word or phrase doesn’t have to be the title or even a central element; it just needs to appear somewhere in the lyrics. This is the game notably played by Jason Mraz and the email songwriting group led by Austin musician Bob Schneider. As Mraz told me, his hit duet “Lucky” with Colbie Caillat, for instance, started from the phrase “me talking to you” (the opening lines are “Can you hear me? I’m talking to you”). Everyone in the group takes a turn giving the prompt – which might be as simple as brown or as odd as the nonsense word gumanema.
It’s possible to play this game solo and choose words for yourself, maybe by randomly picking words from a book or introducing another element of chance, but it’s more interesting to do with a partner or group – input from others forces you out of your usual patterns of thinking.
Once I was booked for a songwriter showcase and given the task of writing/performing a song with the phrase “the shortest straw.” At first I was flummoxed – I couldn’t imagine what to do with those words. But before I even had a chance to think more about it, I found myself imagining a character who feels perennially shortchanged in life, and ad-libbing lyrics over an E minor groove. Even though “the shortest straw” is just a minor detail in the resulting song (titled “Prayer”), this assignment gave me the impetus and the deadline to finish what turned out to be a keeper.
When playing this game, I recommend using words for physical/tangible things, and it’s a bonus if they have multiple uses or meanings. For instance, in my songwriting group we’ve used key and ticket (resulting, for me, in the songs “I’ve Got It Here Somewhere” and “Closer”).
You can also use words that define a theme or concept but don’t have to appear in the song itself – the game could be to write about envy, winter, or working in a cubicle. Avoid cliché themes (the road, breakups, Saturday night), and pick something that points the lyrics in an unexpected direction.
2. Storytelling style
Another area to explore in songwriting games is the way the story is told. There are so many possibilities beyond the usual contemporary style of describing your own experiences in first person. Here are a few prompts you might use in a songwriting game:
- Write entirely in second person – not singing to you (as in “I want you”) but placing you at the center of the action, as in the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (“Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly…”).
- Write in third person (he/she), even if the story is autobiographical. Writing about your own experience in third person may help you feel free to tweak the details, like a fiction writer, in order to make a better story.
- Write in first person but make the story specifically and obviously not about you. Tell the story of someone from a different era, or living in a different kind of place, or older/younger than you are. Writing from the perspective of someone of the opposite sex is tricky but worth trying.
- Write in the voice of an unlikeable, unreliable, or otherwise flawed character. Two masters of this are Richard Thompson and Elvis Costello, who have brought us inside the heads of some downright scary narrators. Remember that it’s essential to empathize somehow with your character, however awful he or she may be, so that the listener can connect emotionally with the story.
Read the rest of the tips here!
Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, author of The Complete Singer-Songwriter, had a Q&A with the online blog, Songwriting Scene. Songwriting Scene is a blog for songwriters about songwriting, and that is one of the many things they spoke about in this Q&A. Read an excerpt of the interview after the cut and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
Looking to take your craft and career as a performing singer-songwriter to the next level? Sometimes the right book can help you do just that.
I recently had a chat with my friend Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, whose critically-acclaimed book The Complete Singer-Songwriter: A Troubadour’s Guide to Writing, Recording, Performing and Business just came out in paperback. This updated and expanded second edition features songwriting tips and techniques from more than 100 artists, including Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, Paul Simon, Rosanne Cash, Jewel, Jeff Tweedy, Ani DiFranco, James Taylor, John Fogerty, Brandi Carlile, Richard Thompson, Jason Mraz, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Garcia, Dar Williams, and more.
Rodgers is the real deal: He is a grand prize winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, a contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered, and founding editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
Here are some highlights from our talk:
Q: What made you want to write The Complete Singer-Songwriter years ago? Why bring it now to paperback — how has the world of the performing singer-songwriter changed?
A: I wrote the book originally because I felt like I had something unique to offer. As a lifelong songwriter and founding editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine, I had the privilege of talking in depth with so many brilliant songwriters about their creative lives—people like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Pete Seeger, Jerry Garcia, Ani DiFranco, and on and on and on. There were always “aha!” moments in the interviews, where the artists shared a piece of hard-won advice or an anecdote that cut right to the heart of things. I realized if I combined nuggets from these conversations with my other reporting on the songwriting scene, I’d have something really valuable and enduring that would be altogether different from all the books out there that purport to teach you the “secret formulas” of hit songwriting.
The first edition came out in 2003. Since then I’ve done so many more incredible interviews—John Fogerty, Elvis Costello, Dar Williams, Richard Thompson, Brandi Carlile, Jeff Tweedy… I also wanted to add to the book new lessons on chord progressions, rhyme, songwriting games, and more, and advice on emerging business topics like online performing, house concert networks, digital royalties, and fan funding. So all these things went into the second edition. It is a labor of love.
Read the rest of the interview HERE
Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, author of The Complete Singer-Songwriter, taught Boston Globe reporter David Filipov how to play some Grateful Dead songs on the acoustic guitar, like the Grateful Dead would. David was rather stressed-out trying to play these songs, but Jeffrey says a key component is to try to stay relaxed. Read the article below to learn more and click on the link below to watch David’s guitar lesson take place!
Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers teaches acoustic guitarists how to play Grateful Dead songs — which, he acknowledges, is a contradiction in terms.
The Dead never played their songs exactly as they sounded on their studio albums, instead reinterpreting them in pretty much every performance. And since improvisation was the foundation of their shows, each live rendition was unique.
So “learning” a Grateful Dead song is quite a different proposition from learning to play, say, “Yesterday” by the Beatles or “Wonderwall” by Oasis.
“Normally when people want to learn a band’s songs, they want to learn it like it is on the record,” said Rodgers, who will hold a workshop at the Passim School of Music in Cambridge on April 2. “That doesn’t really apply with the Dead.”
During a recent interview at the school, Rodgers demonstrated his approach: He teaches the basic chords of the song, adds in leads, inversions, and other embellishments that capture the feel, and encourages his students — who range from low intermediate to experts — to do the same.
Click here to watch David’s guitar lesson!