P J Harvey’s Guide to Songwriting

This video about songwriting was shot and produced by Polly Jean Harvey for the Jo Whiley show.

If you want to be good at anything, you have to work hard at it. It doesn’t just fall from the sky. I work every day at trying to improve my writing, and I really enjoy it. Nothing fascinates me more than putting words together, and seeing how a collection of words can produce quite a profound effect.

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Synth Music for Songwriters

There used to be a day in the 30 day song challenge for using computer music as an alternative composition tool. That day got replaced by something else, mainly because nobody seemed interested in trying any of the poor selection of online tools which we were able to provide links to at the time.

The next course doesn’t start until June 6th Bank Holiday Monday, but if it were running today we would have been able to use the Google Doodle which is a Moog Synthesizer.

A working Moog Synthesiser from Google Doodle

Moog Goog


The gadget is only there for one day though, celebrating Robert Moog’s 70th birthday, unless it remains archived somewhere in which case we might just resurrect that particular songwriting challenge. It even has a functioning reel to reel tape recorder gadget attached, so you can make recordings live on the doodle, then make a screenshot or audio recording of the tune once you are happy with it.

If you are reading this and it’s still May 23rd, hurry along to https://www.google.co.uk/ and exercise your inner Rick Wakeman

Update on the Moog Doodle after the day

OK, i’ve found out where they archive all the previous Google Doodle’s so now we can have a permanent link to the working Moog Synthesiser simulator with attached reel to reel tape recorder. Go ahead and compose!


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Repetition, repetition, repetition

There are so many different approaches to writing lyrics that it almost seems wrong to  try and pin down any process, and yet a discussion that includes a choice of methods seems to be appreciated. Some people will hit upon a technique or a set of circumstances that work once, and then stick to it to produce a range of songs and that’s fine. Others need to keep on experimenting, trying something new to keep the creative juices flowing. I suppose it depends how much or little tolerance or preference one has for repetition.


Repetition is a curious thing isn’t it? And that goes for the experience of listening to a piece of music as well. Some songs appeal on the first hearing, while others take a few listens before the appreciation kicks in. Why is it that? Familiarity helps to ease the way in, but originality is what we often crave, so how do you get the balance right, if indeed balance is the thing. Why not try imbalance for once and see how you get on with that?

Most but not all songs have a chorus or a refrain.

The chorus is the part which tries to appeal on the first hearing, and of course by being repeated, has more than one opportunity to do so. But that’s no use if by the second or third exposure to the entire song, you are starting to get sick of it already. Now then, I’ve made a big assumption here, have you spotted it? I said that the chorus is where the repetition kicks in but in fact that’s only the case with the lyrics. Typically a song which is structured around verses and choruses will repeat the same tune for each verse, and parts of the melody may well be repeated line by line within the verses, so there are degrees of repetition building up all the time, reaching a climax in the chorus which may repeat lyrics and melodic phrases more than once.

The skill of putting it all together is something that may be learned by induction, if you listen to a lot of music,  and also requires practice, but there are some common pitfalls which can avoided less painfully with a bit of shared knowledge. The main thing though, as with any undefinable task, is just to get started.

The Songwriters Circle 30 day online course is designed for beginners and improving songwriters and sets a series of small daily tasks which require some commitment, (and that’s a good thing) but can be completed in your own time. The process works well when there is a small group going through the tasks together online, day by day and there are a few places left on the next course starting on Monday June 4th 2012.  If you’d like to join us, the registration fee is very modest and the link for signing up can be found in the sidebar top right over there, or in the page at



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The Next Challenge – June 2012

The next Songwriters Circle month long challenge is due to start on Monday June 4th 2012, if you are interested in joining a small group, working on a series of daily challenges. It’s a course for beginners or experienced songwriters alike, something for everyone that you can work at in your own time. Best results come from putting in at least half an hour each day for the full 30 days.

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Songwriters Circle Month Long Challenge

March Songwriting Challenge

March Songwriting Challenge

Spring is a great time of year for new ventures. Maybe getting some more songs written was on your New Year list and just hasn’t happened?

Well, springtime is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings so why not let us help you to get that first new song of 2012 written?

Songwriters Circle is now booking for our April month long Songwriting Challenge course. Every day for the whole of the month we will send you a link to a lesson and a songwriting prompt to help you make this April your most prolific ever. The aim of the challenge is that by the end of the 30 days you will have one song you are really happy with and a whole toolkit to help you next time your songwriting needs a boost.
Click here now to buy the June 30 Day  Song Challenge 2012 for only £17
Let us help you take those first vital steps to getting your songs written.

The course is ideal for newcomers or old hands as you can work at your own pace and level. It doesn’t matter if you don’t write your own music or play an instrument you can still take part. We work on both lyric writing and ideas for music for your songs. If you aren’t able to write your own music there are thousands of traditional tunes that you can borrow and tweak to make them your own.

You will learn techniques to use when the words just won’t come, ways to kickstart your writing. We know that many people think songs just ‘come’ to them without doing any work but that is a very rare thing. Even when it does happen the song can usually be improved by giving it a little polish.

What about those of you who just feel really stuck? We have ideas and techniques to help you too. Here is just one example:when people who do any kind of writing get stale and stuck there is a really useful concept called ‘dare to be bad’. Come and join us and find out what it means and how it can help your songwriting.

We believe that showing up for 30 minutes every day for a month to concentrate on your songwriting sends powerful messages to your brain and to your inner ‘muse’. It shows that you are serious and that this is something you value.  This is also. in part, why we charge money for the course. From our experience you are far more likely to value and complete something if you have paid for it.

One of the best things about the course is sharing ideas and responses with other songwriters. All the lessons have a private shared space for you to respond, comment and to add your works in progress.  You will learn how to use free online services to share your work privately and easily with no set up costs.

Andy is there in the community on a regular basis, explaining things, making suggestions and giving feedback on your work, if you want it. Because we limit the number of people on the course there is no need to feel shy or uncomfortable in a big group.

Each week you get a PDF with the lesson, and everyone’s comments, that you can keep and refer to whenever you need to. This resource means that if you want to reuse any of the techniques we cover you will have it all at your fingertips. It is not quite the same as going through the challenge with a group though and people who have done the challenge more than once have found they got something different out of it each time. As you grow and change as a writer it means that you can access the material at a higher level so even experienced songwriters have found it useful.

Click here now to buy the June 30 Day  Song Challenge 2012 for only £17
Let us help you take those first vital steps to getting your songs written.

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