For the past several months, I have had a survey up on my main songwriting tips page with some basic questions on your experience, preferences, goals and others. The survey brought some surprising results, at least to me! What I want to do here is go through the questions and responses and evaluate them! The company that provided the poll changed around and as a result, the poll is no longer valid. However, I’ll be creating new polls in future so stay tuned! As for the results I received from the last one, here are the results:
The length of time most of you have been writing surprised me a little. I usually hear from people who have only been writing for a short period of time…but according to the survey, MOST of you (36%) have been writing longer than 10 years, followed by 2-5 years (32%), less than one year (19%) and 5-10 years (13%). What is interesting to me is that although I started 32 years ago, I realize that it is only the last 10 years that counts to me. Why? Because I don’t think I really studied the craft until then. Before that, I could have cared less to do any rewriting or to step outside of myself and think about what an audience response to my song would be. So I’ve come to the conclusion that the length of time we’ve been writing is probably not all that relevant! Have we spent that amount of time REALLY studying songwriting? I have read some great lyrics by people who have only been writing for a short while…and some equally weak lyrics from some who’ve been at it for some time!
Most of you who responded write both lyrics and music (67%), more write just lyrics (25%) than just music (8%). This was a newer question on the survey and therefore has fewer responses than some of the others, but seems to confirm my suspicion that MOST songwriters aim to do both.
The majority of you are what I call “sporadic” writers (42%)…I include myself in that category. I can go a long time without writing, and then suddenly spew out a long list of songs. This is why I don’t believe in “writers’ block”, at least for me! Because there’s a time that I’m in the songwriting “mode” and a time I’m not…sometimes I have nothing to express! 25% of you write daily! I wonder if you have written daily for all of your songwriting life? My guess is that there are probably some who responded this way because you THINK you should write daily 🙂 25% write weekly. This seems fairly reasonable. 8% of you write monthly.
The next question is one I took particular interest in…”What do you feel is your biggest weakness in your songwriting?” My guess would have been lyrics, since the majority of songwriters I hear from seem to find difficulty in coming up with fresh and original lyrics. But most of you (24%) responded that “structure” was your biggest weakness! I’m wondering if this is because the definition of structure isn’t all that clear? What I call ‘structure’ is also defined in songwriting terms as ‘form’. This is the ABABCB (or any combination of those) that you always hear about, where A=verse, B=chorus and C=bridge. There does seem to be some confusion by newer writers about what a “bridge” is, or a “pre-chorus”, and where they belong. But considering that most of you have been writing for more than 10 years, the confusion about structure does come as a surprise! 19% find melodies the biggest challenge and the same number say that “conveying a message” is their biggest weakness. I DID say to pick more than one if necessary, so the demo may be a little skewed by that. Another big surprise…only 1% of you said that uniqueness is your biggest weakness…now that’s a shock! For the most part, many of the songs I listen to or lyrics I read from newer writers really lack the uniqueness quality! Nobody thought rhyming was their biggest problem…this is also very interesting. Is that because it’s easy to rhyme words, or because you practise rhyming more than anything else? 🙂 14% thought your lyrics were your biggest weakness, and 10% music.
None of you have successfully found a songwriting collaborator on the internet. Whether that’s because you aren’t looking for one, or just haven’t had any luck, is another question. Considering that the internet has become a great tool for interacting with other songwriters, this also comes as a surprise to me!
The majority of you are interested in seeing more articles on lyrics (27%) or just more of anything (27%). Articles on performing (14%) and music (16%) and the business (16%) are pretty even. I do take this question pretty seriously…but it is curious to me in comparison to the question above about your biggest weakness, where only 14% of you thought it was your lyrics. I also like the fact that a good number of you will leave the choice of article topics up to me 🙂
In terms of songwriting goals, I’m also very fascinated to know that most of you (41%) are interested in becoming a performing songwriter! Practically speaking, it IS an easier way (if you can say that!) to get your songs heard by others. The trend in major music centers like Nashville these days is for a songwriter to be self-contained. In other words, less and less signed artists look outside for material and more write their own. 36% of you are in search of a publishing deal, 14% write purely for fun, and 9% haven’t quite made up their minds what they’d like to do yet.
The majority of you (86%) have never attended a songwriting workshop put on by a songwriting organization! I enthusiastically encourage you to do so! Not only is it a great learning experience, but you will finally meet more of your own “kind” 🙂 A lot of success in the music business, for instance, is based upon who you know. You’ve heard that one before, haven’t you? But who’s going to know you if you don’t get out there and introduce yourself? That’s the biggest side benefit from attending workshops, aside from honing your songwriting skills. Okay, enough preaching 🙂
And last, but certainly not least…favourite songwriting tools! I told you you could pick more than one, of course. Looks like the good ol’ “pencil and paper” method of writing is still valid one (36%), followed by the guitar (24%), micro cassette recorder (11%), keyboard (9%), newspapers/books/magazines (7%), the Internet (7%) and a rhyming dictionary (4%). I didn’t include a thesaurus, which I use all the time, don’t know why I forgot that.
As I said earlier, the poll no longer works, but I will be creating more in future, so stay tuned 🙂