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How to Write a Wicked Composition and Rock Your Performance

by Jess Willard

Tips and Tricks for Basic Songwriting

When the announcement for Open Mic Night came out, I was excited to perform another rendition of musician Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell.” Then, I actually read the flyer and saw the bold letters called for original work only. Whether you write slam poetry or comedic skits, producing your own work involves time and creativity. But writing your own song is another story entirely- especially if you’re looking to accompany the music with lyrics. Here are some suggestions from myself and sophomore psychology major Robert Wingerter to get you headed in the right direction.

  1. Make sure you have allotted enough time to put your song together. This depends entirely on your skillset. For those who are well-versed in their instrument of choice, it will take a shorter amount of time. Wingerter plays the guitar and sings. He said, “I usually write my songs in about 30 minutes to an hour. I just need the inspiration first, I can’t just call on it whenever I want.”
  2. After you have determined that you can complete your song by the performance date, you need to delve into the creative process. Like Wingerter, you may need inspiration to write music. People vary in terms what inspires them. A couple of places to start may be looking back through old memories, going to a quiet place or considering what you feel strongly about. The goal of writing is to make your audience react to your song. Wingerter’s writing process is different depending on whether he writes riffs or lyrics. “I’ll usually just doodle around on the guitar for instrumental songs and set up a chord progression with my looper pedal (a tool that records short passages played on an instrument and plays them back in a repeating loop),” he said. “When I write a lyrical song I’ll either have some lyrics ready or a melody I’d like to put lyrics to and try my best to finish it.”
  3. Writing is not an easy process but once it’s completed, you need to practice until you feel comfortable performing. This can be the most difficult part about being a musician. Junior chemistry major Zach Zurawski and I figured this out almost immediately. Even though we wrote the song in a day, we practiced for four days during the week of Open Mic Night. I ended up rewriting the lyrics multiple times to make the song run smoother. Wingerter also agreed that this was one of the most difficult parts of preparing. For the song “River” he performed with junior music major Emerald Martin, they “rehearsed on two or three occasions for about 10 to 20 minutes.”
  4. Once your song is written and you have practiced until you feel ready, make some time to relax before you hit the stage. The worst thing you can do is worry before you perform. Things won’t always go according to plan but as long as you show the audience that you are having a good time, the show will be a success.

N.B. The author of this article is the lead vocalist for The Eternity Slip and performed in Open Mic Night.

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