The Songwriting Challenge

The Songwriting Challenge

Songwriting, whether for work or just for fun, is one of my favorite things to do. But I won’t lie: it can be a challenge. Finding the time, motivation, and creative energy required to write a good song doesn’t always come easily.

Luckily, I have an advantage in that I’ve been at it for many years now. I always tell people that the more you write, the easier it gets — isn’t that true of just about everything in life?  I also create a new early childhood class curriculum every few weeks and work with music therapy clients for whom I write original music.

After hearing from countless music therapists who tell me they want to become better songwriters, I came up with the idea for a songwriting challenge. It’s open to anyone (not just music therapists), and the goal is to inspire participants to exercise their songwriting muscles.

You can read all the details here, or just go ahead and sign up below. The first songwriting prompt will be delivered to your email inbox on Wednesday, April 22!

Writing It Down & Crossing It Off

Writing It Down

This month has been insane. Between changing my business structure, moving my office/studio to a new location, seeing a full load of student, starting new sessions of two different early childhood classes, and creating an online CMTE course, I’m lucky I’m still sane enough to type this blog post.

A few weeks ago, in an attempt to organize all the chaos, I entered everything into iCal. Then I used the Reminders app to make lists for each different area of my work and life that needed attention. I could access both my calendar and lists from my iPhone, iPad, and laptop, so I thought everything would be under control.

But I was wrong. Things were still slipping through the cracks, and whenever I found a free block of time to get something done, I would be overwhelmed and have no idea where to start. So one night I went old school and wrote out a list of things I had to do the next day.

Thanks to the list sitting on my desk the next morning, I knew exactly where to start and how to budget my time. I didn’t waste precious minutes with things that didn’t need to be done right away; instead, I went right down the list, crossing things off as I finished them.

You really don’t get the same satisfaction from check-marking an item on your iPhone as you do drawing a line through something with a sharpie, do you? It’s amazing how focused and motivated I am when I sit down to work each day, because I know that my goal is to have crossed off every single item before I go to bed that night.

I use these small notepads (of which I have several, thanks to giveaways at AMTA conferences!) so that I can’t fill it up with too many to-dos; keeping the list relatively short allows me to concentrate on the MOST important items. And if for some reason something doesn’t get done that day, I write it down on the next day’s list. This doesn’t happen often, though, because nothing irks me more than throwing away a list with items left uncrossed!

Thanks to these daily lists, I’m just about finished with content creation for that online CMTE course I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Early Childhood Programs: Create, Market, Make Music! is just a couple weeks away (or less, if I really get things in gear) from launching — I can’t wait to share it with you :)

Rewriting Rodgers & Hammerstein

My Favorite Things Songwriting Activity

My local community theater held auditions for The Sound of Music this month, and I had several students try out. That meant lots and lots of “Do-Re-Mi” and “My Favorite Things” — though I didn’t mind at all, since it’s one of my favorite musicals. (A bit of trivia: I played Louisa von Trapp at that same community theater 15 years ago).

Needless to say, I’ve had these songs on the brain, and they spilled over from my lessons into music therapy session planning. I incorporated the children’s book version of “My Favorite Things” into one of my student’s sessions, which then led into a songwriting activity.

I asked my student to name her “favorites” in several different categories, which was a great way to target skills like answering questions, expressive language, and conversational skills. Then I took her responses and wrote a special version of the song just for her. I can’t wait to share it with my student at her session tomorrow!

Today at Listen & Learn Plus, I’m sharing a simple template for recording your students’ favorite things, as well as the finished version of the song I wrote (including the easy chords I use to play it) along with the mp3 and instrumental track.

Reclaiming My Songwriting Mojo

Reclaiming My Songwriting Mojo

Over winter break, I had the opportunity to spend almost an entire Saturday writing and recording music. It was AWESOME. It reminded me of my life before baby, when my weekends were almost exclusively dedicated to musical projects. And while life is a million times better with this guy in it, I do miss having songwriting as a creative outlet on a regular basis.

We jetted off to Florida a few days after that, and spending some time on the beach soaking up the sun was just what I needed to recharge my batteries and clear my head. I thought a lot about my work and priorities while I was there, and came to the realization that my lack of creative output is what has me feeling unaccomplished these last few months.

I returned home to a FROZEN TUNDRA and also an email from a high school friend who had ordered a custom CD from me. She and her husband are expecting a baby girl in a few months, and she chose songs that she could play and sing to her. My friend had so many nice things to say about my music and how she was looking forward to sharing it with her little bundle, and that only intensified my desire to reclaim my “songwriting mojo” for lack of a better term.

Now that my baby is getting a little older, he spends more time playing independently (with close supervision, of course) while I jot down lyrics and record rough takes on my iPhone. It doesn’t hurt that Parker loves my guitar, so practicing new songs also doubles as entertainment for him :)

This is not a New Year’s resolution post, but rather a reminder to myself to choose songwriting over laundry, dishes and dusting when I have the chance. I’m usually so energized after finishing a new tune that I’m ready to tackle all those mundane chores — that songwriting mojo is quite powerful!

Are you looking to reclaim or discover your own songwriting mojo? A good place to start is my CMTE course, The DIY Guide to Writing, Recording & Sharing Your Music. Listening to my friends’ and colleagues’ creations serves as additional inspiration and motivation to keep cultivating my passion.

Friday Fave: RhymeZone

Friday Fave - RhymeZone

Today I want to share one of my most frequently used web-based resources of all time: RhymeZone. I discovered this website shortly after I started writing my own music therapy songs, and still use it every single time I write a new song.

There are probably plenty of rhyming tools out there, but I like this one for its simplicity. All you do is type a word into the box and hit the “search” button — then all of the rhyming words pop up, organized by number of syllables. Not only can you search for perfect rhymes, but other searches available are near rhymes, synonyms, antonyms, homophones, and more.

I just discovered that RhymeZone now has an app available for $2.99, which might come in handy for songwriting on the go. But since I write all of my songs on my Macbook, I’ll stick with the web version. When I write a song, I keep RhymeZone open in my browser from start to finish and probably use it at least 20 times before the lyrics are finished.

Have you used this site, or do you have another favorite rhyming tool? I’m always looking for new songwriting resources…so if you have ’em, send ’em my way!

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