NT’s Top Ten Songwriting Tips

  1. Do it everyday! Have a writing routine and make sure you stick to it. Lately I have got into the habit of writing something at the piano just before dinner – I find there’s something about being hungry that makes me really creative! Saying that, It doesn’t matter where you are. The great thing about songwriting is you don’t have to be at the piano – in fact a lot of my songs were written in the car whilst driving. But this discipline of writing everyday means in time you will have collected a huge volume of songs or song ideas. The best songs will start to make themselves known because you’ll want to keep singing them.
  2. Don’t forget your ideas! Make sure you keep a notebook with you at all times. This can be digital or paper or in my case both. When I started writing songs I’d record everything onto a cassette tape but now I use the Voice Memo recorder on my phone. There’s lots of great phone apps – I’ve used one called Music Memos which is very cool.
  3. Always be in songwriting mode! Observe the world around you and listen carefully to the things people say and how they say it. Also, your own thoughts, dreams and things you see and hear all around you are rich with potential song ideas, titles, rhythms or melodies.
  4. Set yourself a challenge! Be strict with yourself. Write a song in a given time frame. Give yourself a topic to write about. Write a song that has loads of chords in it. Write using 2 chords only. Write a complete song a day for a whole month. If you always write on guitar try writing on piano or another instrument. These challenges will create some interesting songs!
  5. Embrace technology! There are so many free music apps available. Try using the music you can create on these as a starting point for a song. It could be a drum pattern or a complete backing track. Try writing a song over the top. If you can afford it buy a drum machine or a synthesiser. See where the sounds take you.
  6. Have high standards! Even if you’re doing this for fun ask yourself – Is this lyric the best it can be? Is this melody memorable? Do I like this song? If not, don’t be afraid to rewrite.
  7. Experiment! Rules are made to be broken! When you’ve written a song why don’t you try moving the verses around, start with the chorus, make the bridge section longer, insert an instrumental section, try a key change, get rid of the introduction, add an extra bar at the end of the second verse, add a pre-chorus, try slowing down or speeding the song up, try singing it in a different key(higher or lower). Obviously you don’t have to do all of these things all at once in every song, but you can try it!
  8. Sing out loud! Try singing the melody out loud. Is it memorable? If you sing it to your friends or family can they sing it back to you easily after one listen? If not, work on it until it’s so catchy they can’t get it out of their heads! Is the melody of the verses different from the melody in the chorus? If not try starting the chorus on a different note – see what happens. Look at the shape of the melody in the verses and make sure the shape of the chorus is different enough to stand out and be memorable.
  9. Get rid of words you don’t need! Often you will have a lot of words you don’t need just getting in the way of the singing and melody i.e. just, so, that… Remove them and see what happens!
  10. Co-write! Writing songs with others is great fun and can be very productive. But don’t forget to listen to each other and respect them. Don’t go with a blank piece of paper. Take your ideas note book with you. That way you’ll always have something to work from. Recognise a good idea and don’t be upset if your ideas don’t get chosen. It doesn’t mean they’re bad ideas they just may not fit the song you’re working on right now. Be passionate and enthusiastic and write great songs because you love writing and not because you want to be famous or rich!
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Whoever You Are

Impossible not to be charmed and impressed by this latest Bully Beat song brought to us by the consistently brilliant young songwriters at Edward Francis Primary School, Rayleigh, Essex. The song deals with a serious issue confronting children and young people today. Whoever You Are is catchy, thoughtful, containing crystal clear messages. The sparkling performances captured in the video ensure the song’s appeal ranges far and wide. We’ve no doubt it will bring a smile to your face and get you tapping your feet, all for the right reasons!

Well done Edward Francis Primary School! You have graduated two cohorts of exceptional songwriters and clued up Bully Beat activists! This year’s Anti-Bullying Week is all about Making A Noise About Bullying – well you guys have been doing that for the last two years (and more) with the Songwriting Charity.

We offer thanks to the Essex Community Foundation and the Angus Lawson Memorial Trust Burns Night Pledge donors for supporting this important project, for playing their part in empowering children through the art and craft of songwriting and helping the world hear what they have to say.

My Experience with The Songwriting Charity

Thank you Jacqueline Kench for contributing this month’s guest blog about her experience with the Songwriting Charity.

“I’m a Primary School Music Teacher. There aren’t many of us around. I teach only music, in a large Primary School in Bracknell, Berkshire.

In recent months at school, children had been coming to me at lunchtimes having written their own songs. I am fortunate enough to have time each week with a small group of Gifted and Talented children, and had given them enough knowledge about chords for them to write their own songs. One song in particular stood out, and I met with the 9 year old girl who had composed it in a recording studio over the summer to get the track down. You can listen to it at https://soundcloud.com/jacqui-kench/summer-song . It was a fantastic experience for the girl, and gave me a real glimpse into how much children can achieve.

I’ve recently discovered the delights of Twitter. I say recently, actually this was my fifth attempt at ‘getting Twitter’. Anyhow I got Twitter, and found The Songwriting Charity. I was immediately interested, as I am a songwriter myself, and got in touch.

So it was through Tweets and phone calls that I managed to get The Songwriting Charity into my school. They managed to secure some funding (from a company sponsor called Itper), which meant there was no cost to us as a school.

I decided to use the group of Gifted and Talented children, as it is a 2-form entry school it wouldn’t have worked to just choose one class. This way, some children from Years 4-6 all got to participate. And they were rather excited about the prospect of missing normal lessons for the day!

So one Friday in September, Ben O’Sullivan and Kat Marsh came to Wooden Hill Primary. The theme of the songwriting workshop was bullying. The children worked in groups to brainstorm ideas and thoughts about bullying. Kat showed the children how to turn their ideas into lyrics and melodies. The main chorus was ‘Run away, from the violence, run away to get some silence’.

The groups practiced their part until it was time for Ben to record it. One boy can play the djembe (African drum) really well, and his beat was used as the main rhythm of the song. Ben added more drums and keyboard. I have an excellent beat boxer in Year 6, and we made sure his talents were able to shine in the song. Another child loves to rap, and had written a rap section in a matter of minutes! One child was reluctant to work in a group, so we worked with her at lunchtime to record her section, ensuring everyone took part. Ben said he got goosebumps when recording her part, and that is what it’s all about.

Once all the parts of the song had been recorded, Ben started to mix them together to create the perfect song. While he was doing this, Kat and I took the children outside to film some scenes for the music video. The children of course loved this bit!

We only had to wait a matter of hours for the song to be finished and put online onto Soundcloud. Within a few hours the number of people who had listened to it was reaching a hundred. I emailed all the staff and made sure they listened to it too! You can listen to it at https://soundcloud.com/the-songwriting-charity/wooden-hill-primary-runaway

Monday morning it was played in assembly to the whole school, and the children involved stood at the front and were awarded certificates. Only a few days later, the music video was uploaded to YouTube, and it was amazing to watch. I cried!

The video was shown in assembly, by which time most of the children had listened to it so often they sang along to most of it. It is very catchy, and the children as so proud of what they have achieved. It has raised the whole morale of the school.

Since that day, the YouTube video view count is well over a thousand. The children appeared in the local paper, and spoke on BBC Radio Berkshire. I have plans for the song to reach far and wide, as at the end of the day, its message is what’s important.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the Songwriting Charity, especially Ben and Kat. I know I will keep in touch with the charity and would love to help where I can. They do an amazing job and change children’s lives through music.”

Follow Jacqueline Kench on Twitter: @inspectorMuso

Follow us: @SWCharity

Coming with the Light of Kindness

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What is Something Kind?

Something Kind is our newest programme and has been designed in partnership with Gloucestershire Healthy Living & Learning and is generously match funded by The Summerfield Charitable Trust.

The idea behind this programme is to consider anti-bullying from a different angle. Children often tell us that bullying means people are saying unkind things or aren’t nice to one another. Through positive reinforcement and considering the impact that kindness and acts of kindness can have, we’re helping children (and schools) to look at addressing bullying behaviour in a different way. Our key aim is to highlight the mutual benefits of kindness, looking at and measuring how this consideration can boost a child’s confidence and self-esteem, while also facilitating a more caring and supportive environment.

Already 85% of participants think that they will do ‘kind things more often’ With a further 74% saying they think their workshop experience will make children in their class feel more confident about being kind to each other. A further 65% feel proud of their achievements during their workshop, in particular the words they had written that day. The important thing is for children to recognise the power and impact an act of kindness can have on their peers, school community and on them as initiators and receivers of acts of kindness.

Something Kind is the flip side of our Bully Beat coin. Once awareness is established through school based bullying prevention/anti-bullying work, it’s important to help children explore other creative measures to establish and maintain a happy and enriching learning environment. Something Kind workshops provide unique opportunities to experience and offer kindness through songwriting and self-expression.

We’re adding new videos to the Something Kind playlist on YouTube. Have a look at what we’ve done so far right here.

This is what people are saying about Something Kind

“We were having slight problems with a group of Y5 girls asserting their authority somewhat with other girls both in Y5 and Y4. These girls gained a lot form the workshop and it has made them think: the problems have not recurred this term. During and after the day, the pupils were full of the experience. Afterwards, some of the Y5 girls came and asked when it would be used and what for. They were proud that it would form the basis of this term’s assemblies and follow up focus. One of the other girls came quietly and told me that she had really enjoyed the whole experience and felt that she was more ‘in’ with some of the other girls as a result of it.” Jane Attwood, HEAD, Leighterton Primary School

“The box of kindness is made and up and running and looks great! In the end, we got the children to all do a small drawing or write a message and stuck them all over the box so that they had all contributed to it.  They started telling me about acts of kindness they’d witnessed straight away, so that’s great! What’s also been useful is that when we’ve had any minor friendship issues come up, we’re able to reflect back on the workshop and what was discussed and think about if the individuals involved have shown kindness and then use this to resolve problems.” Gemma Rouse, Class Teacher, Gotherington Primary

“Thank you so much for a super day on Friday.  The Year 5 pupils had a wonderful time.  It was a great experience for them and the song sounds great! Thank you also for your assembly which you led at the end of the day – the children loved it and learnt a lot at the same time.” Sally Green, Head, The John Moore Primary School, Tewkesbury

“The team were extremely professional and importantly able to impart knowledge to every child. The end result was one which was completely owned by the children. There are many hidden elements contained within the workshop which can be used as supporting evidence. I feel that this one project would support an Outstanding Ofsted judgement as it covers many of the aspects contained within the SMSC criteria and the criteria for Outstanding.” Ben Jordan, Head, Gotherington Primary

Stop Don’t Bully Me

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‘Stop Don’t Bully Me’ is an original Bully Beat anti-bullying song written by children at Tunstall Primary School, Sittingbourne, one of 30 primary schools in the Swale District of North Kent taking part in this project.

Bully Beat has been designed to enthuse primary aged children about the process of lyric writing, singing, music arranging and contemporary production whilst promoting a serious anti-bullying message. We’re using informal music education and literacy working to communicate a range of key messages. Every song is written by the children. We record, produce and publish the songs at the end of the process.

The Bully Beat in project in Swale is supported by our partners The Angus Lawson Memorial Trust and First Class Business Solutions. Without their support, we would not have been able to deliver such a large scale project. Interest in Bully Beat is extending right across Kent with schools in Medway showing a keenness to get involved.

We are currently working with up to 30 primary schools across the district in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015. More schools than we have funding for are wanting to get involved. If your school wants to join the Bully Beat project, get in touch with john@songwritingcharity.org

RUOK?

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RUOK?

‘R U OK?” is an original Bully Beat anti-bullying song written by children at Halfway Houses Primary School, one of 30 primary schools in the Swale District of North Kent taking part in our biggest ever Bully Beat roll out.

Bully Beat has been designed to enthuse primary aged children about the process of lyric writing, singing, music arranging and contemporary production whilst promoting a serious anti-bullying message. We’re using informal music education and literacy working to communicate a range of key messages. Every song is written by the children. We record, produce and publish the songs at the end of the process.

This Bully Beat project is funded by the Angus Lawson Memorial Trust and First Class Business Solutions. We are working with 30 primary settings across the district in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015.

‘I Don’t Like It’ by Great Wakering Primary School

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‘I Don’t Like It’ is a poignant anti-bullying pop song written by children at Great Wakering Primary School, Essex. We’d like to thank Ms. Jo Brown for her encouragement and support and say well done to all the children who took part in the workshops. The song is very moving and contains important anti-bullying messages and we’re so pleased to hear that the group taught their school the song! Great work and look forward to seeing everyone at Great Wakering again in 2014.

About Bully Beat in Essex
Our second Bully Beat project in Essex primary schools is supported by the Essex Music Education Hub, with generous music technology support granted by Korg Education. Bully Beat has been designed to enthuse primary aged children about the process of lyric writing, singing, music arranging and contemporary production whilst promoting a serious anti-bullying message. We’re using informal music education and literacy working to communicate a range of key messages. Every song is written by the children. We record, produce and publish the songs at the end of the process.