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!

Kindness holds key as children sing out anti-bullying message


Encouraging children to be kind and help each other will be the focus for anti-bullying week in Gloucestershire.

Gloucestershire Healthy Living and Learning (GHLL) has joined up with the Songwriting Charity to run 18 workshops in schools throughout the county in November. More than 500 children from 17 primary schools and one secondary school will be involved in producing their own songs and videos.

The aim of the workshops is to encourage young people to be kind to each other, promote positive behaviour and to raise confidence levels. The main activity will be focused around anti-bullying week, which runs from November 18th to 22nd.

Young people in school are being supported to write, rehearse and record an original song and video which will be uploaded to the Songwriting Charity website on the same day. It is free for the children to download and schools can use the songs for presentations and assemblies or for use in their communities.

The schools will also be encouraged to use ‘Bottles of Kindness’ to help young people record their acts of kindness and see the impact of the choices they make. Lessons plans will be provided to support this.

The first workshop ran at Gotherington Primary School on November 12th and this is the song that the Year Four pupils produced: https://soundcloud.com/the-songwriting-charity/sets/something-kind The video is at http://youtu.be/qopL9K-0fQY

The other primary schools taking part in November are St Mary’s Roman Catholic Primary, Tibberton, Gretton, The John Moore, Picklenash, Queen Margaret Primary in Tewkesbury, Staunton and Corse and Highnam. The secondary school taking part is Newent Community School. Other schools will be booked in for December.

The focus is on schools in the most rural parts of Gloucestershire, ensuring those with least access to the arts are given new opportunities to participate.

Cllr Dorcas Binns, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities, said: “We know from the Online Pupil Survey that an increasing number of young people feel confident in how their school deals with bullying but it’s vital that we keep up the good work.

“We are always looking for new ways to help our schools to tackle bullying and encourage positive behaviour. Workshops like these can be really effective in giving young people the confidence to look out for one another and to raise awareness of where they can turn if they need support.”

The Songwriting Charity offers one-day workshops and performance programmes that provide children with opportunities to sing, write lyrics, perform and record their ideas individually and as a team – evaluating their progress and supporting them to help their friends.

Ben O’Sullivan, Director of Programmes at the Songwriting Charity, said: “This year’s programme will encourage acts of kindness through songwriting, giving kindness the reputation it deserves, as well as leaving the legacy of an original song for all the schools that take part.

“In a safe and supportive environment, we can inspire young people to work together to keep each other safe, to promote positive behaviours and build self-confidence.”

You can find out more about the songwriting charity and see and hear last year’s anti-bullying songs from Gloucestershire schools at www.songwritingcharity.org

The ‘Something Kind’ programme is being supported by The Summerfield Charitable Trust and GHLL. A detailed evaluation of the workshops is also being carried out as part of the programme and the school will be able to use this and evidence from the workshop as part of their application for the GHLL award *

Gloucestershire Healthy Living and Learning (GHLL) is funded by Gloucestershire County Council Public Health. It provides targeted support to schools to tackle areas they want to focus on improving. This could range from helping ensure more of their pupils eat breakfast to increasing opportunities to be active or improving support to pupils affected by bullying.

When schools apply to become a GHLL Healthy School, their form will be pre-filled with what their pupils have told us in the Online Pupil Survey. As well as saving them time filling in forms, this will mean that pupils’ views are listened to and acted upon.

Schools will need to identify two key areas for improvement – one of which needs to focus on a vulnerable group of pupils. Targeted intervention and support to tackle these priorities will then be provided free to schools by a group of leading teachers. Additional expertise could also be provided by Public Health and other county council staff.

Gloucestershire was the first county to take this targeted approach, which will ensure that the right support gets to the most vulnerable children, helping them to do better at school.

Published: 14 November 2013

Get vocal about the Songwriting Charity during Small Charity Week 2013!

As we approach the end of only our second year as a charity, we look forward to celebrating what is shaping up to be a truly epic Small Charity Week which runs from 17th – 22nd June 2013. Why ‘epic’? Well for starters, all of our Songwriting Charity Workshop Leaders will be busy. Workshops will be running in Leicestershire, Surrey, Greenwich, Lambeth, Hackney. We are completing (huge) bids, catching up with our friends Ploink on Wednesday at the Small Charity Week Policy Reception, meeting a new Patron for the first time tomorrow (Monday!) and hoping our loyal and very supportive Facebook and Twitter friends will do their utmost to help us win some of the brilliant competitions being run by the Small Charity Week team! Before we get to the Facebook and Twitter competitions, we wanted to share some facts and figures about progress the Songwriting Charity has made in this very busy second year! And to think we’ve done most of this running on the smell of an oily rag!!
  • Up to 31st July 2012 we delivered 130 workshops.
  • The number of workshops in total that we will complete by 31st July 2013 will be 333, (give or take a few) which is a staggering increase of 156% on 2012’s figures. 
  • Number of children and young people we have worked with directly is currently 10,245. 
  • Songs written by children is currently at 350, but with five more weeks to go, there’ll be many more!
  • 88% of children and young people we’ve worked with would like a songwriting workshop every week!
  • 96% rated our workshops as Excellent or Good;
  • A third of children say they don’t want to sing at the start of the day but by the end of the day 9 out of 10 say they enjoyed singing with us! Confidence building!
  • 59% of children did not previously report bullying occurring. 95.04% say they would now report bullying in the future.
  • SoundCloud plays as of this evening are at 84,843.
  • And YouTube Video views stand at 37,919.
  • 86% of teachers notice positive changes in the behaviour of the children in the short time we work with them.
  • 100% of professionals say our work supports the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of their students.
  • We have 36 audio testimonies from professionals we have worked as well as written feedback from more than 200.
  • We are now working with more than 400 schools!
  • You should read what parents have to say! And the children!
On the financial side, the charity’s first year of income (up to 31st July 2012) was only £37,103.00 (it really was just an oily rag!):
  • With voluntary income (grants and donations) at £2,401.00
  • And Project income (commissioning) £34,700
Things have picked up in the second year (up to 31st May 2013) with income currently at £118,842.76 (an increase of 220%!):
  • Voluntary income increased 2027% to £51.079.98!
  • Project income increased by 79% to £62,085.00!

We’re very proud of what we have achieved in such a short space of time. It has been tough for us in many ways; new kids on the block, being viewed as high-risk, no core funding, proving our worth and effectiveness, measuring impact. Why have we shared these figures with you? We want you to know how we’re doing. Our first full accounts will soon go up on the Charity Commission website (sooner if they’ll let us!). We want you to know because many of you reading this have made frequent and crucial donations in answer to our Tweets, Posts, and appeals using Just Text Giving, The Giving Machine, Ploink or BY MyDonate. And let’s face it, without your unwavering and enthusiastic support, we wouldn’t be in the position we are now!

Why is Small Charity Week so important to us (and the many thousands of others out there)? It’s the first time we have been involved of course! It’s a brilliant way to get people focused on the work of small charities up and down the country. The competitions that Small Charity Week 2013 are running are really simple ways to get you all involved! And we figured it would be a great way to try and mobilise our fans out there! What we need is for all of you to get ‘vocal’ and shout about us on the Small Charity Week Facebook Page for example, ‘I Love the Songwriting Charity because they support the wellbeing of thousands of children!’ or on Twitter, “I love @NTFoundation because they empower children through songwriting @SCWeek2013”. If we win, we will use the prize to part fund upcoming Bully Beat workshops! Remember to check out the Small Charity Week Website for the rules! If we don’t try…….

We are a strong, lean and dedicated ‘small charity‘ team that works tirelessly to help improve the self esteem, confidence and overall wellbeing of many thousands of vulnerable, disaffected, isolated and unhappy children and young people. Thanks guys. Have a good week and thanks for always being there!



Kent Creative Learning Showcase


Kent Creative Learning Showcase

We’re very excited to be exhibiting at the Kent Creative Learning Showcase! We’ll be on Stand 45, Clive Emson Building, Kent County Showground, Detling, Maidstone, Kent ME14 3JF between 8:30am – 2:30pm.

You’ll be able to talk to us about our work and get a better understanding of our funded projects that involve Kent schools for the next two years. We’ll be sharing information on our full range of songwriting-in-schools workshops suitable for Key Stage 1-3 mainstream and non-mainstream settings.

If you’re coming along to see what’s on offer for your school, like the sound of songwriting workshops and would like to use your funds to work with the #1 charity in the world dedicated to the empowerment of young people through the art and craft of songwriting, we’ll offer you a one-time only Creative Learning Showcase discount!

Below is further information taken directly from the Creative Learning website. We look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

The Creative Learning Showcase is the perfect opportunity for schools, youth and community groups to meet organisations that can offer innovative and inspirational experiences for children. The practical workshops and informative presentations mean that whatever the setting, you will find something to suit your needs.

*Register at the event on 6 June to be entered into a free prize draw to win £250 to spend with the Creative Learning exhibitor of your choice.

Along with There will be inspiring presentations from:

Ger Graus, CEO of the Children’s University Trust on free-range learning within a factory model of education

The Education Endowment Foundation on the recently revised and re-launched teaching and learning toolkit

Ofsted on the pupil premium and how schools are using the funding

Caroline Gaskin, the South East Adviser for PTA-UK on PTA health checks and how to maximise your PTA fundraising potential

Milestone Case Study


Big thank you to Val Kennedy, The Milestone School and Gloucestershire Healthy Learning & Living Lead Teacher for providing this wonderful evaluation on camera.






Transatlantic Inclusion Project Brings Together Canadian and English Students


The Songwriting Charity is proud to have played a part in a transatlantic inclusion project. Facilitated by teacher (and friend of the Songwriting Charity) Jonathan Carnaroli who was interviewed extensively by local media covering the winners of the Community Living Algoma Inclusion Project, St. John’s Catholic School Grade Six and Seven students, won an iPad for an inclusivity-themed music video which was co-written with Gretton Primary School children in England. Gretton Primary School is one of the Songwriting Charity’s newest school partners and is working closely with our Director of Programmes Ben O’Sullivan who is leading our programme development and expansion in the South West.

inclusion2Over to you Jonathan!

“Throughout my career, I have always been an advocate of teaching with technology because of its ability to capture student interest when used effectively. Having been a bit of a novice in the Apple world at the time, however, programs like iMovie and Garage Band were rarely used in my classes; in fact, they weren’t even on my “shortcuts” dock.

During my two years as a Key Stage 2 teacher at Parsloes Primary School in England, all of that changed. I had the pleasure of working with Ben O’Sullivan on a few basic projects that involved music composition and film editing. Ben started me off small, showing me how to create iMovie trailers and edit existing audio files in Garage Band. Once I became comfortable with the software, I began working alongside Ben and Toby on larger projects.

Ever since my return from England in August 2012, I have wanted to facilitate a “Trans-Atlantic project” like this and the perfect opportunity arose in the form of a contest. In February, a local organization called Community Living Algoma challenged students in various schools to demonstrate “Inclusion” through a poster, song, dance, or music video. BAM! I suggested to my students that we create a music video with students from England and they obviously loved the idea.

The creativity started flowing in the Grade 6/7 classroom and within a few days, we were sending our lyrics and beat to our “co-producers” at Gretton Primary School (UK). The final product was incredible. The students on both sides of the Atlantic were buzzing about this project, as well as the teachers and parents who witnessed the process and product. In my city (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario), this project was broadcasted by local news channels and radio stations. Our Grade 6/7 class won the iPad, which was the grand prize in the contest. But the real prize, without trying to sound too “cheesy”, was how the whole idea of inclusion was encompassed and brought to life through this project.

The Grade 6/7 students at St. John are so proud of their work and feel like superstars because children in England know the lyrics to their song… in fact… children in England wrote one of the verses! When does something like this ever happen? Not often enough obviously. The students on both sides have had an opportunity to collaborate with people from another continent, with whom they would never have had the opportunity to speak. They have built relationships to a certain extent with these students. They’ve shared thoughts and feelings, and they’ve engaged together in a creative process that has produced something astonishing. When people watch this music video, their jaws drop. It’s something special because it’s real – it’s from the heart – it’s not a “Canadian” song or a “British” song. It’s a song by young people who share a common interest. When we watch this video, we see how alike we all really are, regardless of gender, race and culture.

I can’t say enough about the positive impact this project has had on the students in Grade 6/7 and the entire school… and perhaps even on the community as a whole. I look forward to facilitating more projects like this in the future and keeping the lines of communication open. The possibilities are truly endless.”

Jonathan Carnaroli


This year, Anti-Bullying Week will fall between the 19th to the 23rd November. This year’s theme – ‘We’re better without bullying’ – highlights the effect bullying has on achievement. We thought it would be a good idea to draw your attention towards our very own BullyBeat Songwriting Workshops and share a little about the process and the reason why it’s needed and also valued by our school partners.

BullyBeat has been designed to enthuse children about the process of lyric writing, singing, music arranging and contemporary production whilst promoting a serious anti-bullying message. Children that take part in these workshops are not just taught how to sing and write a song together but they are also encouraged to express their thoughts on ‘bullying’ and its effects. Many months after we’ve visited, BullyBeat songs are still featured during school assemblies and other anti-bullying events.

 “Possibly one of the best visiting workshops that I have participated in in over 10 years of teaching. Pupils were open in discussing experiences and were able to show a better undertanding of what bullying is. Well planned, fantastic delivery and a great connection with the pupils. Thank you!” Faye Blain, Sherington Primary School

BullyBeat remains one of our most popular programme after our Sports Tracks Songwriting Marathon. We have already booked up great chunks of the new school year between September and December with BullyBeat workshops and interest has spread as far as the West Country and East Anglia, where we now have a physical presence.

Why do we need BullyBeat?
Bullying remains among the top concerns that parents have about their children’s general safety at school, and increasingly their journeys to and from school. Bullying is not just a school issue, but one that affects children and young people anywhere. Bullying makes the lives of its victims a misery, it undermines their confidence and self-esteem, can destroy childhoods and lives. Bullying can negatively impact on young people’s ability to form healthy and fulfilling relationships with their peers, siblings, even their parents. Bullies are also impacted in a damaging and lasting way; attendance, levels of attainment, relationships, future prospects. They too need to find ways to channel their energy into positive and emotionally healthy activities, all the while, improving their ability to form healthy relationships with their peers and significant others.
There are no hard and fast answers. However, there are opportunities for creativity to be brought to bear and to help create the calm so often needed when bullying seems to be the all-consuming storm, touching everything and everyone in its path. Our songwriting programmes, give children and young people the time to stop, take stock, enjoy the time to be creative, and during BullyBeat workshops to consider the impact and consequences of bullying behaviour on those around them, and themselves.
Facts about bullying:
Bullying thrives in a culture or atmosphere that tolerates it; where there is little or no authority, hardly any adult supervision, no culture of respect or celebration of diversity. Bullying can also lead to short, medium and long-term school absence – school refusal.
According to the Red Balloon Learner Centre Group, providers of intensive care education centres for children so badly bullied that attendance at mainstream school is no longer possible, some 16,000 children may be absent from the mainstream education system altogether. This is a conservative estimate on the numbers of school refusers, but is a disturbing indicator on the direct affect bullying has on the education of thousands of school aged children.
Beatbullying found a direct correlation between bullying and truancy in their ‘Bullying and Truancy Report (2006) with 1 in 3 young people who experience bullying truanting from school (42% of young people who have been bullied truant).
Further facts about bullying;
  • Almost half (46%) of children and young people say they have been bullied at school at some point in their lives.
  • 38% of disabled children worried about being bullied.
  • 18% of children and young people who worried about bullying said they would not talk to their parents about it. Chamberlain, Tamsin, George, Nalia, Golden, Sarah, Walker, Fiona and Benton, Tom (2010) Tellus4 national report (PDF). London: Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).
  • 30,439 children called ChildLine in 2010/11 (11% of calls) about bullying.
  • Between 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011 ChildLine carried out 30,439 counselling interactions with a primary concern of bullying. NSPCC/ChildLine facts and figures. 
During a BullyBeat workshop
When children are asked to explore the range of issues that arise when discussing bullying, through songwriting, something significant happens. Lyrically compelling, melodically expressive and highly charged performances are drawn out from the perspective of both the bullied and the bullies. The behaviors are highlighted and responded to with passion and sensitivity in equal measure. As with the uniqueness of every child, each song written by the children reflects a wealth of individual experiences to move even the hardest of hearts. In the face of growing bullying trends, this innovative engagement tool supports school awareness raising and offers an emotional outlet and support forum equipping children to deal with bullying behaviors in a safe, non-judgmental and empowering environment.
Children that take part in our BullyBeat workshops are taught how they all possess vocal ability (symbolic of ‘speaking up’), and that they can write a song together (working together not apart). They are encouraged to express their thoughts on ‘bullying’ and its effects in deep and meaningful ways through creative expression. By listening to one another, respecting their friends and working together as a team the children create something that has an immediate and lasting impact on their peers. BullyBeat gives them the opportunity to think about the problem in a number of different ways, ways that resonate, that are credible.
If you’d like to enquire further into our BullyBeat songwriting workshops, then contact us via our website enquiry form or send an email directly to ben@songwritingcharity.org.