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Co-Writing - Panacea or Paranoia; The Choice is Yours
By Ken Klar
http://www.musthavemusic.net

Are you ready to begin your search for your musical "other half"? This article will discuss the kinds of things you should prepare before and during your search to help you find an effective co-writing relationship.

In the beginning, many songwriters are convinced that teaming up with another writer is the "cure for all that ails them" musically. While in many situations it can provide the foundation for excellent songs, this path is fraught with scores of problems that are unique and different than anything your might encounter when writing alone.

The first thing to do is assess whether or not you need a co-writer. Obviously, "need" is a pretty subjective term in this case. When assessing this need there are a few truths you need to keep in mind.

Life Does Not Add, It Multiplies

Many co-writers have the faulty impression that because they "only write lyrics" they need to find someone who "only writes music" to complete the process. Their thinking goes like this: ½ a songwriter and ½ a songwriter equals 1 whole songwriter.

WRONG!

½ a songwriter and ½ a songwriter equals ¼ a songwriter. You see, life does not add, it multiplies. I won't bore you by refreshing your memory on how to multiply fractions, but, suffice it to say, that this is truth. The best you can hope for in any writer (be that you alone or any team of writers) is one whole songwriter.

Remembering this when you are first trying to "save" your writing. The absolute first thing you should be focused on is improving your own skills to the point that you can create a complete song on your own. Not only will this make you an infinitely more valuable co-writer (should you decide to do that), it will also free you from a myriad of other problems associated with the pitfalls of inability and ignorance.

That doesn't mean that you must stop writing lyrics in your basement at night and join a musical convent or that you must go back to school to get your masters degree in production and arrangement. But it does mean that you should have strong opinions about all the aspects of songwriting including Lyric Writing, Melody Writing, Chord Progression, Production, and Arrangement etc., etc., etc. before you enter into a co-writing relationship.

Many popular, successful songwriters were never formally schooled. But almost all of them have "educated themselves", to the standard forms and "rules" even if only just enough to know when to break from them. One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself and any prospective co-writers is to find out what you need to be educated on in order to be a complete songwriter.

Once you have a handle on those aspects, you are ready to move to the next phase.

Play to Your Strengths

In order for two people to work most effectively together, they must compliment each other; the best way to determine what you "need" is by assessing what you already "have". Again, ideally, you should be able to "do it all" and not "need" a co-writer. But that doesn't mean that you can't "prefer" to work with someone else. Working alone can become very serious and wearying, where as Co-writing can be very fun! Consider the aspects of songwriting that you feel more passionately about; creative areas where you are more comfortable.

Write a brief description of yourself as a songwriter. Describe what you do best. How do you start writing a new song? If you start your songwriting by creating a melody, that may be your strong suit. However, if you are more comfortable with words than music, then the opposite may be true. This may change over the years and as you get more experience with songwriting's different facets.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Once you know what you're strengths are, your ready to find someone to compliment them. The first word in this search must be RESPECT. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT write with someone you don't respect. The same is true for your co-writer…if they don't respect you and your ability, RUN AWAY! Find someone who values you and your contribution. This is essential. In order to be creative, you must be willing to be vulnerable. You don't want (and may not be able) to be vulnerable with someone who doesn't respect you.

Choosing a supportive, compatible co-writer is always important, but even more so in the beginning. This will undoubtedly mean that you will be writing with someone who is in roughly the same stage as you. If you are a beginner, find another beginner. If you're more advanced, look among your contemporaries. Be cautious when writing with someone who is dramatically more or less experienced than you. This kind of co-writing relationship is seldom healthy.

Hide and Seek

Co-writers are not hard to find, they're everywhere. But there's a trick to finding the right one. Here's what I recommend: Get involved in a situation made up of a group of writers/performers. It could be a lyric writing class at the local junior college, a song critique session, an open mike night…anywhere there is a collection of writers that regularly appear.

Pay attention to those around you. Find someone who has talent you respect and that is close to where you are experience-wise. Listen to their songs, read over their lyrics, spend some time in their company talking about their musical influences and goals. Consider whether or not you want to lock yourself in a room with this person for 3-4 hours at a time.

You're goal should to develop a successful co-writing relationship. These grow slowly, over time. Once you have found the right person(s) you're ready! Asking someone to co-write can be a bit like asking someone out on a blind date. The important thing is to not pressurize the situation. Be determined to have fun! If the creative spark doesn't happen (and it's very common that it doesn't happen on the first writing session together), be prepared to be OK with that. Keep in mind that you are now a lot closer to your goal than ever before. You now have all the tools you need to find as many co-writers as you can handle.

Happy Hunting!


Ken Klar is a Songwriter and Managing Director of Must Have Music (BMI), which has spent the last ten years, developing an extensive catalog of top quality original songs ranging from Adult Contemporary, Pop/R&B, Contemporary Christian, Pop-Rock and Country. The current catalog includes more than one hundred songs that have been placed with Independent Artists across the country. For information about this and other music industry related topics, go to http://www.musthavemusic.net

 
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