Songwriting is one of the most fulfilling creative exercises anyone can do, because it combines writing skills with musical ability and the gift of being able to hear great melody lines. It also draws together visual and performing arts in a stimulating way because a good song writer will be able to paint pictures with words that capture the imagination of the listener.
However, in order to get started, you need to have the right equipment.
1. Guitar or keyboard.
Although you don’t need to be a musician to be a songwriter, the ability to a musical instrument will enable you to be self contained in your song writing. Of course, there is a good argument for writing with a partner who might bring fresh input into the song writing process, so in theory, one might be a musician and the other a lyricist. Undoubtedly there are many examples of highly successful songwriting duos – Bernie Taupin and Elton John are an obvious example, where a lyricist works with a musician and they produce great songs using their complimentary talents. However, if you are not a musician I would highly recommend you learn to play a musical instrument – guitar or keyboard is the place to start. In the process of song writing, most writers will doodle on guitar or keyboard, playing various chord progressions and improvising with word ideas, phrases and melodies until something works for them. Others explore digital sound combinations using computer based recording software. I use a combination of both in my own songwriting.
2. Digital Sequencer.
This is a piece of kit that enables you to record musical information in digital form, the more recent format being MIDI Musical Instrument Digital Format.If you want to create sounds from various instruments – drums, bass, guitars and keyboards, a sequencer will enable you to gather all of this information in a high quality format that can then be transferred into a recording studio for editing and production. Most keyboards these days have sequencers built in. You can also buy them separately as a stand alone unit. This is not an essential item on your equipment list but can be great for recording ideas for your compositions. I still use my on board keyboard sequencer, but also record directly into the recording studio on my laptop. You might want to keep it simple and record your ideas onto a digital hand recorder. It’s entirely down to personal choice.
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3. A Drum Machine.
This is not an essential piece of kit, but can be helpful for gathering ideas and percussion sounds for your songs. Drum machines were very popular in the 80’s, when electronic music was popular. Performing bands often used ‘click tracks’ in their live performances, playing along with the regimented sound of the drum machine. They went out of fashion for a few years, only to regain their popularity more recently in night clubs, where the analogue sounds of the Roland TR808 for instance, have become popular.
4. Laptop or Desktop
Obviously an essential piece of equipment if you are using software for recording your songs. When I first started as a songwriter, I used a pen and notepad to put down all my ideas. I still do. However, with the software now available on the market, the song writing process can be far more creative and immediate. If you have the luxury of having recording hardware to use, the physicality of using the equipment can enhance creativity. I have used a Roland VS 1680 digital studio to record a lot of my song ideas and this piece of kit produces high quality sounds on 8 tracks so it gives me plenty of scope to explore song compositions including instrumentation, lead vocals and vocal harmonies. This equipment has been around for quite a few years, but still delivers the goods!
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