I’m so excited to tell you about this new book that’s already topping the Amazon charts! I’ve known Lisa Lukas for years now and have loved to hear about her own compositions and her work with young songwriters. So, when I heard that she was writing a book to help young people with songwriting and composing, I was super excited!
“The Young Musician’s Guide to Songwriting” is just filled with useful information for every composer. As a matter of fact, when I first read it, I told myself that the next time I found myself stuck composing, THIS was the first resource I would read to help me.
Guess what! Lisa is going to be giving away 1 copy of this wonderful book to one of you teachers. All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell us anything about teaching songwriting…even just that you don’t do it but WANT to! The drawing will take place on Saturday, so leave your comment by this Friday!
The Young Musician’s Guide to Songwriting – Interview with the author
I recently had the privilege to ask Lisa Lukas, author of this new book, a few questions about this book and her tips on composing.
Tell us a little about who would benefit from reading “The Young Musician’s Guide to Songwriting.”
I think my book is a terrific resource for tweens and teens (and even late elementary school age students, with a little more teacher guidance), who have an interest in songwriting as well as music composition. It’s possible that college students (or an adult or two? It’s never too late!) might really enjoy using this book as well. However, my intention was to write my book for young music students, in addition to their music teachers. I wanted teachers to be able to use it as a resource in their studios, to help guide their students who express an interest in creating their own songs, or compositions.
If students are creating their own work, suddenly other composer’s works can take on new meaning as well! They start to identify with composers and songwriters. They start to analyze music, at the same time that they are creating their own. It’s a wonderful process.
Why did you write this book?
I’ve had a lot of students over the years, who, in addition to wanting to learn to play the piano, have been really interested in songwriting and/or music composition. I was looking for material that was specifically geared for the young music student. I thought it would be wonderful to have something that was actually written for music students who are actively studying their instruments with a teacher, in a music studio environment. So I started to write this book for my students, and for myself to use in my studio.
Over the years, as I started creating different exercises for my own students, the idea of the book started to form in my mind, and the piles of exercises got taller! Basically, the exercises are many things that I think about, and do myself, when I write and compose, whether I’m writing songs or music compositions. And since songwriting and composing share so many fundamental concepts, I think it’s a really positive way to not only teach music theory, but to get started with students who are interested in creating their own material as well.
If you could narrow down what kinds of things students struggle with when they compose, what would they be?
A couple of things that come to mind with early compositions are opposites of each other. The first is: the blank page, an almost deer-in-headlights reaction to creating a composition. Just frozen. What will I write about? How do I even get started? And the other is: an abundance of many, many ideas, all within one piece, one thing leading to the next, and where are we headed? Are we ever coming back?
For that first challenge, my book has a lot of exercises that have to do with getting started with the blank page. One example is the idea of “automatic writing” – setting a timer for 5 or 10 minutes or so, and just giving themselves permission to write anything and everything that pops to mind, without editing or second guessing. When the timer goes off, they’re done! From there, we take a look and see if anything jumps out worth fiddling or experimenting with. Maybe not, and that’s okay. But it gets the juices flowing, and gives them the green light to start something, without judgement or criticism.
For the second challenge, I go into a lot of detail in the book about structure (including harmonic structure) and this really helps for students to be able to use some of the time honored song structures, almost like templates, for original pieces. One example would be that they’ve got a template to work with for an A section of 8 bars, a B section of 8 bars, and back to A again (8 bars). That’s kind of simplifying it, but just to sort of address the idea of form, and being able to create and work with ideas, within those boundaries.
Tell us a little about your experiences in helping students compose.
The very first thing that comes to my mind is actually something that I learned from you, when I watched your “Composition for Kids Workshop” on youtube! I’m paraphrasing, but the idea is that (in the beginning especially) we want to ask the student if they are interested in simply sharing and playing it, or do they want feedback. I use that idea so much, it’s so helpful. Just to tread gently with their first creations, and to be careful not to discourage those early works. Feedback can be worked in gradually over time, as in saying something like “maybe not for this song or piece, but maybe in your next one, what if you tried…?” etc. Thank you Wendy!
I love having the opportunity to work with students who are interested in songwriting and music composition. I enjoy working with them, and watching them channel what they are learning musically into their own original material.
I think the tweens and teens especially, are at an age where writing both music and words can be a really creative way to express what they feel and think about life; a way to convey their hopes, their dreams, their frustrations, their emotions – at a time in their life that can sometimes be a bit of a roller coaster, developmentally.
How is your book different from what is out there already?
There are a lot of really great songwriting books out there, however, they are not necessarily written for young music students, or their music teachers. When I started creating songwriting exercises for my own private music students, I became inspired to create a book specifically for other young musicians out there who are interested in finding out about how to write songs, and for their teachers as well.
In addition to information on how to write lyrics, I also wanted to create a book that gave a good amount of weight to music; for example: structure, theory, melody, harmony, etc. Of course, with songs, the music and the lyrics are important parts of the picture. However, I felt that it would be really helpful to have a resource that covered the music composition aspect of songwriting in a fairly deep way. I think it’s just such a great and relevant way to teach theory to young musicians ~ especially for that junior high/high school age…where things can drift, and you want to keep fanning the flames, keep the creativity level going.
Another thing that I think is unique to my book about songwriting is that in the chapter on lyrics, I include a list of books that kids can read for inspiration. I also include a (partial!) list of some of my all-time favorite songs. I wanted to encourage the idea that reading books, listening to music, and paying attention to the great creators who came before us, is a wonderful way to learn, to be inspired, and to grow.
How can teachers get the book?
“The Young Musician’s Guide to Songwriting” is available here at Amazon!
Thanks so much Lisa for taking the time to tell us about the book and even give use some tips on teaching composition to our students!