Songwriting For Social Change: Creating Music with Purpose | Steff Reed | Skillshare

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Songwriting For Social Change: Creating Music with Purpose

teacher avatar Steff Reed, Musician, Educator, and Activist.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

11 Lessons (1h 38m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Orientation

    • 3. Finding the Purpose

    • 4. Structuring the Song

    • 5. Finding Melody (Demonstration)

    • 6. Writing the Hook & Title

    • 7. Writing Verses

    • 8. Re-writing and Editing

    • 9. Recording & Production Basics

    • 10. Sharing Your Music

    • 11. Closing Thoughts

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About This Class

Music is the heartbeat for social movements. It is a foundational cultural force that brings people together in the face of adversity.

In this class, you will learn how to write songs to inspire social change; within yourself and in the world.  You will join grammy-nominated music educator Steff Reed as he shares his creative process for writing music from a place of authenticity and purpose. Follow along with Steff as he:

  • Breaks down the songwriting process into simple creative steps 
  • Shares methods for authentically expressing your thoughts and feeling to create powerful music 
  • Draws on historical examples of songs for social change and shares how you can learn from history’s most iconic artists

Using the basics of songwriting, composition and production, students will create original music that will serve as the score of their socio-political observation.

Whether you are a beginner musician looking to learn how to write songs, a seasoned songwriter looking to add more meaning to your music, or a creative person looking to add more meaning to your work, this class will have something for you!


You will learn:

  • Finding meaning for your music through freewriting
  • Techniques and structures for songwriting
  • Coming up with catchy melodies
  • Writing lyrics that tell a story
  • Writing your hook and title
  • Re-writing and editing
  • Recording basics
  • Sharing your music to create impact

You will finish the class with a meaningful song that will resonate with people. Whether you want to share it with the world or use this process to infuse your creativity with purpose is up to you! 

Who is this class for?

This class is for anyone who wants to write songs with purpose, or anyone who wants to find ways to incorporate social change into their creative process. Prior knowledge and experience in music or songwriting is not necessary. We will be unpacking some of the fundamentals for beginners, as well as digging into concepts around purposeful musical expression which will be helpful for all levels.

Why is the class useful for all creatives?

The skills learned in this class are essentially a creative approach to problem solving.  It will be insightful for musicians, aspiring musicians, or just anyone who loves music and wants to learn about the craft.  It is also a useful creative process to learn for other types of artists looking to put more purpose into their work.


  • Pen, Paper or Journal 
  • Digital note-taking tool
  • Computer 
  • Instrument (guitar, piano, or anything else you have around)
  • Speakers and Headphones 
  • Recording Devise

Don't have an instrument?  Feel free to use this backing track to right your song over.

Looking for inspiration?  Check out Steff's playlist of Powerful Protest & Social Justice Songs

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Steff Reed

Musician, Educator, and Activist.


Steff Reed is a Musician, Educator, and Activist. By sharing his story, Reed shows others that they are not alone. He is a Black Man that loves and gives greatly, modeling that emotional sensitivity and compassion can make us stronger as a community.

As a singer, songwriter, producer and multi instrumentalist, Steff Reed is known to affect audiences with his spiritual, uplifting energy and song. He is unafraid to be vulnerable and open in his own story, sharing lessons of resilience, healing, self-betterment. Reed blends genres of folk rock, alternative rock, pop rock to culminate in inspirational, humanitarian messages.

Over the years, Reed has gained national acclaim as a producer and song-writer having worked with the likes of Trey Songz, Jhene Aiko, Eric Roberson, Swiz... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Music is the catalyst for social change, is a soundtrack to revolution, and it's the heartbeat to social movements. Music just has that way of just infiltrating our hearts and our minds and becoming a part of our lives and our worlds forever. What's going on? My name is Steff Reed. I'm a Grammy nominated music educator, I'm a billboard charting songwriter/producer, and I'm an independent artist whose work has been featured in Afropunk, Essence magazine, Vibe Magazine, Huffington Post, and more. Artists are the messengers that deliver truth, create awareness, and awaken society. Nina Simone once said that, "The role of the artist is to reflect the times that they're in." When you consider the power of the platform of artistry that you have the potential to reach millions of people around the world and that you can change lives and impact lives and save lives, then you realize that there's no higher calling than to be an artist using your voice for social change. Historically, when you look at the artists who had been the torchbearers of truth and been able to really be the soundtrack to these movements, whether it's Sam Cooke or Nina Simone or Bob Dylan, they really, really were able to help push culture forward in a way where politics can't, where activism alone can't. They make it accessible, they create that emotional bond between the listener and the cause. In this class, you will learn how to write songs to inspire social change, to amplify injustice, and to speak truth to power. This class is for you, if you are artist or songwriter who was never written a song before, this is a great place to start to build the process, your thoughts and feelings about the world around you. There you have it. This class will take you from conception to development to completion of your own original song. I'm so excited to go through this journey with you, and to walk you through the process of making songs for social change. Are you ready? I am. See you in class. 2. Class Orientation: You've decided to use your art to take a stand. You're joining a long list of artists and activists. You're doing something special, powerful, and needed. As you embark on this journey, it's important to get grounded in your why. This is going to serve as your North star, as your compass. This going to help you stay on track when you're going through this process. Your why is, why are you doing this? What's your purpose for doing this? What does this mean to you? I want you to reflect on this imperative, so please listen. Why did you choose this class? What is it that you want to get out of being in this class, and who do you want to impact in the world from what you learn here? This class and project will give you a tool to spark a social action. I know you're probably wondering, what is this going to look like? How's this even work? What do I expect from being in this class? Those are valid questions. Number 1, and most important thing is how to be authentic in your music. You'll be learning how to find your hook and your title. Learning techniques to song writing structure and just like the mathematics of creating a song. You're learning how to write lyrics, and how to generate material which will be turned into lyrics. You'll be learning how to rewrite and to edit what you've written, to really punch it up and to make it stronger and to be impactful and intentional with your writing. You'll learn the basics of recording, whether using a DAW or digital audio workstation, or whether using your voice note on your phone. You'll be learning how to utilize the resources that you have around you to create what you want to make. Last and most importantly, you'll leave with a completed song, which should you choose to, you can release and put out to Spotify, Apple Music and all the other distribution channels and with the world. Or you have something that will serve as a reminder of what you are capable of, a memento of this experience and you can hold it close and dear to you for the rest of your life. Now I know some of you may be wondering, I'm not a musician, I'm not a singer, what is the thing? What is this? I think one of the most important things that you can get, especially if you're not a musician, is how to process your thoughts and feelings and that's like a mental health thing. Just like a matter of, how do I feel about what's going on in the world? What do I think about it? We're often told that our feelings are invalid. We're often not listened to and we feel unseen and we feel unheard and so we battle these thoughts, and we battle these emotions up inside. Which causes to other problems that we go through in this lifetime. One of the biggest assets to be for real is a safe space where you can process your thoughts and feelings about the world around you. You can feel heard, you can feel seen, you can get that stuff off of you and onto the page and feel empowered about how you feel. Here we are, it's time to get to work. Let's just go over a quick checklist of all the materials that you're going to need to thrive in this class. Number 1, you're going to need to a notebook, you're going to need a pen and paper or pencil and paper to be able to jot down your ideas. I think it's old school, but it's really cathartic and it's important to build a touch materials. Have a pen and paper, a journal, whatever the case may be, you're going to need Evernote or Notepad. I prefer Evernote, it's just a little bit more comprehensive, basically a digital replica of what's going on in your notebook. Having a digital version of that in your phone and in your laptop so that you can document and save and transfer material to different people if you're co-writing or just have a timestamp and you can organize it in your phone. In addition to that voice notes, super important. Every phone comes with a voice recorder, some form of a dictaphone or voice notes that you can document and record all your ideas. Very important. You're going to need a laptop. Ideally, if you don't have a laptop, that's fine. We can use voice notes, but for those of you that have a laptop, getting some software that will allow you to record your ideas, whether it's GarageBand or Fruity Loops or Logic or Ableton, having a digital audio workstation or a DAW to record your ideas is super important. Aside from that, you're going to need a guitar or a keyboard to compose your music. I can play both and a couple other instruments and that allows me to get my ideas out. Sometimes I start with the whole track, you know what saying? Sometimes I'm a producer as well. Often I'll have a track that's already completed and I'll write to that. Sometimes I want to write from scratch, you what I'm saying? I like to start with a guitar and I'll find some chords on the guitar that will inspire me to sing. Other times I sit at the piano and I started playing and a motion will strike me, a melody will come from that. But it's important to have a keyboard or a guitar to be able to a compose music that you will write to. For those of you that don't have the resources, do not fear. I have the solution. I'll be providing you with a backing track which you can use to write your song for this class and it's going to be awesome. Regardless of which method you use, I've got you covered. Throughout this class I'm going to be giving you do now's, these will serve as like assignments that will help you get closer to reaching a goal, as well as helping to retain and apply the information that I'm giving you throughout each class. Remember how earlier I mentioned what's your why, what's your purpose and that that's going to be your North Star. I want you to write down right now, why do you want to embark on this journey of becoming an artist activist. Who or what inspired you to want to make music for social change and what ways do you want to grow as a songwriter or artists through this process? This is your mission statement and will serve as a message to your future self. It's time to get started, remember, share your work throughout the class. I'll be checking your work and holding you accountable. See you in the next video. Peace. 3. Finding the Purpose: Rule number 1, there is no right way to write a song. Surprise. Everybody has their own process and there is no one way that's better than the other or what way is the right way, what way is the wrong way. I could tell you my way and the my ways of doing it. First of all, in regards to just generating authentic material, it's take inventory. Is there anything in the last couple of weeks or couple of days that's happening that's in the front of my mind, at the top of mind. Something that's pulling at my heartstrings and I have an opinion about it. Next is, I'd make myself aware of what's going on in the world if maybe I'm not aware of enough. Sometimes we get caught up in our own bubble. But for me it's like, look through the news and see what's going on in current events, politically or locally or environmentally, whatever it is, getting yourself educated on what's happening in the world. Once you take inventory about what you're feeling internally that is calling you to speak about it, or you look at the news and get yourself more aware about what's going on in the world externally and see what's pulling you to write about it, what's like, feels like I need to talk about this or this needs attention. Once I do that I start to become more aware of what's resonating and what I'm leaning towards and I want to just organically, just naturally, I'm just like, I feel a way about this thing. I have some thoughts and feelings. That's the first thing, is listening to your gut, listening to your heart and following that. As I do these deep dives I'll find something that's really compelling and something that starts to drive thoughts and emotion and rage, and I'll immediately have a response to it. Those are my two different ways. Once I've take the inventory about these two things, whatever is in my mind and my body and my heart right now, or the things that I have to do research on to figure out and see what speaks to me, I start to follow the thing. You don't just follow that emotion. You follow your gut, you follow your heart or whatever is compelling you to talk about it or to explore. That's my way. What's the goal of protest music? The goal of protest music is to galvanize people. It's to create awareness. It is to be motivating and inspiring. It's to be a call to action. It's all these things. When you're making a protest song these are some of the things that I will start to make myself aware of. What is the function of this? How'll this serve the greater good? Is this going to be a song that's going to get folks to keep on marching. Is this going to be the song that I'm going to write to help get people off their couch and off their butt to get in the street and get activated? Is this a song that I'm writing so that people that aren't aware of the issues can be aware of some of the issues and this is now the awareness that's being built? Or is this going to be just a song of hope so people can feel positive and motivated to keep going. Because quite frankly, changes happen overnight and some of the issues that we're facing have been going on for hundreds of years. I start to ask myself these questions like, what is the purpose? What is the function of this? What do I want? What's my intent? With that said, there are examples of songs from the past I just want to go over real quick. Whether it' Rise Up by Andra Day, that's such a powerful statement. It's very simple, but it's powerful and it's provocative. When you see the term rise up, it's a call to action to get up and get motivated. It's a physical, it's a verb. We're going to be Alright, by Kendrick Lamar. It became like the Black Lives Matter protest anthem. We're going to be Alright, it's invigorating, it gets you moving, gets you hype. But it also makes you feel okay. It makes you feel, we got this. It's affirming. Now, look at song like, Mississippi Goddam by Nina Simone. People were being murdered and assassinated all throughout the '60s and it was her statement to say, this is what's going on. Mississippi got me so upset. Alabama made me lose my rest. Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam. That was her making people aware of what she's angry about. That's another perfect example of a song. It's topical and it's being used, is a calling card about this is what's going on that maybe they're not covering in the news. Then there's, We Shall Overcome by Pete Seeger, which is a great, great, great protest song. We Shall Overcome, it's a chant that everybody can sing along. It's not too wordy. We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome some day. It's dope. It's hopeful and it's like we shall overcome. It's giving hope. It's producing hope. It's bringing people together and producing hope. Then we've got Power of Love by Steff Reed. It's a mantra. It's like when I wrote that song in my mind I thought about all the things that are dividing us. We got the border wall, we got the travel ban, we got immigration issues, we got race relation issues, and I said to myself, what does the world need right now? I said to myself, what is something that is bigger than politics, is bigger than religion, is bigger than class? Love. Love is the great uniter. Everybody relates. That's a human need. From babies to adults, everybody needs love. Everybody relates to love. Nobody's going to be divided on love. Everybody is united on love. I decided to write the song, Power of Love to be the thing that everybody stands behind. Music is an universal language and love is a universal truth. It's a divine truth. Everybody will gloss on what class, politics, religion, wherever you stand, love, everybody can get behind that. Turning it to you, what's at the top of your mind at this moment? What's going on in the world that is in the front of your mind and you have something to say about it. You have a thought or an emotion or just emotional reaction, what's that thing for you? What's something that you saw on the news, the made you question, that made you curious, that made you angry, maybe made you emotional. What's that thing? What's going on in your life right now that's striking a chord? Because you see, sometimes the things that we go through on the day-to-day is actually connected to a larger issue but we aren't able always in the moment to make that connection. Whether you're dealing with financial issues, that could be tied to these class things and these political things where resources and money is being taken from us but we don't see the hand that's moving it all. But we're still experiencing the aftereffects. Look at the Great Recession. Folks were losing their homes, folks were losing their jobs and it was contextualized by this larger economic issue. But folks experienced it in their own way. You know what I'm saying? That's where the beauty is where it's like, man, I can't find a job or I'm having trouble with rent or trials and tribulations with a loved one because of these setbacks. But then when you zoom out and you do some research, you can realize, wow, this is actually part of a larger issue. That's where it's personal, and that's where it's authentic because you're taking your personal thoughts and feelings about what you're actually going through and then seeing how it actually connects to society at large. Lastly, this is a pro tip, there's nothing new under the Sun. Everything that is created or has been created is a version of something else. Everything is an iteration of something else, was inspired by something else. Whatever form of innovation, culture or art was inspired by something. This is no different. Everybody from Prince to Beyonce was inspired by somebody else and they just took it forward. Even for me when I write protest song I have my muses, I have musical muses and then I have my leadership muses. I have my song, Power of Love, from a message and cultural icon, I was inspired by Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King in their ideals. Musically, I was inspired by U2, put it together and you got songs of change blended with stadium music. My song Frontline was inspired by Malcolm X, it was inspired by Frank Ocean. I think when you think about creating your muses, like who is going to be the musical inspiration for this piece that you're making? Who's going to be a leader that you look to? Is it going to be Frederick Douglass, Greta Thunberg, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Fidel Castro, whoever it is, whether it's Maya Angelou, whether it's Jesus Christ or whether it's Muhammad, who is the person that you're pulling from, from their genius to get inspiration? Whether it's a prophet, activist, some type of religious leader, whatever it is, there's somebody that is like a muse for you in that space. It may be a poet, maybe Shakespeare. You decide. There's also going to be a musical muse. Who are you pulling from? What band, what artist has that sound and that vibe that you're going to pull from for the aesthetic for your song. Now it's your turn. Favorite part of class, the Do Now. Your assignment is free write for the next 5-10 minutes. Here's the rules. No judgment, no criticizing, no censoring yourself, no trying to make a song. We're not writing a song, we're not writing a hook, we're just freewriting whatever is on your mind right now, how are you feeling right now? Start there, then leads to a certain issue or thing that's actually happening in the world or in your life, how do you feel about that? Free write that. Maybe do some word association meaning one word leads to another word. God leads to church and church leads to prayer and prayer leads to hope, that's freewriting and that's like word association where one word leads to another word and what are all the terms and words and phrases that can come from one word. It's like word association. Now, do that word association in regards to a certain thing, whether it's Black Lives Matter, march, protest, hands up, don't shoot, I can't breathe. These are all word associations with Black Lives Matter. You can do that for whatever the cause is that is near and dear to your heart. Don't censor yourself, be honest, be blunt. Say exactly what's on your mind. Don't hold back, and give yourself permission to just go. Whatever resonates with you, we'll go through it later and we will circle all the best ideas. The strongest ideas are the things that resonate most. That is going to be those little gems, those little nuggets of divine truth that came out through that freewriting because that's your subconscious mind is going. Once we get that out, our conscious mind will be critical and figure out, oh, this is good, this is dope right here, this is fire right here, I'll circle that, let's underline that, that's dope. But for now, just go. See you in the next video. Peace. 4. Structuring the Song: Now that we've generated all the material and content for which we are going to write our song, it's time to create and freestyle a melody and come up with a structure for the song that we're going to write. The great genius Quincy Jones once said, "Melody is king." Quincy also said, "Get out the way and leave space for God to walk into the room." Whenever I write a song, first and foremost, I'm coming up with a melody. The melody informs everything else. So beat, rhythm, verse, lyric, everything bows down to melody. If you understand melody, like what are people singing along to? Melody is the thing that people remember first and foremost. When people are trying to remember a song, you know that song? Ta-da, ta-da, ta-da. They sing the melody and then they start to figure out what the words are. That's like everything. When you think about learning, it's like a mnemonic device, mnemonic device is something that people use to remember things. When you think about ABCs A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, that's a melody. You remember the ABCs because it's a melody embedded in it. So melody is king. Need I say more? I think I've said enough. If you don't listen to Quincy Jones, listen to your kindergarten teacher who taught you the ABC song. Once I find or create a track, come up with a song composition, chords, whatever the idea is that it's going to be the music foundation in the bed of the song, start to generate melodic ideas. How do I do that you ask? I just start freestyling. I just basically start to take my guitar for example, and I may do. That was one. That's a melody right there. So that's a melody I just generated just from playing chords. I don't know what I'm doing right now, but I'm making it up as I go, and that's the thing. It's like you're giving yourself permission to explore. You don't necessarily have to have a destination in mind, but you're just trying to feel the music, and whatever feels good to you, do it again. Follow whatever feels good and follow your heart. As you're mumbling and coming up with melodies, some of it's inaudible and it sounds like nonsense, some of it actually there'll be some syllables in there, you'll be phonetically saying something that sounds like the melody is saying this. Other times it's just syllables. Either way, you follow that and go back to your free writing and say, "For my freewriting, what did I say that resonates? Based on the free writing and the word association, you try to fit some of those words or phrases to the phonetic mumbles that you did. You might surprise yourself. Some of the free writing may perfectly fit some of the word shapes and syllable shapes that you just freestyle with your melody. Start plugging that in, and then you start freestyle and with those word shapes. I know something ta-da. Also, it's important to count your syllables and to be mindful of your rhyme scheme. So you know that there's a template that the formula follow, it makes it so much easier. This cord is a G. If you're home the cord is a G, D major, A major. Again, G major, D major, A major. The bridge is the summary. So the bridge is basically, it's like the conclusion of the story, where the hook is like the thesis. The hook is your thesis statement, like what am I talking about? How do I feel? What's my main point? What's my argument? What's this? What's the mission? The verse is really breaking it down, and this is why. The hook is like, this is what it is versus a why, and that bridge is the conclusion. It's like the summary of your story. So like we're on a mission fighting these conditions, the world is us to live in, and we can lay for, no bands, no borders we're breaking down the wall that can divide us all if we believe and I believe in the power of love. I believe in the power of love, I believe in the power of love. So that's a completed thought. We've got the verse which really breaks down what we're talking about. It's like why I feel the what I feel, the hook is the main idea and the bridge is the summary. It's like finishing the story, driving your point home with details. Not every song has a bridge. Some songs, have intro, verse, hook, verse, hook, hook out. Some songs start with the hook first, then go to the bridge, then go to maybe a pre-hook, then go to a hook, then the second verse, next, pre-hook, hook, then bridge. This is so many ways that we can do this is there's not really a rule to it, I would say the main idea is to make sure your hook is strong. To make sure your verses tell the story and to bring people in and really give context to what you're talking about in a way that will make people feel a connection. If you're going to do a bridge, make sure it summarizes your story like what's the conclusion and what are people walking away with? It's like, how are you putting a cap on that story? Sometimes you may want to start your song with a hook first because it creates familiarity from the get-go people know what it is. Sometimes you just want to start with an intro, which it's just basically the music to the hook, and maybe you play the music, the melody of the hook just to get people foreshadowing and then go straight into that verse. You can try whatever works for you. I mean, each song may call for a different type of formula, but these are some of the formulas that are available to you. It's really important to establish the vibe you want to go for early. So it gives you a sense of direction and you're not floundering around trying to figure out. One way that you could do it is again like we talked in one of the earlier videos about finding a muse. Whether it's a band or if it's an artist and pick a song or a couple of songs that serve as a template for the vibe you're going for. Use that to find chords. Maybe that song has minor chords and it's more of a darker, somber, sad type of vibe, maybe the song is more major and it's more happy. I mean, it's up to you to decide what is going to most inspire you. So try, you could even experiment with it. Try playing some happy more major chords. Then try another version where you're doing more minor and sad chords and see what really pulls that melody out of, because at the end of the day, we want to be authentic. This class is about authentically expressing yourself, authentically telling the story, and authentically telling the truth, and finding ways to do this in a way that feels organic and authentic. We don't want to be forced because people will see through it, they'll hear through it and they'll shut you out. So experiment, find chords that fit the vibe you're going for. Also looking at the lyrics that you came up with, the free writing. Which musical direction fits more for the vibe you're trying to make based on what you wrote down. You may have a concept or some words that blend itself to more of an edgy feeling, more of an edgy, more darker type of thing, maybe you're trying to unite people. Like if you're trying to unite people maybe having something that's a little bit more uplifting, happier, sounding, inspirational, and hopeful. You're not going for darker chords. Maybe you're trying to be angry and convey aggression, maybe you want some edge in some minor chords because that's aggressive. You really got to just listen to your heart, listen to your gut, and let that inform whatever you're going to do, because that's how you feel. 5. Finding Melody (Demonstration): It's time to record melodies. Let the music play. Keep it simple sometimes. Still comes natural. Allow yourself to just naturally sing whatever feels good to the music and don't force it. Something simple. I'm just singing whatever comes to my mind. Some of your melodies ideas will be higher in pitch, some of your melody ideas will be lower in pitch, some of your ideas will be off pitch. But it's just like giving yourself the freedom to explore the options and possibilities. When you're playing your chords or you are listening to your track, you may have some notes that are legato, meaning drawn out long. So a legato idea, then you may have some staccato ideas. Just staccato, they are more broken up and bouncy. You can mix it up. I started with a staccato and then legato or we can start with legato. Start with legato and then put staccato. There's different ways you can approach it and I think it's like maybe you start on the beat. You could start after the beat. On the beat. After the beat like this. There's so many ways you could approach melodies and maybe as you are playing tap your foot, so you can keep time to start before the beat. Before again. Just find what feels good to you. You just find your pockets and everything ain't going to be hot, some of your ideas are going to be corny. But it's okay because you're giving yourself permission to improvise in a freestyle. I promise you there's going to be ideas that you're not going to like, they will be kind of corny or won't be usable. But within that exploration you're going to find something that's cool, "That's kind of good though, I like that. I like the way I ended it, I didn't like the way I started it, but maybe I like the way I ended it." Or maybe you didn't like the way you ended it, but you like the way you started. The point is giving yourself permission and allowing yourself to explore, and just playing with time and space and sound. Then you put those free writes in there and you see from what you wrote what will fit with the melody in that pocket that you have, that cadence. You start to have a song and starts taking shape. I'm already in the space right now where I'm starting to hear and see a potential song in a moment because there's a feeling there, we're just following a feeling and giving voice and giving words to a feeling, that's music. Giving words, thoughts, voice to this feeling, naming it. All right folks, so this is my favorite part of class, the do now, it's where you get activated and start to do the work. We've established in the last video to create and generate lyrical material, now we're going to create and generate melodic material. How do we do that? We've already gone through the different steps of how to do it. Creating legato notes, which are the long drawn-out notes. It's creating staccato notes, which are like the bouncy type of notes. Then it's like different variations of maybe blending the two. We've also discussed how to start melody on the beat, starting a melody after the beat, starting melody before the beat starts and basically you're playing with time and space. See, that's the pocket. When you create your melody, you're finding your pocket, you're finding your combination of long notes and short notes. You're figuring out how you're going to approach the beat, how you're singing to the melody, how you're creating a melody and singing to the music. You're finding that pocket for you and just let yourself go, don't sensor yourself, don't edit yourself, don't judge yourself, don't critique yourself, this is just free styling. A lot of the stuff will be unusable, no shade, but within it some of it will be really usable, some of it will be really dope. But the only way that we can get to the dope stuff is by getting through the ugly. I know this is difficult, it's sometimes easier said than done. But allow yourself to just explore, explore your ideas, your creativity, and your imagination on what melodic ideas you can come with, some of it will surprise you and that should be really, really dope. Once you're done with that, I want you to go through your idea and listen back to it and see what here, and start to timestamp. What will be a good idea for a hook? What will be a good idea for a pre-hook or a verse? If you're using a DAW, a digital audio workstation like Logic, GarageBand, or Ableton, or Pro Tools, I want you to make a copy of that, isolate it, cut it on both sides, isolate it, drag it down to its own track and put it in the section where the verse should be. You've got to hook the idea the same thing, put that hook idea, the melody idea where the hook would be. Now we've got some structure, now we're cooking. If you're using voice notes, just timestamp it right down maybe on a paper or in your Evernote, where that melody idea is and so you can go back and listen to it and know exactly where it is, then on another track, intentionally do it. Once you have identified in your voice notes all the ideas that you love, make a new voice recording with those exact ideas, do them exactly where they're supposed to be in structure and time of the song, and intentionally do it. Then listen to that on loop and start to figure out how to plug in your melodies with your lyrical ideas. That's your assignment for now, I'll see you in the next video. I'm holding you accountable, you are doing a great job, keep going. See you soon. Peace. 6. Writing the Hook & Title: All right, guys, you're killing it. We're halfway through the class. I'm excited to get started on making the hook. A hook is really just about creating this moment, this musical manifesto. It's creating a call to action, so whether you're talking about Tupac, Keep Your Head Up, keep your head, oh child, things are going to get easier. Keep your head up. That's a hook, it's keep your head up. You can say what's going on, what's going on, what's going on. I'll tell you what's going on, what's going on. Anyways, those are the different hooks where it's a call to action. It's something to make you consider something. It's a question. It's a pertinent existential question that we all have, like what's going on? It's a call to action to say keep your head up. These are all different ways that we can use a hook to inspire change. When you're making your hook, are you going to do a call to action? Are you going to give people comfort and give them hope? Are you going to make them question or look at something that's going on in society right now? How do you want to go about it? You have that choice, there's no right or wrong, but maybe on this song, you do one, and the next song you do, the other version of it. For me with Power Of Love was this musical manifesto. It was less about a call to action and more so I want to give people hope and inspire them to keep going and make them give people something to believe in. That was my purpose. Maybe you want to make people aware of something, so when you think about a great hook, great hooks are memorable. They're catchy, they're repetitive, they are epic. They are galvanizing, they get you moving, they stick in your head and stay there. They also usually mentioned the title of the song, which is usually a call to action like we mentioned earlier, or hopeful, or make you aware of a thing. They also can sometimes be really, really compelling. When you think about a title like Mississippi Goddam, or you think about a title like What's Going On? It draws you in because it's a question. Mississippi Goddam, it's exclaiming something which makes you now pay attention to it because I'm exclaiming Mississippi Goddam, or What's Going On, or Rise Up, or all these different versions of how you do it, but these are what the hook should do. Then when you hear the hook, it's super catchy, and it is repetitive. You're in it now, and you can't help but sing along because you're using the power of familiarity, the power of repetition, the power of simplicity. All these things, they're little tricks that you can do. You know what I'm saying? When you think about ella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh, under my umbrella, ella, ella, eh, it's stuck now. Who run the world? Girls, girls. Who run the world? Girls, girls. Who run the world? Girls, girls. Who run this sucker? Girls, girls. Who runs this mother? Girls, girl. It's so catchy. Use that science and formula to your social justice songs. I promise you, it works. What have we learned? We learned that great hooks are repetitive, they're memorable, they are catchy, they're to the point. It's a call to action. It's inspiring. It can be hopeful, it can be exclaiming, it can be existential question that we all have, and it comes from a very authentic place. One of the things I just want to continue to remind you of is that there's nothing new under the sun. That basically, everything that you want to do has been done in some form of fashion and the idea of innovating and creating a brand new thing is so daunting that it may psych you out of even trying. Rather than try to think about creating something that we've never heard, maybe do your take on it, do your version of it, try to do it better. Do it in the way that you would do it that's completely authentic and unique to who you are. How did you do that? We do that by listening to muses, we listen to inspiration. We think about the feeling. What is the feeling you felt when you heard Freedom by Beyonce? What's the feeling you felt when you heard Change is Going to Come by Sam Cooke? What's the feeling you felt when you heard New Slaves by Kanye West? Follow that feeling, look at the melodic formulas that these artists use in their writing. Think about the feeling it gave you, did it get you going? Made you aggressive and angry? Did it get you emotional and in your bag? Did it make you feel hopeful and inspired? There's these different things, but that's the templates. When you're creating your song, start thinking, start mapping it out I want people to feel this way. Then analyze what are the other artists that you like? What did they do to make you feel that way? Your do now is to go through all your melodic ideas. Press play, identify the strongest ideas that you think would be the best for the hook, and put that on loop. If you have two ideas, cool. We can have a hook and we can have a tag. We can have the beginning of the hook and they ended the hook, and you can marry those two ideas. Next thing it's from that is to go to your free writing idea. We have all those lyrics and just material just from free writing. See what we can marry from those free writing ideas to this hook idea that we have. Leave that melodic hook idea playing with the music. Leave that on loop over, and over, and over, and over while going through your free writing ideas. Let's see if any of those phrases, words, sentences, anything in there, feels like it would best fit that melodic idea. We're using phonetics, we're using syllables, whatever fits. That's where we start to find this magic. We start to find that moment. Oh, this is a statement, and sometimes, you may have to tweak it. You may have hopeful, but maybe, it's hope is the word you're saying. Maybe the word is free that's on your page. But what fits the melody is freedom, so don't be afraid to tweak it to fit what you need to say. Maybe you could do more free writing, maybe you have a word like immigration. Maybe you do free writing around immigration. Maybe it's not immigration, maybe it's about xenophobia or maybe it's about other, or maybe it's about alien, or maybe it's about came along way. Maybe it's we are one, or maybe it's unity, you just find ways to get closer and honed in on your idea based on what you have already and finding new ways to word it. Maybe use to type in the word and say, what's a better way to say this word? This word is good, but it's not strong enough, use for that. It will help you really get dialed in on the strongest possible word that will fit your melody idea. For me when I was writing Power Of Love, I had [inaudible] My phrase was [inaudible] I filled in, I believe in something of love. I believe in something of love. I believe in the power of love, then I went up. As I said, I want it to be repetitive but maybe not monotonous, so I just need the second one higher. So the first one is I believe in the power of love. Second was higher. I believe in the power of love. I have a chant in the middle. Woah, woah, woah. Again, woah, woah, woah. I believe in the power of love, so that's how I did it. How are you going to do it? You can include the chant. You can not include a chant. You can have the same word over and over, the same phrase over and over. Maybe slightly change the melody to deviate a little bit, it's up to you. Maybe you have other words, and then you end with your main statement. That could be really satisfying as well. I'm excited to see what you come up with. See you in the next video. Peace. 7. Writing Verses: Welcome, friends. We are back. Now that we've established the hook and the title of the song and had gone through your musical melodic freestyles to establish what the hook melody is going to be, what the verse melody is going to be, and the overall concept, the message, where you're going to focus on, your focus area for the song. Most important thing about writing a verse is not what do you say because there's a million things you could say, it's not what you're not going to say. Jim, most important thing about writing the verse is what you're not going to say. When I say that it's like, if you've focused about this, we don't need to reiterate that the same way, it's like you're being redundant. Now, we got to get really hone in on what the song is about. Where the hook is really giving you the overall overarching theme about what the song is, the call to action, it's giving you the statement, you're exclaiming something, maybe you're asking a more serious question. In the verse, we are looking at to breaking it down. You know what I mean? Do you want to write the song from a first-person like I, this is what I went through? Do you want to say second person in you, they? Do you want to be third-person, a character, maybe like Tupac and Brenda has got a baby. You know what I'm saying? It's up to you to decide from which viewpoint, what point of view are you telling a story? Is it something that's happening right now in the present? Is it something that happened in the past? That's also a factor. You could tell a story from the past leading up to the future or the past leading up to the present. You could tell the story from one verse, could be talking about present day events. Second verse, you could talk about past events and how that correlates to now. Are you telling the story from literally like this is what happened and giving a right now, this is literally what happened. Are you going to be more poetic about it and talk in metaphor? Are you going to be specific? For example, for me, in my song, frontline. Talk about current events. "Bang, bang, they shoot you down before they say freeze. No Tarantino film, this is reality. They choke us out in the streets with no warning, no regards for the last day thief. Who's going to save us from the police? Not neighborhood watch, they're just as crooked as cops." So that's very literal, bang, bang, they shoot you down before they say freeze. No Tarantino film, this here is reality. They choke us out in the streets with no warning, no regards for the lives that they thief. Who's going to save us from the police? Not neighborhood watch, they're just as crooked as cops. Talking about current events in the Black Lives Matter movement and referencing Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin. It's like right now and a lot more. I'm using some metaphor but it's really more literal. Whereas a song like Power Of Love, "It's the match that sparks the flame. It's the action that inspires change. Power to the the people in this holy war and no weapon formed against it shall prosper." In that song, Power Of Love, I'm really more so talking about what love is. This is what it is. It's the match that sparks the flame. It's the action that sparks that change. It's like a Tupac quote. You know what I'm saying? Tupac once said in an interview, "I may not be the one that changes the world and takes over the world, I may not be that one, but I will be the man that sparks that." So it's like love is the match that sparks the flame, it's the action that inspires the change. Power to the people reference to Black Panthers in this holy war, because it's like spiritual warfare. No weapon formed against it shall prosper, it's a line from the Bible. There's so many ways we can go about doing that and it's up to you to decide which way makes the most sense for the way that you want to tell your story and for your strengths. Maybe if you are more poetic and more of a lyrical poetic person, you want to approach it with more color and more style with your lyrics. Maybe you're just better and more to being blunt and to the point and just want to say what it is and be direct. There's no right or wrong way, you just got to do what works for you. When it comes to writing your songs, there's little tricks that you can do to make sure that you're, one, creating tension, building tension. Two, that you're creating anticipation for the next part. Three, able to delineate from section to section, so that you know this is the verse because the melody is one way, this is the hook, the melody is another way. One trick that you can do is if let's say, the hook starts on the one, it's on the beat. Maybe that's on the verse, you start the melody after the beat starts so that it has a somewhat of a stutter step. It creates more of anticipation by if maybe you're like, and this is not a rule that you have to follow but it's an idea of something you could do to differentiate your melodies, you can start after. "Once a long ago, I had a [inaudible] It creates space and it's like now, the words are spread out more. Then on the hook, "I believe in Power Of Love." It's like back to back to back melody flow, the flow of the melody is back to back. You get to decide these choices and I think maybe the hook is a higher register than the verse and maybe the verse is a more of a chill resting quiet or somber place in your voice, and the melody is more chill, maybe it's more spaced out, maybe the hook is more in your face and louder. These different dynamic to choices you can make to make the dynamic feel more apparent that were in the hook place versus in a verse place. But again, these are just ideas of things that you can do to help separate your verse and your chorus. When you're writing your verse, I think what a trick that I find to be really useful is have a really strong opening line, try to come up with something that's going to as soon as people hear the first line, they are now leaned in like, "Oh, where is he going to go with this? Or where is she going to go with this? You've got my attention, I'm listening now." Again then, where are you taking them. For frontline, bang, bang, they shoot you down before they say freeze. I'm using onomatopoeia, I'm making those sound, bang, bang. That creates a visual in your head of gunshots, and it grabs your attention like, "What's about to happen now?" Bang, bang, they shoot you down before they say freeze. No Tarantino film, this here is reality. It's like I'm painting the picture of Tarantino films as violence, is bloodshed, it's bloody. Also, it's a double entendre using bang, bang, they shot you down, bang, bang, from Kill Bill. That's the theme song of Kill Bill. Bang, bang, they shut you down before they say freeze. Also, it's a play on the saying, "Shoot first, ask questions last." I'm using all this wordplay and metaphor and color with my words, creating the parallel between a Tarantino film which is bloody and puts a violent visual in your head. This is not a film, this is actual reality. The setup of the song is automatically in a place where it's like, I'm locked in, I'm hooked. What's about to happen? There's drama, there's tension being built up. Also, it alludes to what the hook is, it's like foreshadowing. I think your first line or so should really foreshadow where you're about to go. I'm talking about, this song is about being on the frontline. When you think about frontline, you think about army, you think about war, you think about protests, you think about infantry, you think about combat. So bang, bang they shoot you down before they say freeze directly, references we're being on the frontline. It's setting it up, I'm setting up where my hook is going to be. In your verse, when you think about your first line, try to think about something that's strong that would grab people's attention, that also foreshadows and alludes to what your hook is going to be. So being really intentional about that. I would also strongly suggest to make sure that you're on topic. For example, on frontline, we're talking about Frontline which again, the word association would be like war, frontline, infantry, combat, protesting, all these different things. So when you talk about your metaphors and you talk about setting up your verses, it would make no sense if I set up a premise and a concept to be about one thing and then I'm using metaphors that have nothing to do with it. If I started talking about The Circus, it's not an alignment and it's not going to come across as authentic. Whatever you do, try to be consistent and cohesive. Try to be as cohesive as you can with your concept. In the song, Power Of Love, it's the match that sparks the flame. It's the action that inspires change. Power Of Love is like talking about humanity. It's about bringing people together, inspiring change, is relevant to what the subject matter is. It being the match that sparks the flame. We talk about the second verse. It's liberation for everything, it's the reason the caged bird sings. It shines a light, drives out the dark. It's the dream of freedom that Martin taught. It's like I'm using imagery in words that are really painting a picture that's illuminating the main subject with this, "I believe in the Power Of Love." Whatever you're doing, all your words should illuminate that subject. It should really heighten that, and really go back to your main thing, what's your title? What's your hook? How is your verse leading up to that, and building a bridge, so that when you get to the hook, it's this satisfying moment, because you've built up the momentum. You've built up the energy, you've built up the tension, so when the hook comes it's so satisfying, because you were drawing us and guiding us to this place where it graduates, and it's a satisfying feeling. Whenever I'm writing my verse, I ask myself these questions. One, does the opening line grab me? Two, does the opening line foreshadow the hook? Does the verse effectively elaborate on my initial concept and subject? Is the verse melody captivating, and does it take people on a journey that leads you to the hook? Very important. Do any of the lines, could they stand alone on their own, and just be a quote for social media? Can any of the lines in the verse be like a button or a pin and be a merged piece? Could it be like a quote or a caption in your Instagram post? Could it be a meme on its own? Super important, we live in a social media culture. When you think about getting the most out of your ideas, it's important to think about how else could we contextualize these concepts, these lyrics, and these ideas, so that the message still gets out there in a new way. I often think about that when I'm writing a line. Will this line work on his own as a merged piece, or as a meme, and it can still reach people in a new way. I think about that often. Another important thing is, does each line in the verse scaffold in a way where it connects to what happened before and it connects to what's about to happen next? Think about that really carefully because you don't want to be redundant. When I say redundant, you don't want to say the same thing over and over and over, and you didn't push the story forward, and then when you get hooked, it's not satisfying. Whatever you just said should lead to the next thing, and the next thing. So when you go backwards, it's this buildup of tension, and you're stretching this rubber band out. Every line should work on its own, but also make sense based on what happened before, and what's about to happen next. They need to all work together in harmony and in concert. Are my verse melodies mirroring each other? When I say mirroring, if you do a melody, if you set it up like, "It's the match, that sparks the flame. It's the action." I'm doing [inaudible] , you're going back and forth. If you do something once, answer it, then the next line should should set up again, so you don't need to create lots and lots of melodies. You don't have to work that hard. Most songs work that way. "I've got sunshine, on a cloudy day. When it's cold outside. I got the month of May." That's it, that's the verse. "I guess you'd say, what can make me feel this way? My girl, my girl." It's all mirroring. "I got sunshine, on a cloudy day. When it's cold outside." That's it, we're just doing that. The different variations because the melody is going to be different in your song. But just make sure your melodies mirror each other, in syllable count, and in the structure of the notes in the melody. When I'm writing a song, I map it out in a way where I can see the framework, is a good word. Let's say I map it out so I can see the framework of the song. I can see what is the syllable scheme? What is the rhyme scheme? When I say rhyme scheme, I'm looking at if, "It's the match, [inaudible] sparks the flame. [inaudible] change." Flame, change, rhymes. Every line don't got to rhyme with each other, but you should have rhymes within your structure where they can mirror each other. Some songs, every line rhymes, or every other line rhymes. If you have, "Bang, bang, they shoot you down before they say freeze." So that's an E sound, no Tarantino film the sees reality, E. So those are two E's, they bridge each other, and they connect the two, so that's your frame. That's the framework, is you're using E sound. You can use perfect rhymes or you can use near rhymes, and this is where RhymeZone comes really in handy. It's where you can put the words you're looking for in, and say, I'm trying to look for a word that rhymes with change. You can say the word I'm trying to rhyme right now is hope. Then you try to figure out what fits that rhyme, satisfies the rhyme, and also satisfies pushing the story forward, and what's next. Also syllable count, if you want to make sure that there's symmetry going on so that your lines, they work together. I will count out how many syllables in the first line, and what's the rhyme that it ends with? What's the vowel sound? What's the next line? How many syllables are in that line? What's the vowel sound at the end of that? Each of them should scaffold towards similar setup and punchline, or setup line and answer line, then set up an answer in each of those should match in a way where this is now starting to have consonance, and it's starting to have symmetry, and it really fits and marries each other, and it feels flawless now. The trick to do that is to make sure that again, you're counting how many syllables each line has, so you can be mindful that when you're answering, it has a similar amount of syllables. It fits together and marries well. Also that rhyme scheme, and try to stick to those rhyme schemes as much as you can. If you can't find a perfect rhyme, look for a near rhyme. When you look at a lot of these songs that we're talking about, they have something in common. There's these common threads that brings them and pulls them all together to where they're related. Your verse, is it descriptive? Is it visual? Is it disruptive? Is it conversational? Is it social commentary? You want to ask yourself all those questions. Is it satisfying those check marks, those boxes? Is it doing that? Here we are, my favorite part of the class, your favorite part of the class. It should be, is the Do Now. It's part where you get active and you get to use and apply the things that we just talked about, and so your song that you're working on right now, that you're writing right now. Use your free writing assignment from the third video to work out the material and the ideas for what you're going to talk about. You're going to identify and circle or underline, whatever the case may be, to select all the strongest ideas of what you want to use for your material. This is where now we can get critical, now we can start to make choices like, "Oh, I want to say that." Or, "This would be dope. I think people will like this." Or, "This speaks to me in a really powerful way." You want to comb through all your ideas to look for those gems. Now, if you run out of ideas, you can always just free write again, there's never too much material. Just do a free writing and word association based on what you have. If you get stuck, do some free writing around the place where you got stuck. What else comes to your mind when you think about this subject or about this idea? You can also start to read some news articles. Read a book, maybe read some poetry. Reading really helps you write better. I think for me, the more research and reading I do, I come across really cool ideas sometimes. Even most recently I was writing a song and I was stuck, and I started reading a book that had nothing to do with the song. It was just a book that was maybe spiritual in some ways and the passage I opened up to was directly correlated to what I was talking about in the song. I was able to pull a couple of ideas about hope, or whatever the case may be, and I was able to apply that to my song. There's always going to be somewhere where you can pull from. Sometimes it's a conversation, maybe take a break and call a friend. Maybe listen to a podcast. Maybe watch some interviews. Maybe watch a documentary, read a book. Find ways to generate ideas and to get concepts. Whether you're generating it or you're documenting it and someone else is generating it. You want to build it, just constantly be in that flow of generating ideas, and documenting, and identifying great ideas. See you in the next video. Peace. 8. Re-writing and Editing: I'm so proud of you. You guys are crushing it and I'm really honored to be your coach, to be your teacher, to be your professor, to be your accountability partner, anything, because we're also learning. It's a never-ending journey of learning. I got some good news and I got some bad news. The good news is you have a hook and you have some verses to your song. The bad news is writing is rewriting, and everybody who's into writing knows that. What you have now might be a great first draft, but it's important to go through your writing to see if anything that could be better. Now's the time to look at your writing through a critical lens. Is there anything in your verse that you think could be stronger? I think one of the ways that we do this is by reading your words out loud. I will always take time to, one, give myself a day to put my music away, to put the work away, and approach it with fresh eyes and fresh ears, and when I do that, one, I'll take the page and I'll look at the page, and I'll say, I'll read every line, every word, line-by-line, out loud, like poetry. I'll read it to myself and I'll see if anything tickles me or something triggers me in a negative way. I don't like that. That's corny. That's cliche, or that's a little too complicated or muddy. That's not really what I meant. Also, as you read this, you feel these moments of brilliance like, "Wow, I can't believe I said that. That was actually really dope." But maybe the line before it, sometimes your setup isn't really strong enough, or sometimes your punchline or response line isn't strong enough. But when you have a really good line, usually, it means one of the two needs to be better. As you read your lines and your words out loud, slowly, and listen to yourself read it, you will start to intuitively starts to feel like, I think this is not doing it. It's too generic. It's too general, or it's too vague, or it's too complicated. You'll get a sense for what's wrong with it, but it's important to read it out loud. Then as you're reading it out loud, to maybe take a red pen or something and make a check, or underline it, or circle the things that you're not sure about and write a note, like you're grading your paper. As you do that, then you go through the whole song and then you go back, and you look at them stuff that you marked and say, why is this bothering me? Is it because it's too complicated or it's too muddy? Or is it because it's too simple and too basic? This is where rewriting comes in handy. You circle that line and start to think, how else can I say this in a way that satisfies the rhyme scheme and the syllable scheme? What part of it don't I like? Is it the first half or the second half? You really get clear on the parts that don't work for you and say, I got to rewrite this. What else could fit this line? If the melody is, that's 12 syllables. You think about the vowel sound that you're ending the whole thing on. You think about the whole count of 12 syllables and you start free-styling like, what else? Maybe look at your notes, your free-writing notes and see what words will fit in this syllable scheme. You start making sense and finding your way within the syllables to find how you do it. Sometimes you take a common phrase like an idiom and every day figure of speech that we use, and maybe you say it the same way or maybe you break it up and reverse it, and that can be the way that you've satisfied the line. Like in my song Frontline, I go, they shoot you down before they say freeze, which is a flip on the idiom shoot first, ask questions last. It's a phrase we all have used or heard, but I'm just reversing it. I'm flipping it. This is the hard and fun work of how do I make this line better? Am I going to say it exactly how it is? Or am I going to describe how it feels? Am I going to say, I'm hurting right now? Or are you going to talk about like, I feel numb? Are you going to say my heart is broken? Are you going to say I'm shattered? You know what I'm saying? These are all creative choices you get to make and by analyzing your song and your lyrics, you get to decide what it needs because sometimes, they say the rule is kiss, keep it simple, stupid. Sometimes you've got to keep it simple, and sometimes you've got to be a little bit more colorful. That's for you to decide based on how it feels to you. As I'm analyzing my verse, again, let's go over this. One, I read it out loud without a melody to see how does it sound to me, how the words sound to me, and the relationship between each line and each word. Does that sound right to me? Then I'll read it out loud, but sing it, a Capella, to a beat, maybe I'll snap and I'll sing it with the words. I'll say, does each melody lineup? Does it match? Does it feel good to me now? Does the lyric and melody feel good to me? See if it still resonates without the music. Then I'll play it with the music over again. Then I may need to change some of the melodies. Maybe I want to go up on the melody instead of going down. Maybe I want to shorten it up, you adjust your cadence and your melody based on what feels better to you, but you have to take the time for yourself to really analyze each melody the same way you analyzed your word to see, this melody, maybe it needs to be more faster because it's dragging too much, or maybe it's too fast and it needs to have more feeling and you drag out the notes longer. But you have to make these choices by listening and figuring out, based on what you're saying, what the melody needs to be the compliment those words. Then I'll play it with the music and figure out the vibe and get really into the track, into the music, and let that really speak to me. All of these things are informing the other. Folks, here's the good news. Everything you make is not set in stone. You can always make several iterations of a verse or a hook until you find what you like. That's the beauty of writing, is it's always evolving, it's always changing. Surprise, there's always an opportunity for you to revise, and to grow, and to evolve. You think about one of the greatest songwriting stories that I've heard of my life is the story of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, where he first wrote the song, it didn't really do well. It was a flop and throughout the years, he started performing it more and slowing it down, making it more dramatic. Then someone else covered the song, they made it even more dramatic and even more slow, and then it morphed, and over decades and decades and decades, became this beautiful epic song decades after it came out. The initial artist, Leonard Cohen, wasn't even the one who made it famous. It was someone else's rendition of someone else's rendition that really became the staple of the song. I'm saying that to say in context to yourself, maybe the thing you think is a verse is really the hook. Maybe the thing you think is the hook is really the bridge. Maybe the tempo you're doing it at now may not work. Guess what? You get to decide to slow it down. You get to decide that, I don't know, maybe this is a fast song. You get to decide maybe I'm going to change the rhyme scheme. I can change the syllable scheme if it doesn't suit me. You get to make all these choices. You get to explore and be empowered to make choices and changes as you see fit that will best serve the song. The do now for this video is read your lyrics out loud. Ask yourself, do the syllables add up in each line? Are your rhyme schemes tight? Are any of your lyric choices generic or cliche? This song should build in energy and dynamic so that the end of each verse climaxes into your hook. Does each section of the song have its own standout melody? Comb through each part to make sure it sings well and reads well. Use your voice notes to record yourself singing the song fully through, and then press Play, listen to the playback, and see if anything stands out in a bad way. See what stands out in a good way. If it feels like something's missing or it's not right, trust that feeling and then rewrite it until it feels right for you. All right, guys, that's that. See you next video. Peace. 9. Recording & Production Basics: What's up, folks? I am so elated and proud that we've gotten this far. This is Video number 8. You guys have completed a song in regards to the composition and the writing aspects, and now it's time to produce it and to mix it, and to really get into the post-production. Ideally, your song is in a place where you are happy with it, you are satisfied and content with the direction you're in. If anything, we're just making small changes now, really fine tuning it, if you will. There's vocal production, which is really thinking about the emotion, and feeling, and attempt behind each word. Maybe I want to sing with a little bit more vibrato on this one word. Maybe I want to be more breathy and airy in the way I sing this other word. Maybe I add some more growl and rasp when I sing this other thing so it feels more aggressive. That's vocal production and making choices that best serve the song. After I do the vocal production, it's really the arranging part, and it's like what needs harmonies, work up with some background vocals, and create a dynamic that's going to help the song build and release tension. As I listen to the song, I see, what feels like it could use a little dash of color? Maybe I'll sing a note on top of a note like just to layer it with a little harmony so it brightens it up a little bit. Maybe there's a long space between my phrases. That's a place where I would add maybe a background vocal, something a little moment like. I put a little woohoo right there because it was like. You have to just feel the song out and listen to it and see what feels right to you. Also like listening to your music. It's like listening to the songs that inspire you. It was like a way to fill up the space, and also created this rhythm and cadence. Just listen to a lot of these songs and you'll find that just like these little background vocals, and little chants, and little things that's happening that's creating ambience and a mood. That's for you to decide that though. I showed you how I do it. There's many times where I don't have my computer with me. I don't have my setup, I don't have my keyboards, my guitars, I have none of my gear with me and I have to maybe do with my phone. Often I'll leave voice notes of instrumentation. I like. I like beat box, a beat into my voice recorder, save it. I like melody, I like mouth and mumble. Instrument I just. I just like those, like the melody idea, and then I'll sing over that. As I'm playing back my musical instrument ideas that I do with my mouth, I'm singing over it just to get all the ideas, then I'll record that into my phone. When I get to my studio, I actually get a chance to elaborate and flash out those ideas fully. But if you can only do a beat box and then record the melody, that's something. Never feel like it's not enough. To be honest with you, there's a lot of apps that are available for your phone whether it's GarageBand, or Beat Maker, there's so much software. I would start with something like GarageBand if you have an iPhone, and just something for a way that's for you to arrange your ideas. One thing to have the voice notes, which is great because it's free. If you can get a nice affordable app for your phone, so start to really develop your ideas, and that instruments, and affects. Voicy is a good one. There's so many just really cool apps for your phone where you can get into experimentation and just elaborating on whatever you hear. There's no right or wrong for this. This is just you to explore and to have fun, the same way you'd look for Angry Birds or Block Breaking, the same way you've looked for games and experiment with what games you like. Start exploring and look for musical apps you can find that will help you with your writing and will help you with creation of ideas. They're out there. Last thing folks, pro tip. All the bells and whistles, whether it's production, whether it's sound effects, whether it's plug-ins for your voice, whether it's drums, or guitar solos. None of that matters if the song ain't right, and if it don't feel like how it needs to feel, and that melody ain't strong. So everything is in service of the song, melody is king and the song is in the highest order. The song got to feel right. The melody got to be strong. Everything is in service to the song. Any ad-lib a singer does, as long as it helps make the song better, great. Any cool keyboard, or guitar, or drum stuff the producer is doing, if you're the producer, cool, just don't let it step on the toes of the song. Any harmonies you got, any musical, vocal production ideas you've got, as long as it serves the song, it doesn't step on the toes of the melody, awesome. Melody is king and everything is in service of the song because that's what's going to live on long after you're dead is the recording. Follow your heart, trust your gut and do what's right. All right guys. Here we are, your favorite part, my favorite part, the do now. This is where you get activated. For beginning writers, what I want you to do is use your voice notes and record your song. Do a couple of takes. Listen back to each one and see which one you like the best. This is for you to get comfortable with finalizing your ideas, recording them down and hearing them back. If you never plan on sharing this and putting this out, that's fine. But I want you to get comfortable with really executing that idea. That's your homework. For you now, intermediate and advanced writers, I want you to use your DAW, your DAW, your Logic, Ableton, Pro Tools, GarageBand, Logic, whatever you're using, lay down your ideas, record it. This is time for you to actually execute on your vision and to use discernment as you're editing your vocals and adding additional post-production, whether you're adding a live guitar to something, or like a lot of base, or strings, whatever it is. Be tasteful and do what's best and in service to the song. Again, I want you to make sure that you're listening back to everything you do. Even if you need to take a day off and then approach it again tomorrow with fresh ears. Make sure that when you're listening back, you're listening to see how things feel to you and you can make those critical choices, incredible decisions based off of how it feels to you. If it doesn't work, mute it, delete it, whatever you want to do. If it does work, awesome, keep it, you're doing great. Anyways, you guys are the best and I'm excited to get to the next video. I'll see you shortly. I believe in you. Peace. 10. Sharing Your Music: Hi, guys. Here we are, video number 9. I'm super proud of you for getting this far. We are now at figuring out and creating and deciding what the roll-out strategy is going to be. For those of you that this is just a personal project and you don't want to share it, fine, it's awesome. Maybe your roll-out strategy is sharing it with your best friend, sharing it with your life partner. Maybe sharing it with your son or daughter or maybe sharing with your parents and just, "Hey, look what I did." Maybe your roll-out strategy is actually something more elaborate. If you're someone who actually wants to take the next step, I applaud you for doing so. It's a brave and courageous thing that you're doing. It's important to find partners that believe in what you believe in. I really am a strong proponent and advocate for alignment. So looking for grassroots organizations and community-based organizations that are doing similar work to what you're talking about. If you wrote a song about immigration and kids being in cages and families being broken up, partner with organizations that deal with ICE and deal with families that had been affected by ICE and find ways to collaborate and partner on initiatives. Maybe your song can be the soundtrack to the new community initiative. Maybe your music can be featured on their website. Maybe there's actually a media company or a blog or outlet or a magazine that's looking to highlight artists that are making music about this specific issue. Maybe they've covered this issue before, but not with music. Maybe they've covered it politically. You could pitch to them and tell the writer, "Hey, I saw that you covered Black Lives Matter. Well, me too. I'm actually an artist who makes music just about that same topic and I loved the article you wrote. I'd love to pitch you for a premier or for a write-up." Send them your music. What's the harm in asking? If they feel and see that alignment with your message and their message, it's a great partnership. It's a good fit. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. For me, I've done the gambit of doing fully produced videos with a producer, a director, with an assistant director, with PAs and the whole nine and rented space to shoot videos. Had makeup and wardrobe, and it's expensive. I've also done super, really, really, really grungy, really, really scrappy DIY videos where it's just me and I've hired a camera person who'd just follow me around and I'd say this is the vision. Other times I've shot it myself where me and a friend or a partner or whoever is walking around the city shooting people. For me, my music video for Power of Love was a combination where I had a video director that I worked with in Santiago, Chile, where we did some behind the scenes footage, some B-roll and some performance footage of me performing in Santiago, Chile in parks and different places. I came back to New York and I recorded the rest of the video with random camera people where we would just pop up, walk around Times Square asking people to sing along to the song. I'll have a little speaker, ask you will you sing along to the song? I'd just get footage of them singing. Some of the footage means someone else singing along to it. Going through the journey of going to the train, walking through the streets and popping up on random people asking them to sing along, we created a really awesome DIY moment. You wouldn't think that this is this cheap video because it has heart and it really sticks to what the message of the song was about. Whether you're getting a fully produced video with a director or producer, location, makeup, wardrobe, or you're doing a DIY, think about what the message of the song is and how you can really amplify that. It’s the match that sparks the flame. It’s the action, that inspires change. Power to the people in this holy war. No weapon formed against it shall prosper. Hope and love can conquer anything. All you’ve got to do is plant a seed of faith. I believe in the power of love. I think one of the best things you can do in regards to really getting the message out is to create content that's beyond just the music video. Creating memes. You know what I'm saying? Use Canva. I use that all the time. Canva is a really great free app that I use to create flyers and graphics and infographics and marketing materials that help convey the messages from the songs. As well as I might create a lyric meme with lyrics from my song that helps get the message out in a way that's fresh. I might do another graphic where it's a picture of me with lyrics from the song. I might do fun facts in my IG story, fun facts about the music video. Fun facts about the song creation, about the message. This is different ways that you can help make your content and to make your subject new. Pro tip, always remember you have the power to craft your own narrative, and the narrative you craft has the ability to empower and change the world. Always remember that all around you there's influencers and media and blogs and radio stations and grassroots organizations and non-profits and institutions and just individuals that align with what you align with. They already are here doing the work, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. There's folks out here doing the work. Find them and align with them. Strategic partnerships is everything. Again, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Find your tribe, align with them, change the world together. That's the point, right? Above all, this is the most important thing, you want to galvanize the folks. You want to galvanize the communities, galvanize the people, bring people together and get them into action. The point of being an artist and activist was not just to make art, but also bring people together and create a movement. Was to support a movement. Whether that means you're the one who's organizing them or you're partnering with people who are already organized and you're inserting yourself into what they're doing to be supportive. There's always going to be a movement somewhere, you have to get involved and you're bringing up a huge asset. Look at it like this. We all want to have this barbecue. Maybe you got the wings. I've got the plates. If you don't have plates, we can't have a barbecue. No wings, we can't have a barbecue. Maybe you got the soda, they got the napkins. We're all working together. Don't feel the pressure to create and start and end. You're not the end-all and be-all. So breathe, relax, bring what you have, know that it's valuable, and find people who will find value in what you bring. I'm excited because guess what? It's my favorite part, your favorite part of the class, it's the Do Now. Your homework, your do now is to identify your top fans, whether it's your mom, your best friend, your girlfriend, your boyfriend. Make a list of your top fans. This is going to be your base, your fan base, your initial base is going to help you push the message out. Next, I want you to brainstorm ideas. Then we did free riding, brainstorm a list of ideas of how you're going to get the song into the world. Three is I want you to figure out organizations and partners that you can have, whether it's the organizations, influencers, individuals, activists. Find your tribe of people that are going to help you get this message out that you can align with and be part of the movement. This is where we get active and real. It's like now the creation that you created out of thin air in this class, you're bringing it to a movement saying I have the song, I have the theme song, I have something I can contribute. Maybe it's an open mic, it's organized by activists, right? Maybe it's an actual rally and they need the music. Whatever it is, come with what you have. All right, guys. See you in the last video where we'll wrap up. See you soon. Peace. 11. Closing Thoughts: Congratulations. I'm so proud of you. I'm proud to announce that you are now a certified artist and activist. Clap for yourself. This is awesome. This is a new beginning and I'm excited to see what the future holds for you. We're going to do a quick recap about what we've just learned. We start out with free writing to find your purpose, crafting and creating a melody from just free styling melody ideas, figure out the hook and the title, to creating a verse and writing the verse and telling the story and the narrative, to rewriting and doing revisions to your writing to be a better writer and really honing in on what works and what doesn't, down to post-production, and mixing, and editing, and EQ-ing to then rollout strategy, figuring out how it pushes out into the world, how we are creating and finding a tribe, is it going to help us amplify the message? Here we are, graduation ceremony, we're out as activists. I'm proud of you. Thank you again for joining the class. It has been an honor and a privilege. You want to find me online, visit my website below,, I-A-M-S-T-E-F-F-R-E-E-D, is my website. All my social media accounts are the same, @iamsteffreed, I-A-M-S-T-E-F-F-R-E-E-D, on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, everything is iamsteffreed. See you on the inter-webs, connect with me. Check on my music. It's on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, etc. Search steffreed, power of love, that's me. Good news. If you want to replay the songs that we went over in class, they're available on Spotify, all my special artists and activism playlist. I'll be sharing that with you in the links below. Share it, follow it, be inspired. Here's to more change making. Thank you for joining my Skillshare class. It's been an honor and a privilege to go to share what I've learned throughout my journey with you. I'm looking forward to seeing you in the real world. Peace and love.