Songwriting for Everyone

songwriting-2757636_960_720By: Virginia Gallner

When I started coaching for Omaha Girls Rock last summer, I found myself stumbling to find words for the process of songwriting. Standing in the Holland Center, surrounded by campers with so many of their own stories to tell, I struggled to find a way to explain how to unearth those stories and turn them into songs.

We started by being silly. Songs about potatoes, favorite colors, beloved pets. After much laughter and fun, we started to get more comfortable with the idea of digging deeper. Sometimes you have to give voice to the silly things, the jokes and absurdities, just to get comfortable with your voice as a songwriter.

But that’s just for getting started. If you want to write songs, the best advice I can offer is to listen.

Listen to all different kinds of music. Music that you might not normally enjoy. Listen to the way the words roll around each other, the way the melody chooses certain syllables to sustain and others to cut short. Songs are a very different beast compared to poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, because they have the added variable of melody. If you have ever performed slam poetry, you might know some of these techniques already.

Listen to the people around you for a taste of their stories. Songs, just like poems, do not have to be written from your perspective. Some of the greatest songwriters of our time—think of John Prine, for example, or Bob Dylan—wrote many of their songs about other people, sometimes even strangers. I invite you to sit in a coffee shop and listen to the conversations of strangers, and craft them into a ballad or lament spun out of your imagination.

Listen to your instincts. This process is an excavation, perhaps even more so than writing prose or poetry. Music is something primal and deep. But how do you take these very personal things and turn them into something universal, without saying something that hasn’t already been said before?

Everyone experiences the human condition. If you write about your own experiences, chances are, someone will connect with your story. It is all too easy to accuse a songwriter of being unoriginal with their choices of words and metaphor. But the most predictable songs, the ones that are loved and remembered, are the ones that speak to the human condition that we all know.

As we like to say here at 13th Floor Magazine, everyone has a story to tell, and I firmly believe that anyone can tell their story through song.


Discovering Omaha Early, Afternoon, and Tonight

Early Afternoon Tonight is an Omaha based talk show styled podcast interviewing people from various creative scenes throughout the city. As founder Karl puts it, the goal of the podcast is to help “Omaha learn more about Omaha”.

Episodes air every Sunday, and 13th Floor’s very own Kellie Hayden will join Karl along with musician Topher Booth to to talk about their projects and personal lives.

Early Afternoon Tonight is available on iTunes, soundcloud, and their website.

The show is very new, with only one episode under it’s belt, but host Karl and his partner Eric show their Midwestern hospitality through a good sense of humor and charm that makes for a comfortable listen. We can’t wait to see what’s in the future for the show!

For more social media connection to Early Afternoon Tonight, you can find them on  FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Musicians Wanted

As briefly mentioned in posts, Changing It Up! and If You Give a Book a Playlist we are accepting music submissions to the site!

Our own Sophie Clark shared her musical story telling with her band, Clark and Company, at July’s open mic and we loved it so much that we want to hear more!

To submit your audio files or for any questions, email us at Make sure to include a short bio so that we can learn the mind behind the music as well.

In a lot of ways music can take us to places where words struggle to, show us things that photographs can’t capture, and remind us of feelings we sometimes forget. We’d love to help you share that magic, if you’ll have us.

5 Ways Music Can Boost Your Creativity

Greetings, writers!recordplaying

Remember your favorite guitar solo? How about that piano sonata that made you cry real tears? Music is an art that helps us heal and feel–just like writing. Music is poetry. Music also tells a story. Did you know that listening to music is one of the best ways to get inspired? Here are 5 ways you can use music to help you write your next poem or piece of prose.

1. Music can jog your memory. Have you ever listened to a song that reminds you of “that one time…”? Utilize that. Use that as an opportunity to explore a subject (whether that’s a person, an idea, or an object) you may have forgotten about. Perhaps listening to a song will allow you to reach new conclusions you were unable to reach before. A song can open the gates and let those words flood onto the page.

2. Music can evoke emotions. Tunes affect us more than we think. Similar to jogging memories, songs can make you feel. A heart-wrenching ballad will make you feel sad; an upbeat, bubblegum radio hit might make you feel cheerful. You can use music to influence your emotions, which in turn influences what you write.

3. Music can help alleviate your stress. Exams, jobs, relationships — so much affects us in our busy world, and the stress just keeps piling on. Listening to music can help reduce your stress levels, which will clear your mind of distractions and allow you to focus better.

4. Music can be used as a soundtrack. Sometimes, we hit roadblocks when writing our characters and settings. One way to get past this wall is to create a soundtrack for your piece (like a playlist). Picture your world like a movie scene, and think of music that might play during the movie. Focus on what the music makes you think of, what the music makes you envision. Let the music take you in new and exciting directions.

5. Music can increase your energy. When you’re more energetic, you can perform more. In the same way music affects your mood, music can perk you up or relax you.

If you’d like to learn more about the science behind music and creativity, check out this article by the National Science Foundation:

Playlist and pen ready? Take a look at our Submission Guidelines as you conduct your writing/jam session. The submissions deadline for Fall 2016 is March 31st. Happy writing!