Courtesy of Daniel Reifsnyder...
Most of us would agree that making a great first impression is important – especially in the music business. Sometimes, you don't get a second chance to hit it out of the park, so you've got to make each writing session count. Here are a few tips to help you come out ahead right out of the gate...
1. Do your homework
This is so simple and easy – all it takes is a few minutes on Google. Unfortunately, few manage to think of it. If you're writing with an artist, take some time to familiarize yourself with his or her music. Pay attention to the sound he or she is going for, and also to what that person sings about. Is his or her image edgy, or is he or she more sensitive and introspective?
Right off the bat, this helps you narrow down hooks to pitch and helps you start on the right foot groove wise – you don't want to bust out a country shuffle if the other person's more into Katy Perry. You can still do your homework if you're not writing with an artist, however – don't be afraid to see what stuff your co-writer has written and see if you can find a common thread.
2. Be on time
I'm usually five to 10 minutes early for a co-write, or just on time. Make sure to give yourself plenty of leeway for traffic, construction, or even just getting out of bed. There's nothing more irritating than waiting around for an appointment that shows up half an hour late or maybe stands you up altogether. Of course, certain things are unavoidable – people get sick, accidents happen, work calls at the last minute, etc. Most people will understand as long as it doesn't happen all the time.
Extra tip: bring in coffee or donuts, and you'll really look like a hero. Your writing partners will appreciate the extra effort!
3. Be organized
Most artistic types are notoriously disorganized. Don't be afraid to break with the pack in this aspect. My electronic appointment book is organized with who, what, when, and where. I can get back to co-writers pretty quickly if they're looking to book something, and even better, I can give specifics if they need a reminder of when we're writing. This also ensures that I'm not calling them and asking when or where the write is, much less forgetting all about it.
It's also a great idea to keep recordings of your sessions, and any notes you have – even if someone else is already doing this. Keep stuff like that as a redundancy, because you never know when someone's computer will crash or a lyric sheet will get misplaced. Your co-writer will be impressed when he or she calls you, and it's at the tips of your fingers.
Showing up on time, being organized, and having hooks, ideas, and melodies at the ready is a great way to get off on the right foot. Writing can be difficult – especially first-time co-writes – and it's important to do everything you can to help the process along. Doing these things will show you take your art seriously. It won't go unnoticed – or unappreciated.
Daniel Reifsnyder is a Nashville-based, Grammy-nominated songwriter. In addition to being a musician, he's also an accomplished commercial actor, his voice can be heard on The Magic School Bus theme song and in Home Alone 2. Throughout his career, he has had the honor of working with the likes of Michael Jackson and Little Richard among many others. He is a regular contributor to several music-related blogs.
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