andrew west music

Rules of songwriting – Andrew West

Music professor, artist, songwriter and guitarist Andrew West shares his top tips on the art of songwriting...

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 5 Dec 2016
  • min read
Professor Andrew West, head of postgraduate studies at Leeds College of Music and lecturer on the BA (Hons) Popular Music course, shares his top tips for aspiring artists, songwriters and composers.

Andrew is a prolific songwriter, guitarist and vocalist who’s played in bands since the mid-eighties.

His music career took off in 1990 when The Stranglers’ Hugh Cornwell and Roger Cook (Blue Mink) invited him to form the eclectic pop trio Cornwell, Cook and West.

Since then he’s worked with artists in Nashville, signed to Warner/Chappell and produced music for television, with his music gracing award-winning shows including Heroes, Lost and True Blood.

His latest book, The Art of Songwriting, has just been published by Bloomsbury Press.

Try to imagine and create using your own experience
Don't think about the audience whilst writing - that can be part of the editing, performance, arrangement and production of the song.

Try to find a method that works for you
Is it title first? Chords first? Chorus first? Melody first? Many songwriters trust specific methods that consistently work for them.

Always listen
Be open to what others have to say, and don't be disheartened by it.

Be inspired
Listen to a few songs by your favourite artists and think about how they use past, present and future tenses in lyric writing - this might help you revisit and improve some of your own songs that don't quite yet work.

Some of the best songs were written by more than one person - if you can't do it all by yourself find a good collaborator or two.

Vocal clarity
Try to leave sufficient instrumental space for the listener to absorb the voice.

All voices are different - when performing or recording your songs try auditioning the vocal within a few different combinations of instrumental textures, as some will support the voice better than others.

Creatures of habit
Think about where you were and what was happening around you when you wrote your best songs - in all likelihood those environments will work for you again.

...and lastly, persistence is all. Never stop!