Studio 237 Music Lessons: Songwriting with Kids

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By Scott Gilmore,

Girls Performing Music

In this time of “tech overload”, it is essential to embrace the idea of building something from scratch that is uniquely our own. As a small child, in our modified garage, I remember watching my father building hydroplane racing boats starting from plans drawn on a drafting table. He created championship calibre boats for himself and other racers. The smell of glue, mahogany and sawdust still evoke cherished memories of my father and the excitement of that time. For the last 6 years I have been a music instructor at Studio 237, Santa Rosa Beach. Although I am primarily a Classical / Pop Guitarist, I have been allowed to expand my teaching responsibilities to include Baritone and standard Ukulele, Piano and Theory. However, the area that has been the most rewarding and inspiring for me has been as a “Songwriting Facilitator”. When first inspired to collaborate in songwriting, I had no blueprint in place. My mentor at the time was renowned Stone Carver Mary Lou Waterfield. Utilizing her Masters in Clinical Art Therapy (FSU M.A.T. ED.) Mary taught me techniques cultivated from working with children who had survived trauma and other issues. She demonstrated the importance of asking questions and developing listening skills. I want to share with you some basic ground rules that guide the process: 1) No violence (real or video games related) or adult themes allowed! Encourage students to consider their audience. 2) Emphasis on Song Ownership. The song belongs to the child. My job is to ask questions. Not surprisingly, most songs end up being about dogs and other pets, unicorns and dragons and princesses. The songs can be silly, sad or serious, or a tribute. But it’s always their choice! 3) Encourage the Child to write about what they know, such as songs about going to the beach, trips into space or riding a horse for the first time- all make wonderful themes. For example one of my students performed a song that she wrote at her beloved Grandmother’s memorial service. 4) What is the music for the song? Fast, medium or slow? Which chords and chord progressions will be used? This phase can be a rich “teachable” moment. 5) Realize that songwriting is done outside of chronological time. Until the song is finished we are free to move everything around. If painted into a corner, we can go back and change the song so that we won’t be. It is even OK to start completely over! 6) Because we are often writing during a limited class time, no writer’s block is allowed. “Green-light” thinking rules. My position as a facilitator is to see the child as a creative genius and to expect greatness. 7) Wait for a “Great” first line. Everything that happens after that is a response. 8) Train like an athlete. Writing lyrics that work can be about how the word sounds, rhymes or conveys a more complex idea in a more concise way. Use new words as a “teachable moment”. Discovering new words can be a BIG part of the adventure. 9) Organize and Document. “Rarely throw anything away.” 10) Encourage Performances. A song is only completed when shared with others. It is a celebration of ownership for the young songwriter. Songwriting with kids requires more “out of class time,” organizing and editing lyrics and music.Nothing I have ever done professionally has been as rewarding as “Songwriting with Kids. Helping another to write a song is like building a boat together that everyone can take a ride on.

Cute Schoolgirl With Guitar

Scott Gilmore has been teaching classical, acoustical and electric guitar, bass guitar and all four   sizes of ukulele at Studio 237 Music Lessons in Santa Rosa Beach. For more information, please call 850-231-3199.

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