Songwriting Tips: The Evocative Power of Melody

Want to improve your songwriting in 2017? Start by creating great melodies that support your song! That’s what SummerSongs founder Penny Nichols can help you do this year at WinterSongs West (January 26-30) in Cambria, CA in her brand-new workshop, the Evocative Power of Melody.

We asked Penny about that and more:

Q: Can you talk about your new workshop, the Evocative Power of Melody?

Penny: We hear so many songs these days and the melodies are mostly groove melodies which are great if you want to dance, but they may not support the emotional landscape of a story song all that well. So we will be looking at how a melody enhances and can support your story in a song.

For instance, listen to Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans.” The melody transports you to the movement of the train and puts us in touch with the underlying sense of loss and nostalgia he wanted his listeners to experience when listening to his song.

Q: What led you to come up with the idea? What is it about melody that you think songwriters need to focus on?

Penny: I came up with it from listening to all of the albums that people send me and music I hear on the radio. How many of those melodies do you remember? You may remember a song idea or a lyric, but a song with a melody you remember stays with you much longer and more vividly.

Q: What is something a songwriter can do right now to make the melodies in their songs better?

Penny: Listen to your songs with your focus on the melody. Does the melody go down when you’re getting deeper into the feeling of the song? Does it go up when you are making an important statement? Ask yourself how your melody is supporting your story? Is it supporting your story at all? That is your starting place. Through discussions and exercises in the class we will explore how to analyze our songs in terms of the effectiveness of our melodies and maybe you will come out of it with a powerful new song!

Q: Now let’s talk about SummerSongs generally. What are you most proud of in terms of the success of SummerSongs Songwriter Camps since you founded the organization in 1999?

Penny: I am deeply grateful for the experience of watching so many beautiful songwriters learn their craft and go on to be successful in their musical pursuits!

Q: What are you most looking forward to at WinterSongs West?

Penny: Being with all of our songwriting community and appreciating the new places they will have explored in song since I last heard them, and sharing my own new songs as well.

Q: Why should someone return to a retreat like SummerSongs if they’ve been before, and why should someone decide to go if they’ve never been?

Penny: Come back because the inspiration will feed your muse all the time you are away. Reconnect and rediscover the amazing work we share together in music at camp. Come for the first time to connect with a deeper level of your own creativity and to meet some of the most amazing songwriters you will ever know, up close and personal.

WinterSongs: Cambria, CA, January 26-30, 2017
SummerSongs West: Cambria, CA, June 1-5, 2017
SummerSongs East: Stony Point, NY, July 23-29, 2017

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