Songwriters’ Collaborative

The Songwriters’ Collaborative meets on the second Sunday of the month. 

The goals of the collaborative are to:

  • Inspire songwriting
  • Generate good feedback

When it comes to feedback, we try to avoid “That song’s great,” and “That song sucks.” Guidelines for feedback include:

  • Here’s what struck me about the song.
  • Here’s what I liked about the song.
  • Here’s what I think you could do to improve the song.
  • Any other comments.

Another guideline is that the writer-performer can ask for feedback in particular areas, such as:

  • Does the story in the song make sense?


  • What can I do to make this musically more interesting?


  • Kill my babies — meaning be as brutal as you want to be, I can take it.

At one of our first meetings, we all received some specific suggestions for making our songs better as well as valuable feedback that we could apply to any song, including:

  • Simplify a line that seems to be filled with too many words by eliminating filler words such as of, with, or the.
  • Use concrete imagery and action verbs. For example, instead of “has a faded summer smile” use “wears a faded smile.”
  • Use words and images that evoke sensations or involve the senses. For example, everyone can relate to the line “takes his shoes off and wriggles his toes.” 

 Next Page: Ellis Paul on Songwriting 


Songwriters’ Collaborative — 9 Comments

  1. Is the songwriter’s collaborative still in operation? I note that the last post was dated September 2012. If songwriters are still gathering to help one another improve their writing, I would be interested in participating.

    • Yes, we are still active. We meet on the Second Sunday of the month during the Leo year.

      We resume official meetings on September 14. We start promptly at 5:30 at the Mt. Healthy United Methodist Church, current home of the Leo Coffeehouse.

    • Hi, Dave.

      Thanks for the reminder. There certainly can be a songwriting session this Sunday — but I will not be able to participate (at least not fully). I will be getting ready for opening night. I am also going to send out a reminder email. In thinking about it, it probably would be good to have a session if only to get over the summer doldrums and kick off the new year.


  2. I appreciate everyone’s process and the crafting of their songs. I’d propose we can share much of our discussion here or in emails.
    I think we have some great songwriters and I want to hear more of the songs when we’re together. I like to know “Is this song connecting w/ people?” “Do they get it?”
    I did not introduce my song very well and it was a good lesson that some songs really need an introduction. As my song was really written for a teenage girl to sing.
    I appreciate the questions and knowing how that resonates w/ others. I don’t come for advicing or to be directed how to write a hit. For me I write to give a voice to Spirit and often for those that are not heard.
    How did others start writing? What inspired you? Do you use a specific theory or System?
    I’ve personnally never read a book about it. I just started receiving songs thru listening. It’s only recently tha I approached as a craft.
    My early influences were Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, Mingus, Woody Guthrie, Dylan,Beatles, Judy Collins, Incredible String Band, Joni Mitchell, Inayat Khan, and of course Classical. I also was very influenced by Pythagorus,Helen Bonny and astro- musicology.
    I was a drummer and since my father listened to jazz I still prefer a variety of swing based rhythms which were washed aside in Pop music by the R&R invasion in the 60’s.
    So how & why do you write?

  3. It seems we had a pretty good session on Sunday. We discussed the process we will use at the meetings as well as the craft of songwriting. We also shared some songs.

    I would say, based on what I heard, each meeting will be more or less unique with no specific process. While there was no clear consensus around what our approach should be, it did seem that the majority wanted some discussion about the craft of songwriting as well as feedback/critiques of songs. There were some that just wanted a forum to share their songs and were not looking for much in the way of feedback/critiques.

    One thing I continue to encourage is to replace advice with curiosity. David Johnson exemplified this last night. After Robin Roland shared a song, he said something like: I am curious: where did you come up with that chord progression? I wish I had done as well as David, but I didn’t. I had advice, nor curiosity.

    We do have a suggestion/prompt for the next meeting. Write a one-chord song, a cowboy song, or a one chord cowboy song. This is not an assignment: it’s your choice to complete it (or not.) You can also choose your own definition of cowboy.

  4. When I first joined Tom and Dave Laskey, Chris Bieri, and my wife, Elaine Hansen, to launch the Songwriters’ Collaborative, it was more or less just a lark. I did not consider myself a songwriter and had no great aspirations of becoming one. But I thought there might be some interest among club members and it would be good to try to bring people together.

    I got my first guitar when I was 17. In the first 45 and nine months since then, I think I wrote four songs, and only one of them survived. That one is about me and Sam, my grand-daughter, so it means something special to me.

    But something has shifted since I started attending the QCB Songwriters’ Collaborative. I have now written six songs that I would be not embarrassed to play out. I’ve got a couple more in progress. They may not be great, but they are good enough for me. (And I am pretty critical.)

    I think three things caused this shift:

    One: This may seem silly, but writing my reports about Sunday at the Leo. It’s provided at least some sense of discipline and has kind of kick-started my creative side.

    Two: What I think of as “following the muse.” What I do is basically wait. When I practice the discipline regularly, the muse shows up and she gives me a line. And then it is up to me to work with that line, to see where it goes, to figure out what line comes before and what line comes after. Sometimes, she starts with the music, but mostly it’s been the words.

    Three: Going to the Songwriters Collaborative. I have learned that being around other musicians and songwriters feeds my creative spirit. To my surprise, the Collaborative has become important to me.

    Which leads me to this: I would really, really like the Collaborative to become a nurturing community for everyone who shows up to participate. And I am wondering what we (as a community) can do to facilitate that. Thoughts?

  5. I would prefer more sharing of songs. We have many great songwriters. I felt the last event was kind of jumbled w/ pieces of advice as opposed to “this is what works for me.” Like Walter said, There are many different processes for inspiration and writing. Also, many different reasons. Some folks just write for personal/therapeutic reasons, some for worship/church, some just for their significant other, some want to make a living doing it, and some may have no reason or motive at all.
    I think when we’re giving feedback( and I’m guilty of this too) it would be better to express how the song felt to us(the audience) as opposed to grammatical or advising particulars. These can be helpful, but I think it is helpful to ask the songwriter questions and have a dialogue about how the creative process is connecting.
    Also, some folks mentioned it would be good to have just one songwriter speak each week, for perhaps 15 minutes or so so about how they connect with their Muse and have a dialogue about that specific process. Like How does Bob or Walter or whoever connect with their Muse. We all have unique ways. I think I would benefit from focusing on one each week. and finally, I would like to be more inclusive. You can write a song with no lyrics, or share some poem or lyrics that that is searching for a tune. And it doesn’t have to be folk. Like Elephant Talk.

    • Hi, Robin.

      I agree. I still like the idea of some kind of general discussion about song writing, but I think the process needs clearer guidelines and ground rules.

      Some thoughts I had were:

      A strict time frame, say 5:30 to 5:45 or perhaps start this part ahead of the song sharing, so maybe 5:15 to 5:30.

      One topic, selected ahead of time: For example – rhymes and rhyme schemes (or music and melody, or figuring out interesting chording, or (as you suggested) what do I do to woo the muse?)

      One guideline: Don’t give advice. Instead, describe what you do and what works for you. If you have a particular scenario to use as an example, even better.

      I like your thought of having one person be ready to share their approach (and then facilitate a brief discussion?)

      I also like the idea of having the feedback be more of a dialogue. Some thoughts I had for further guidelines for feedback are:

      Start with curiosity. Ask the songwriter what struck them about their own song. Ask what kind of feedback they would like.

      Some possible “prompts” for promoting dialogue I have in mind are:

      Here’s what struck me about the song.

      Here’s what I liked about the song.

      here’s what I think you could do to improve the song.

      Any other comments.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>