Evernote for Songwriting: Song & Story

Tips & Stories

Evernote for Songwriting: Song & Story

Posted by Aubrey McGowan on 25 Apr 2012

Posted by Aubrey McGowan on 25 Apr 2012

Name: Aubrey McGowan
Location: Frisco, Texas
Profession: Songwriter
Website: http://songandstory.com/
Facebook: Song and Story
Twitter: @songandstory


Aubrey McGowan is a singer/songwriter and the co-founder of Song & Story, a company that helps people tell their stories through  song. Launched in January 2011, Song & Story is made up of Aubrey, his wife, and several collaborators who write and produce songs for individuals and organizations. Aubrey shares how Evernote helps him with his creative process as well as managing his business and home life. He even wrote a song about it!

Download the MP3

I use Evernote, Everywhere

  • iPad
  • Windows
  • iPhone
  • Mac

I use Evernote for…

As a songwriter, I spent a lot of time looking for a way to manage my songwriting ideas. I’ve tried everything from software to paper notebooks, but couldn’t find anything that really clicked until I began to use Evernote. The flexibility of the app, it’s various features, and the many locations from which you can access your information really made it the perfect tool for me to manage my business and my life. I use Evernote religiously. Here’s a look at how it helps me:

  1. My wife and I share multiple notebooks which are divided into two Notebook Stacks. I organize notes into everything related to songwriting or the business. That way, virtually everything I need access to on any given day can be found in my Evernote account. Sharing notebooks with my wife means if she records a melody at home, it syncs and I’m able to listen to it even if I’m at the office. It makes working together a much more seamless process, especially since we’re not always in the same place at the same time.
  2. I draft and organize songs in Evernote. I create various drafts of songs in Evernote and organize songs in separate, Stacked notebooks that include songs in progress and completed songs. The completed songs notebook also serves as a portfolio.
  3. We manage our business in Evernote. We have several notebooks under the Notebook Stack ‘Business’ which includes everything related to running our business: from invoices to web graphics, my wife and I always have access to documents, websites, expenses, and more.
  4. Evernote helps us maintain a paperless lifestyle. Whether it’s a scribbled note on a napkin or a document, Evernote lets me manage my paperwork without the paper stack. I can snap a photo of an item, or scan in a document. Once it’s in Evernote, I can tag and file into appropriate notebooks so I’m always able to find what I’m looking for. [Learn more about paperless lifestyle from our Paperless Living Ambassador]
  5. I use my Evernote email address hourly. My Evernote email helps me manage the things outside of my Evernote account, organize them, and find them later. I forward important emails, articles I want to read, invoices, and more from my email to my Evernote account, where I sort them into notebooks. [Learn how to send emails to your Evernote account.]
  6. I keep track of my favorite products in Evernote. I have a songwriting notebook that I love. When I run out of room, I know exactly where to order a new one because I have the ISBN of that notebook and vendor’s website saved in my Evernote account.
  7. I use Evernote as a reader. I have a notebook called ‘Enrichment’— it’s where I keep things I don’t have time to read, or always want to go back to. Before I started clipping and emailing articles to my Evernote account, my reader was a mass of things and I’d never know where to even start. Now, if someone has 10 blog posts and I know I only want to read one of them, I can just clip the article using the Evernote Web Clipper, or email it from my inbox to my Evernote account.

Evernote in the collaborative song writing process

When we work with a client on creating a song, we take a very collaborative approach. The first step is always having them fill out a survey about the kind of story they want the song to tell and the sorts of emotions they think it should evoke (Should the recipient feel happy? Should he/she be called to action?). From there, we engage in a lot of back and forth before we get to the final delivery stage. We are excited about engaging people in the storytelling process, not just being recipients of a finished project. Evernote helps us work with our customers every step of the way.

Evernote is our jumping off point to collecting ideas and also for working through rough drafts with the customer. We used Shared Notes to get customers involved in the storytelling process.They’re able to see our progress, as we record ideas and scratch tracks by simply clicking on the Shared Note Link. If it’s not hitting the right spot, we continue to work back and forth.

Evernote for everything else

In addition to using Evernote to manage my business and songwriting, I also use it as a catchall for pieces of information that would normally have no proper place. I have a notebook called ‘misc/personal/docs.’ I use it to save account numbers and things I always forget. For example, I have a photo of a sticky note with the dimensions of our countertop and another with the account number of my Internet service. I have the size of my tires on my car, the model number for the lightbulb in my car and serial numbers for pieces of equipment I have, all handy in Evernote, instead of sitting in a junk drawer, where I’d inevitably never find them. Lastly, I’m working through some online courses to finish my degree and everything I do, I keep in Evernote. When it comes time to take an open book test, I’m able to search through my Evernote account at lightning speed.

The song that I wrote for Evernote really captures what Evernote is for me. I chose to personalize the tool because it’s truly my constant companion.


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9 Comments RSS

  • Tiago

    Yes, evernote is a great tool and I love it, but as a musician I found the audio clips sound quality very disappointing on Evernote app for iPhone. It would great if it could match the audio quality of iPhone’s native app “Voice Memos” that has a good sound generating small files size.

    • Aubrey McGowan

      Tiago, I agree. The audio embedded audio in Evernote is not the best of quality, but we use our voice memo app and then email it to our account. And now you can send emails directly to specific notebooks in Evernote by using the “@” symbol and the name of the folder (i.e. “@songs in progress). This is such an awesome feature! I think all of the other advantages of using Evernote definitely outweigh the lack of audio quality.

      Who knows? Maybe we can petition for better audio quality together? Hint hint…

      Keep creating!


  • Travis

    I agree with Tiago. My work-around with this is to record using my iPhone’s voice memo app and then email the file to my Evernote address. This can later be either linked or merged with a previous note, but it’s certainly a more involved process than simply hitting record in Evernote and being done with it. I know other songwriters who have chosen not to use Evernote specifically for the lack of audio quality. Really, the voice memo app is only turning out 64kbps which is still fairly compact. In comparison to the 13kbps that Evernote records at, 64kbps is worlds ahead in terms of usefulness for a songwriter. Extremely low bitrate is passable when recording a thought, a conversation, or a lecture. When one is recording a song idea where a moment of inspiration combines melody with lyrics set over the top of some instrumental harmonic structure, the need for higher degree of nuance (read: detail granted by higher quality audio) is much increased.

    I’m wondering if the solution could be something as simple as offering an audio quality setting within the mobile apps? This could be as user friendly as two options: “efficient” (13kbps) and “detailed” (64kbps or higher). I am not sure where the level of diminishing returns kicks in with bitrate vs quality given that our audio sources is a mobile phone, but Evernote could possibly further set itself apart from the pack if it could record with even higher quality than the native voice memo app. A 64kbps setting would still be a welcome improvement if that happens to be a necessary limitation of the device(s) or if that is where bitrate and quality ideally balance out given the medium we are using.

    Thanks for all that you guys do!

    • richard

      good suggestion guys, .. recording it with the iPhone recording tool and then email it … just never thought about that option

  • Aubrey McGowan

    You guys can go to http://songandstory.com/songs and check out even more songs that we have written to tell other compelling stories!

  • paulplaysguitar

    Cool song… I don’t know how any songwriter can stand Evernote’s audio quality. Honestly, I might as well do my demos on an original 90’s era Talkboy™.

    Seriously though, I did the math and you can record almost 9 hours of audio at Evernote’s compression settings without surpassing the 50mb file size limit. Who needs 9 hours of record time???

    Please allow switchable audio quality… pretty please????

  • bduffy3000

    I’m curious: you say your wife and you “share multiple notebooks which are divided into two Notebook Stacks”, but can’t you only see individual, un-stacked Notebooks in the “Shared” column under one name?

    My brother and I are starting to use Evernote for a demo song business, but we’re frustrated with the forced separation of Shared Notebooks, and no Stacking.

  • Jason Dahl

    How are you sharing Stacks? I am in much the same business as you, and my songwriters and I are trying to transition from another, more complicated task manager.
    For us, if I create and share a Notebook, it only can appear unsorted in my collaborator’s Evernote. I would LOVE to be able to share a Stack as a stack!

  • Mona

    Thanks for sharing this very helpful article