Songwriting is easily one of the hardest things a person can do to be creative. Between lyrics, melodies, and composition, many challenges are presented to a songwriter. While it is truly a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be difficult if you don’t want it to be. Consider these 8 tips for better songwriting and improve your songwriting abilities instantly.
Stop Overthinking / Let it Flow
As a songwriter, I have always been my own worst enemy. I can definitively say that I’ve limited myself in every way possible. I’ve given up a hundred times before even finishing a single line. I’ve avoided writing around others or with friends and bandmates. These extreme limits have done nothing for my music, and I’ve gained little in times of extreme criticism.
This has also been the case for even some of the very best songwriters. It’s important to let things flow and come naturally instead of critiquing every little thing that you produce. This is considered the hardest thing about songwriting because you want your music to be good, and it can be soul-crushing or downright embarrassing if you are producing something that doesn’t sound very good at all.
To become a better songwriter, focus on getting a draft finished first. Once that is done, you can always come back and revise at a later time. Most importantly, remember to go easy on yourself.
Get a Second Opinion
As a developing songwriter, it’s vital to have close friends or people in your life you can confide in and share your rough draft music with. But it’s even more important to have someone who will do more than to tell you “I love it!” or “It’s terrific!”. That oftentimes does very little to help and perhaps only gives the writer a false sense of security.
It would be best if you had someone who will give you constructive criticism. Someone who will help you analyze different aspects of your music and tell you what they honestly think. Whoever you share your music with in the early stages, it needs to be someone who will never tear you down without helping to build you back up.
Try building a songwriting system with a close friend who also wants to create music and needs help. More often than not, they will be just as inexperienced or uncertain of their writing abilities. Just remember to be completely transparent with each other and receptive to their opinions and ideas.
If you’re already working with others to critique each other’s music, why not go all the way and collaborate with them to make music together? This is the best way to open yourself up to new avenues because you’ll be in a position where you have to write in ways that complement or build onto whatever your collaborators are putting forward. It can be a grueling process, believe me, but oh-so-satisfying when it works.
Write, Write, Write
This is one of the more obvious tips to better your songwriting, but typically the most ignored, and for a good reason. No one wants to drag themselves through the mud daily to become a better songwriter. For me, there was always that voice in the back of my head that was telling me, “you’re missing something,” or “maybe if I study the songwriting formulas of professionals, my music will come easier.”
While knowing how to write and understanding the sort of science behind it, that’s a fraction of the process. The key is repetition and practice. Michael Jordan didn’t become a legend by just studying basketball; he practiced. He practiced to the point that it was his entire life.
Use some of the tips I’ve provided already and force yourself into a habit of writing each day or multiple times a week. You will undoubtedly have a rocky start or patches of rough spots, but I can assure you this is the fastest path to where you want to be.
Take a Break and a Breather
Has anyone ever told you that songwriting is frustrating? Not only that, it can be emotionally draining as well. If you’re writing and find yourself stuck, set a timer and walk away from the process for a bit. Go to the kitchen and grab a snack. Or perhaps lay down and listen to music.
A small break of no more than 30 minutes (you don’t want to be away too long) can help reset the brain and come back stronger than before. But remember, there is a difference between taking a break and shelving the song for another time. The goal is to produce a draft of a song within a single songwriting session.
You may be experiencing what is known as writer’s block if you find yourself struggling consistently. Click here to see our tips for beating writer’s block.
Record Your Way Through a Song
If you have some audio production equipment, this tip is for you. By this point, you should already be writing music daily. So, if you have some recording gear, why not go all the way and record your drafts? Hit the record button and start laying down your tracks.
Make sure to work your way through and create a rough draft, regardless of how you feel about it. Then, come back to it at a later time and evaluate it. If you hate it, trash it. But if there are some good things about it, great! This way, you have it stored away and won’t have to commit it to memory. And remember, that draft can be a steppingstone to a really great song in the future.
Suppose you have recording gear but need some great loops or samples to put in your music, head over to Looperman to download free loops and samples. You’ll thank me later.
If you are recording your songwriting sessions but are struggling to keep your projects organized, see our post to help with organization.
Forget the Science of Music
If you are anything like me when I was younger, you may be digging yourself in a rut by focusing too much on perfecting the process of songwriting while writing. Instead, it would be best if you focused on experiencing the process of writing a song. Let me explain.
I am a producer, and I often found myself trying to create the optimal recording process as I write. I created templates in my DAW, developed plugin settings for different types of songs, etc. All of this was done to aid me in the songwriting process or to “jumpstart” my music as I write. Or so I thought. I realized I would get carried away and found myself straying further and further from the actual task at hand.
While these things are important if you are a home producer, it’s important to distinguish the difference between setting up your rig to be more effective and procrastinating because you find the songwriting process too dreadful.
Don’t Get Discouraged
And last but not least, don’t let yourself be discouraged! Songwriting is undoubtedly tough, and a consistent feeling of not making good progress is enough to make anyone want to give up. Just remember that the songwriting process is just that, a process. Letting yourself get discouraged easily and often will be very difficult to get to where you want to be. Songwriting isn’t rocket science; it is actually way harder! But it’s only as difficult as you want it to be. Follow these tips to better your songwriting. And to quote one of the best songwriters of all time:
“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”