10 Songwriting Tips

10 Songwriting Tips

For some, songwriting is a passion that must be quenched in order to thrive as a human being and for others it’s simply a job. There are, of course, different approaches to writing songs. I would like to share some of them with you, the ones I always fall back on. 

1. Get inspired!

Often the right mindset helps to spark ideas. For some it is a room lit only by candlelight for others a warm sunny day. Find out what inspires you. Creativity can be animated by anything: a coffee break, a film, a conversation, a glance from a stranger, etc.

2. Don’t get distracted!

Even if it is difficult these days because of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you need to set your priorities straight and put that device (those devices) on Airplane Mode to get fully “in the zone”.

3. Keep it simple!

Sometimes a beat knocked on a table mixed with a bit of inspiration can be the basis of a song. So why not record just that?! There are some songs that were created, for example, by the sound of a printer working. I always try to set limits by using the easiest-to-play guitar, even if it’s the cheap one from the flea market where every sound has to be manipulated correctly. 

4. The first idea is often the best one!

I recommend considering ALL ideas, especially the first one, recorded with a smartphone or something similar because, often enough, this is the most convincing take at the end of a writing day. Of course, it makes sense to record at the highest quality possible but sometimes the best ideas don’t arise in the most ideal environments.

5. Experiment!

There are countless ways of creating new sounds and/or loops from a dull chord progression, existing loop or vocal take by using plugins or simply by splicing and rearranging it within a DAW. And with today’s MIDI technology it’s so easy to swap instrument sounds, you can even time the swap in the middle of the song. Another important aspect is the tempo: How does this song sound when played much faster or slower? Also try to play the song in different keys, you’ll see what different moods can be created. Sometimes it’s a software glitch or a broken microphone that drops out in the right place which provides a completely new approach.

6. Put something different in your hands!

If I am stuck, I usually pick up an instrument that I rarely use, for example a mandolin, a banjo or a harmonica. These always bring me back to the essential elements of a song, namely the melody or chord progression. I also use a bass because coming up with melody lines is always easier when we eliminate harmonies. In all honesty, when we pick up our favourite instrument we often jump directly to our go-to chords and progressions. It’s always refreshing to break this habit by changing it up a bit.

7. Practising is a waste of time!

Incorrect! It has never hurt anyone to understand their craft and when it comes to writing songs it’s always inspiring to take what you learn and try it out. Practice makes perfect, and this also applies to the songwriting process.

8. Sit down!

No one is asking you to reinvent the wheel but still, try to develop your own composition. I always notice that much more time is invested in getting the right sounds than in writing good content. This is extremely time-consuming and in the end not very useful. If the song has its structure and essence it doesn’t always need gimmicks or glitter.

9. Give it a rest!

Ignite an idea, let it sit and work on something new. Not every idea will be the epitome of genius. It makes sense that dozens of songs are often produced for an album of only 10 or 12. Often compositions are pieced together from various incomplete song ideas, sometimes they are rearranged or exchanged to create something truly unique.

10. Music is fun!

If your writing day was not productive remember that there are ups and downs in songwriting just like in any creative activity. For me, creativity is a muscle that can be trained. Analysing songs can be very helpful, I don’t necessarily mean analysing the harmonic or rhythmic structures but rather their emotional effect. Why does a particular chorus touch me? Is it the words or the way they are sung? Is it a certain sound that supports the whole composition? 

I hope that some of these tips will help you create ideas for your next project. And who knows, maybe that one igniting hook will catapult you into the charts. In any case, have a fun time trying!

Author’s gravatar
Joe has been singing since he can remember and started playing guitar when he was 10. He's been using it as a songwriting tool ever since. He is passionate about melody and harmony and admires musicians who create these in unique ways. Check out his alternative / indie projects Best of Feelings and Zef Raček.

Leave a Reply