Songwriting is a subjective art. There are so many different methods to songwriting, ways to get started, and ideas about what it looks like. This article is not to set ground rules for the songwriting process, but to offer careful advice for those beginning to step into it.
Designate time to write
Songwriting doesn’t just come with inspiration. If you wait for inspiration, your songwriting will become inconsistent because inspiration is often fleeting. By designating time for songwriting, it not only forces you to be creative, but it keeps you consistently in your craft. And, the more you do it, the more you will grow as a songwriter.
Record your ideas
There are many tools available to record your ideas as a songwriter. Whether it’s keeping sticky notes in your car so you can jot down ideas as they come or physically recording an idea in your voice memos or inside of a DAW, recording your ideas helps you remember them. The more you write, the easier it gets to forget about old songs; by recording them in some sort of format, you ensure that no idea is ever lost.
Journaling is a great way to not only expand your creativity, but to grow in tune with yourself as a songwriter as well. Songs are tender and personal and most songwriters are emotionally-invested individuals. Journaling helps you as a songwriter not only process your emotions, but keeps you in the craft of writing. The physical act of putting pen to paper on a regular basis will bring a better awareness of yourself and, as a result, a clearer lens when you sit down to write a song.
Share your ideas
Don’t be afraid to share your ideas with others! As songwriters, it is extremely beneficial to get feedback on our songs. If you intend to sell a song or release it yourself, people are your song’s audience! Others can give perspective on your song, suggestions for improvement and growth, and can also be encouraging. Affirmation leads to more confidence in your craft and can show you both what you’re doing well and what you could be doing differently.
Collaborate with other songwriters
Collaborating with other songwriters is not only a great tool to help grow your craft as a writer, but is also a great way to network with other artists. Co-writes are a common way to collaborate with other songwriters. Co-writes look different for everybody and can happen both virtually and in person. However it may look, bouncing your ideas off of other songwriters or writing with them is a valuable way to connect and form relationships with others in your industry.
Research writer’s rounds in your area
Bars, restaurants, and local coffee shops can be great vessels for writer’s rounds. Research venues such as these in your local area and see if any are hosting writer’s rounds for songwriters. This can be an easy way to get your foot in the door, perform, and have your music heard in a casual setting, as well as another way to network with other writers, especially if the round is geared toward your genre and target demographic.
Study your favorite songwriters and what makes their songs work
As songwriters, we all have artists and writers that we look up to. Studying your favorite songwriters and what makes their songs work is a surefire way to draw inspiration as a songwriter. Don’t plagiarize—but there’s no shame in pulling from strategies that writers you admire use. It can be a great way to try out different techniques and approaches and draw in an audience that also enjoys the artists you pull from.
Don’t play the comparison game
Comparison as a songwriter is the root of so many evils. It can bring competition, insecurity, and cause you to doubt yourself as a writer. Sam Tinnesz, an alternative artist in Nashville, Tennessee, once said these words to live by: “Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to somebody else’s Chapter 30. It’s a losing game.” Everybody has their own timing and everyone’s process looks different. It is important to keep in mind that your experience as a songwriter or artist is unique to YOU, and to not let another writer’s success set standards of what yours should look like.
“Dare to suck”
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes as a songwriter. Dare to suck. As songwriters, we are constantly growing and learning how to better our craft. There is no such thing as a bad song—only a missed opportunity. While every song may not sell, every song matters to the songwriting process. Don’t be afraid of criticism or rejection; holding these fears too tightly can limit you from growing into the best songwriter you can be. And every “no” is just another stepping stone towards a stronger, more suitable “yes.”
Confidence in the music industry is key. You have to believe in yourself. The cliche saying is that “if you believe you can, you will,” and while in some cases it’s not entirely true, in a personal sense it is. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for your success; write, continue to write, and be confident in what you are writing! And, when it comes time to release or pitch a song, your confidence will translate over to the audience or publisher who is consuming it.
Write with consistency. Record your ideas. Collaborate with others. Find what works best for you and work hard at it. Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 30. Dare to suck. And, above all else, be confident.
As a songwriter, these tips are essential as you begin your journey through the songwriting process. Also feel free to check out 7 Ways To Write Better Lyrics!