1. Write Every Single Day
Creativity is a muscle and the best way to get stronger is to exercise it; to get better, it takes consistency and discipline. It’s easy to slip into the bad habit of writing only when the inspiration strikes. While it is certainly an excellent way to create, it is beneficial to make writing a part of your daily routine. Sometimes the biggest obstacle for songwriters is just writing words on that daunting blank piece of paper. A great way to start is to dedicate a certain amount of time each day to writing, no matter what. Try exercises like writing a stream of consciousness, jotting down song ideas or recalling stuck-in-your-head phrases. Just remember, if it’s horrible, no one ever has to hear it!
2. Study Your Idols
Take a step back from your work and look at the people who inspire you to write. Figure out what makes their music so compelling. Here are some guiding questions:
- What makes their lyrics so gripping?
- What are they doing melodically?
- How are they placing chords together?
- What is memorable about it?
- What is the rhyme structure of the song?
- What is the overall structure of the song?
Do you ever feel like you have a killer melody, but aren’t sure of the words? Maybe you have beautiful lyrics, but aren’t sure how to put it to a melody? Co-writing might be the cure for your writer’s block! Working with other songwriters is a fantastic way to extend the limits of your imagination by combining your assets with someone else’s. Writing by yourself can be quite challenging because we can only see to up to limits of our perspective. Utilizing another person’s artistry, whose abilities compliment yours, is a practical way to take your writing to the next level. Just remember some of the greatest music was created by co-writers: The Beatles, Queen, etc.
4. Brush up on Music Theory
For writers who are musically and melodically oriented, having a solid foundation in music theory will elevate your songwriting game. If you’re brand new to music theory, it would be beneficial to understand notes, keys and chords. It is important to know what chords can be used in any given key. For well-versed musicians looking to add a few more tricks, study up on chords that are more outside of keys like secondary dominants, modal interchange and diminished chords. These more advanced chords can make a song more sonically interesting as well as rejuvenate the trends of your songwriting. Finally, understanding what modulation is and how it’s used will help you to re-energize songs. There are tons of videos and free courses online to offer structure for your learning. Learn more about The Nashville Number System from music educator Ellen Britton or browse our latest content page for new videos and exercises.
5. Experiment with Piano or Guitar
Pianos and guitars are by far the most social and versatile instruments. They allow you to play both lead melodic lines and chords. The range of both instruments are enormous so you can both feel the booming bass and the piercing high notes at the same time. Additionally, they don’t require airflow so you can accompany yourself while singing. Playing a new instrument will give you a new outlet for your imagination. It adds another creation tool to your pocket. If you’re proficient in one instrument, try out the other. If you know both, perhaps experiment with a new instrument to keep your creative momentum moving forward.
6. Play Your Songs for Other People
If your goal is to have your songs cut and played for the masses, the only way to find out how good your songs are is to play them for others. Your music is your passion so of course it’s excellent to you. However, getting honest feedback is the only way to truly test how strong your songs are. As a songwriter, you have to be open to honest criticism because that’s how you will grow. You might find out that the songs you didn’t think were incredible are actually what your audience loves the most. Keep in mind, always know your audience. Your writing approach will change depending on if you are writing for commercial country radio, niche singer-songwriter crowd or any other style of music. Showing off your craft for people who listen to the genre you write in will help you get more beneficial feedback.