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How To Become A Better Songwriter

By Edited Oct 25, 2016 5 26

Steps To Become A Better Songwriter


It is a rare songwriter indeed who isn’t interested in learning to write better songs.  But what does “better” mean?  To some it means that they personally like the song better, regardless of the opinions of others.  To others, it means that it is more successful at evoking a certain emotion.  Still others consider a it “better” if it is more competitive in the music business.  That is, it is better if it is more likely to be recorded by a major artist or placed in a movie, or otherwise used to produce revenue.  Regardless of your criteria for success, the following tips should help you become a better at your craft. 

What You Need

The desire to become a better songwriter


Access to other songwriters

Step 1.

Study songs by other writers that you admire.  Try to determine what it is that you like about their songs.  The goal is not to copy what they do, but to understand how they are achieving what you are reacting to.  For example, if you are trying to write a radio hit, but your songs are 10 minutes long, you can learn from those who have radio hits that songs intended for radio should be relatively short.

Step 2.

Learn about song structures.  There are ample materials available that discuss common song structures.  It may be that you choose to deviate from them, but that should be done consciously, not because you are naïve.

Step 3.

Find a community of songwriters that you can be part of.  Many communities have songwriting groups.  There are also “virtual” songwriting communities on the web that you can take part in.  These communities offer the opportunity for interaction with other songwriters, honest feedback on your songs from a perspective different than your own, and camaraderie.   Additionally some songwriting groups bring in educational speakers, and music industry professionals.

Step 4.

Join a songwriting organization.  Organizations like the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and others offer a lot of opportunities to network with other songwriters, interact on web based forums, and engage with educational activities either in person or via webcast.

Step 5.

Get a professional critique of your songs.  Some songwriting organizations provide professional critiques as part of their membership benefits. There are also companies that provide critiques on a “for fee” basis.  Be sure to check out the credentials and reputability of any critique service you choose to use.

Step 6.

Read everything you can about songwriting and the hits of the past.  See the resources section of this article for pointers to some songwriting books.  Look at books that address creativity generally, as well as those that focus on songwriting.  Also read books that teach the craft elements of writing songs.  

Step 7.

Keep an open mind when writing and revising your songs.  Don’t be afraid to try something new in your writing.

Step 8.

Inject some randomness into your writing method.  Even if it is only as an exercise, try ideas like opening a dictionary and blindly pointing to a word and tell yourself you will write a song that uses that word.  Roll some dice and use the numbers to get a melody started.

Step 9.

List all the words you can think of that are even remotely related to the topic of your song.  This can help prompt you into interesting lines that are related to your topic.

Step 10.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite.  Keep revising your song until you are happy with it.  Songwriting is both a creative process and a craft.  Work on both aspects of your writing.

Step 11.

Give yourself a break.  Sometimes setting a song aside for a while lets you come back to it later with fresh ideas.

Step 12.

Write songs.  Write a lot of songs.  Just like any other skill, talent, or craft, you will improve with practice.  Practice, practice, practice!


Never give up!


Don’t try to be all things to all people.  Write what you really love, and hopefully others will connect with it too.  If you try to second guess what other people will like the song can come off sounding phony.



Mar 23, 2011 5:13pm
I never thought about it before but songwriting is similar to almost any other kind of writing. You've offered excellent tips for writers in every field. I think #1 is one of the most important. Only by being exposed to other work can you form opinions and begin to develop your own style. Wonderful article!
Mar 25, 2011 2:05pm
I think you are right!

Actually, maybe it goes even beyond writing to a lot of other creative endeavors, too.

Thanks for the thoughts!
Mar 28, 2011 1:53pm
I lOVE THIS.....since I was a little girl wrote songs and poems and such....always wanted to REALLY write songs. Now I have some information to use when have the time. Thank you!
Apr 17, 2011 1:39am
Awesome, Venetia. It is never to late to give it a go. It seems like many of the really good writers I know wrote poems and songs when they were young, so you have the right background! Give it a try. Takes work, but it is worth it!
Apr 30, 2011 2:29pm
I'll follow all the 12 steps.
Jun 12, 2011 1:48am
Rock and Roll!

That's really cool.

Good luck!
Jun 13, 2011 7:51pm
Great information on becoming a song writer. There is a teacher I work with who would enjoy this article.
Jun 15, 2011 6:23pm
Awesome. Thanks for the feedback, DD!
Jul 24, 2011 1:00pm
Very well written - Nice work
Jul 26, 2011 6:38pm
Thanks so much!
Aug 29, 2011 8:47am
All 12 are great tips,and tips..at the end is the best never give up!
Aug 29, 2011 3:12pm
Thanks Lynsuz! I think never giving up is the best tip of all for any activity that you want to improve.
Nov 28, 2011 5:53pm
Great Tips. As a musician and songwriter I can certainly relate to these steps. I've often used open mic nights as well, to get the crowds reaction and then re-write when needed; like you said in Step 10. Good writers write Great writers re-write...I forget who said that.
Nov 28, 2011 7:59pm
Hey AudioBananas - It's great to have you around here.

I know you are a musician. Will you be writing some articles about music and / or the music business?

Looking forward to hearing more from you.

Thanks for the comments.
Nov 29, 2011 9:50am
Thanks for the tips. I've been writing songs and poems since I was about 15. Most of my songs I turned into poems so I could at least get them out there. It's odd because I still 'think' of them as songs and have the tunes in my head.
Nov 30, 2011 9:09pm
Fabulous, gabgirl.

Maybe time to team up with a musician to help you get the songs out of your head and on tape, paper, or the radio.
Dec 16, 2011 1:20am
Writing songs is a task that is difficult to accomplish but your steps will definitely make it easier.
Dec 22, 2011 10:39pm
Thanks, AuroraWindsor! Writing GOOD songs is one thing. Writing GREAT songs is another beast entirely!
Mar 3, 2012 10:23am
Excellent tips. It looks like the way to write a good song hasn't changed from many years ago when I was in the business. Btw, I still get little royalty checks for songs written decades ago, so keep trying. Even songs that aren't smash hits can pay back for years!
Mar 5, 2012 11:43am
Wow Gardengates - I didn't know you were a songwriter. But - I just looked at your profile and it says right there that you do this. Maybe someday you'll write some articles about songwriting?

Yes - I LOVE it when I see the envelope from ASCAP in my mailbox. Like you say, they don't have to be big hits to get some royalty income. I also look forward to envelopes from the publishers that have placed my songs, but that doesn't happen as often.

Thanks for stopping by!
Mar 6, 2012 10:20pm
Ah, t'was in my younger days in London -- and I have some pretty juicy stories to tell. I can boast winning the Yamaha International World Popular Song Festival Grand Prize Song in the '70's and having a #1 chart hit in Mexico while my publishers lied and stole money from me to the tune of thousands of British pounds (maybe hundreds of thousands I've been told). Then there were the incessant battles of the "casting couch". Stories to remember. They'll be in my autobiography!

Anyway, I truly have come to love the concept of living off of royalties whether they be for writing articles on the Internet, books, music, art, photography or anything else. Passive income is the BEST (and without huge self-employment taxes)! (My book: "All the Garden's a Stage" will be out next month.) I hope you enjoy lots of songwriting and LOTS of income!
Mar 7, 2012 6:14pm
That's awesome, Gardengates!

Sounds like you did better than I have so far, but I've been making some really good headway. I do understand the plight of getting money from the publishers, though...

I very much like the idea of royalty income and have been pretty fortunate with that.

My young nieces already say that they want to create intellectual property and get royalty income. They really get it!

Thanks for stopping by!
May 13, 2012 4:01am
This really interesting! I must forward this to my nephew who is looking to try his hand at it.
May 21, 2012 11:26pm
Neat - I seem to run into songwriters everywhere. Just like anything else it takes a lot of PRACTICE.

Thanks for stopping by and the comment.
May 22, 2012 4:15am
Just read the article and thought about it in terms of writing online. All of the info and advice pertinent as well. Thanks for the quick tips to follow!
May 22, 2012 7:36am
Thanks for stopping by.

Actually, they probably have something to offer for all creative endeavors. I think writing, as you point out, is the closest match. Diva pointed that out in the first comment here.

Lots of good fortune in your online writing!
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