Steps To Become A Better Songwriter

Introduction

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

Perseverance

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!

Tips:

Never give up!

Warnings:

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.