If you have dabbled in songwriting but have found yourself disappointed with
your efforts, it’s easy to get discouraged. Equally frustrating is when you
think your songs are good, but they fail to interest others, to the point where
you start to second-guess your abilities. Yes, there’s a certain amount of
creative inspiration involved with any musical endeavor, which some may put
down to luck, but somehow “luck” always seems to favor those who
are well-prepared. Here are a few tips to get you set up right, to be ready
when inspiration strikes.
1. Listen to more music.
Okay, you probably already listen to music day and
night, but what we’re talking about here is not volume but variety. If you
look at the listening habits of the top songwriters, most have an encyclopedic
knowledge of many different genres of music, because they make an effort to
listen to as many different things as possible. Given that a world full of
music is available on the internet, there’s no excuse for not broadening your
horizons and getting out of your little corner. You can use the things you find
in various styles to inform your own unique style.
2. Become more critical and analytical.
A large factor in creating something of
quality is knowing how to recognize the components. When you come across a song
you really love, break it down and find out why. Make notes on paper. What
sorts of melodies and scales appeal to you, what sorts of beats? It may seem
like analyzing every piece of music you hear would take the magic out of it,
but the real magic comes when you start being able to use that knowledge to
create your own great songs.
3. Don’t rely on memory.
We’ve all done it before – you come up with a great
bass line, or a great vocal melody, or a great beat, and it’s kind of an
inconvenient time to notate it, so you think, I’ll just remember it. And then,
of course, you forget, or when you remember it later you don’t get it quite
right, and it’s not quite as good. These days, most phones have a built-in
audio recorder, so when you come up with that killer motif, don’t be lazy –
take a few moments and sing it into your phone. You’ll be thankful later.
4. Schedule dedicated songwriting sessions.
People like to have a romantic idea
of songwriting where beautiful songs simply burst forth spontaneously as if
from a fountain, but as any working songwriter can tell you, the reality is not
usually like that. With songwriting, like any other creative skill, there’s a
fair amount of actual work and elbow grease involved. The best way to get
inspiration is to put yourself in the context where that inspiration is likely
to come about, as frequently as possible. You’ll come up with a greater number
of viable song ideas if you’re actually making time to sit at the piano (or
wherever else you write) and work through them. If that means marking sessions
down on a calendar like your other appointments so that you’re held
accountable, so be it.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that some people are just born better
songwriters than others and that there’s nothing you can do to change that.
Sure, you may have been born with a certain level of predisposition for
songwriting skill, but whether or not you work hard to develop your skills is entirely
up to you. Moderate natural talent combined with a faultless work ethic trumps
extreme natural talent combined with laziness. Do your best to evolve in small
ways every day, and you’ll see the improvement in your songwriting sooner than
About Brynn Alexander
Brynn lives and breathes all things music – she especially enjoys intimate
concerts at small venues, going to her friends’ recitals, and watching Broadway
musicals. She’s played the piano for over 20 years and when she’s not working
on her musical skills, she blogs about music, art, concerts and more at several
sites including http://musicology-101.com/