When a song is written from the heart and with artistic integrity it has the power to change lives and become a part of history. No matter what genre of music you enjoy making or listening to, a song that comes from the heart is a song that can achieve greatness.
So if you are looking to elevate your songwriting to the next level, here are some of the things to keep in mind for you to do so.
1. Don’t Force Anything
Since writing a song is a creative process, you have to wait for inspiration to strike. Musicians often suffer from writer’s block and the best thing to do when you have one is to distract yourself or focus on something else to get over the hump.
Unfortunately, you cannot force yourself to be creative. This will not be very productive for you and forcing inspiration to strike only affects your creative process negatively.
Musicians such as Kurt Cobain would regularly record their thoughts and use their journals for inspiration or as a framework for a song. Develop a habit of writing regularly. They don’t have to be songs. You can always use your words for inspiration later on.
2. Listen To Music
Listening to music is an integral part of being a songwriter. The more varied your playlist, the better. Not only will you learn how to express yourself better, but music also offers varying viewpoints that will help broaden your horizon.
Lyrics are an important part of the song, so are melody and chord structures. You will be able to write melodies that better describe what you’re trying to say through your lyrics or vice-versa.
When you listen to music, start taking notes on what the approach to melody and lyrics are. Every musician is different and studying the works of others will help you find your own, unique voice.
3. Work On Song Structure
If you are having trouble with lyrics or have written only one section, move on to chord progressions and the structure of the song. For example, if you have an idea for a chorus, start working on a pre-chorus next and then a verse.
Work out how to connect the different sections of the song by adding melodies and chord progressions. This will help you write more efficiently.
Musicians often revisit or write verses after they have completed writing a basic structure of the song. Writing a song is like building a house. Work on the foundation first and gradually add floors in the form of lyrics and melody.
4. Be Yourself
Authenticity is key when it comes to writing a good song. The listener will be able to tell when you’re faking it, this will result in them not being able to relate to you or your music.
So no matter what the genre, express how you really feel. Many songwriters adopt a false persona but it gets them nowhere in the long run.
The reason why some of the bands and artists are considered legends is that they are their authentic selves when it comes to songwriting. Don’t be ashamed to show people who you are, your vulnerability can be your greatest strength when it comes to writing a song.
5. Emotion Is Key
Music has the special ability to make people feel something very deeply. As a songwriter, you have to tap into your emotions to be able to write a good song. Choose what you would like to express.
There is a wide range of moods to choose from and pick one that you want to express. Having a theme in mind before you start writing will give you a sense of direction and enable you to write something concrete.
However, remember not to force your emotions and overall writing process. You can’t write a ballad for the sake of writing a sad song. Similarly, you cannot force yourself to write a happy song when you’re feeling low. Evaluate how you feel and proceed accordingly.
6. Meaningful Lyrics
Many musicians often take lyric writing for granted. This is a very bad habit. If your lyrics are not as profound as the melody, you’re doing a major disservice to your song.
Melody and lyrics go hand-in-hand. Sometimes a melody alone isn’t enough to express what you are trying to say. So you need lyrics to do the job. Words make it easier for a listener to be able to relate to your music.
You don’t have to use uncommon and fancy words to express how you feel. You can write great lyrics using simple but effective lyrics as long as they mean something. Read this article to learn more about writing better lyrics.
7. Write About Your Passion
There must be causes you believe in or things you feel very strongly about. Write about them. A song can be about anything or anyone. Channel your passion for the subject matter into your lyrics and melody.
When you are passionate about something, you will find it a lot easier to write a song about it. While a song doesn’t always need to have a heavy-duty social or political cause attached to it, you must have authentic feelings for what you are writing about.
Finding what you’re good at expressing during the initial stages is key to a successful songwriting journey. Some people are great at ballads or love songs whereas some gravitate more towards protest music.
Your song should reflect the passion you have for what you want to express through it.
8. Performance Means A Lot
Performance is a crucial part of how the audience or listener perceives your song. Whether you are recording or singing live, perform it with all your heart. You can have great vocal chops or lyrics in your music but the audience will always be able to tell if you don’t put your soul into it.
A good way to do this is by practicing before you perform. Try to emote the melody and lyrics so it does not sound mechanical. The audience can often look past imperfections in pitch during a performance but what they cannot forgive is a lack of feel.
The more deeply you feel about a song and show it in your performance, the more likely your audience will be able to relate to your music. So keep it real during a performance and make the most of it.
9. Follow Your Instincts
Sometimes it is best to let your instincts guide you, whether trying to find a starting point or transitioning from one section to another. Remember that music theory is meant to be a guide and not a handbook whose rules you always have to follow. When it comes to music, rules are meant to be broken.
Instrument players often find their instincts taking them from one chord to the next and before they know it, they have a structure for an entire song. Your instinct is one of the greatest tools you possess. It is what makes your voice and your perspective unique. So don’t be afraid to listen to it.
Think of music as a language. You can expand your musical vocabulary by listening to different kinds of music and learning music theory. The more you add to your vocabulary, the better your instinct gets.
10. Stand Your Ground
No matter what your song is about, it is important to see it through till the end. This is often easier said than done. We often abandon our songs when we face obstacles in writing them. But it is important to push through. If you feel like you have hit a wall, take a break and get back to it after you have cleared your head. A sonic break often helps bring in a fresh perspective on things.
Also, you need to stick to the path you choose at the beginning when you start writing a song. Don’t deviate from it and let it morph into something completely different. Develop your initial idea and work your way slowly to the finish line.
Songwriters often fear judgment from the listener because, at the end of the day, songs often come from deeply vulnerable places. But don’t be scared of how people will receive your music. Your job is to write a song and be as authentic as you can about it. Don’t be scared of other people’s opinions. While it’s understandable to have some self-doubt, don’t let it paralyze your creativity.
Songwriting can often feel like a difficult task. Even gifted songwriters with a natural instinct often struggle with writer’s block. So don’t be disheartened. Writing a song is not the same as producing something in a factory. It is like planting a seed and slowly watching it grow into a tree.
Different songwriters have different processes, it is what makes their songs unique. So take your time and don’t rush. Good things come to those who persevere.