1 Make Time To Write
Inspiration can come from anywhere, at anytime. But, who knows when that will happen and where you’ll be when it does? You might not write your greatest hit during a pre planned writing session if you’re uninspired, but thats okay!
Write the bad songs, and more importantly, finish the bad songs! You need to practice the process from beginning to end, and if you abandon every song that isn’t a hit, you’ll spend most of your time only practicing writing intro’s (or wherever part of the song you normally start with).
2 Save Melodies, Chords, & Lyric Ideas On Your Phone
It’s 2017, and our phones are so much more than that. Mine is filled with voice memos called “Jazz Idea”, or “Pop Song 03”, or “Metal Guitar Riff”. Name them anything you want but give them a name you’ll be able to recall later. You don’t want to sift through “New Recording 01-99” to find that acoustic guitar progression you loved but cant remember.
3 Write Sounds, Then Words.
Every song I’ve ever written came from singing random phonetic sounds that fit over the music. Have you ever sang along to a song you that you didn’t entirely know the words to? Or come to find out later that the lyrics were completely different than you thought? The catchy part of any vocal is how the words sound when they’re sung, and only if it’s catchy will people listen to the song enough times to learn the lyrics.
4 Start With A Tempo
Use a metronome or a create a simple drum groove in your production software or drum machine. You can set it randomly or to an average tempo within your genre. Then, start playing. I write a lot on the acoustic guitar and tend to gravitate towards the same few vibes. Switching the tempo and using a metronome or drum loop to keep the pace helps to break out of go to patterns.
5 Switch It Up
A new instrument or sound can make all the difference when writing a new song. If you’re a piano or keyboard player your options are endless with software instruments and keyboard patches. Don’t worry guitarists, try a different guitar, amp setting, or splurge on a new pedal to push your creativity to new directions.
6 Keep It Simple
A good song should hold its weight at its most basic form striped down to chords, lyrics, and melodies. The production surrounding the song should always enhance the foundation, but fancy synths, huge drums, and a sea of guitar layers will never make a decent song great. It will, however, make a great song sound professional, polished, and ready to be shared.
7 Don’t Slack On The Bridge
90% of songwriters miss the mark on the powerful potential of the bridge! Why? Because most writing sessions go like this. Write the hook, write the first verse. Great, copy it over, write the second verse. “Wow my song is almost done.. I just need to throw a in a bridge.”
See what I mean? It’s an after thought. A necessary step before calling the song done. Thinking of the bridge in that way is a huge missed opportunity to create another hook. One of my favorite tricks is to create a bridge equally as catchy as the chorus, and then throw it in again as an adlib or B section during the last chorus.
8 Experiment With Different Paces
I recently wrote a song that sounded much better in my head than it did out loud. The hook was great but it seemed to drag. The tempo wasn’t the problem, the phrasing was just too slow with each word too drawn out. Singing it twice as fast over the same tempo of music (double time) was exactly what it needed. The cool melody was still there, it just went by quicker, was catchier, and had a nicer flow.
9 Breakdown The Music You Love
There’s a folder in my notes app called “Song Breakdowns:” where I do exactly that. It’s filled with entries analyzing everything I hear from when I hit play to when the song ends. When it’s done, I go back and listen again noting the more subtle things I may have missed on a first listen. This process helped improve my songwriting and music production exponentially. Now I have a growing library of music across multiple genres that I’ve analyzed, compared, and can draw inspiration from on a regular basis. The goal is not to look back at these lists and slap them into your song, but instead get your brain to recognize new techniques and subconsciously influence your songwriting process.
Here’s and example of breakdown:
- Clean guitars in the intro
- Vocals enter after 4 bars
- Drums in at measure 8 (light, not too much going on in the subs)
- Atmospheric lead in the background, ping pong style delay
- Big sub hitting drums enter at the first hook
- Single string note holds half way through the 2nd verse
- High frequency shimmering pad enters at 2nd half of 2nd hook
- Bridge chords are the same as the hook with a filter that builds gradually exploding into the last hook
- Last hook same as others but with a new adlib vocal soaring above the leads.