5 Bad Songwriting Habits With Easy Solutions

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Songwriting PianistDo get stuck in a songwriting rut on a regular basis? When it’s hard to be creative, and that goes on for days or weeks, it’s easy to believe that you’ve got big problems that may not have solutions. But the truth is that you could be solving those problems today.

Here’s a short list of five common bad habits that trap otherwise good songwriters. Which ones are you guilty of?

  1. You fixate on trying to get one song working, and so your creative process grinds to a halt. Everyone’s been there: you know that something’s not right with your song, and so you spend day after day trying to figure out what the problem is. Consequently, your songwriting output dries up, and after weeks of work you’ve got almost nothing to show for your efforts. SOLUTION: Put a problem song away for a few days, and use that time to start another song. There are benefits to having 3 or 4 songs on the go at a time. It allows you to switch mental gears, and keeps you feeling creative and productive. Go back to your problem song after a few days, and you’ll be amazed by how refreshed you feel.
  2. You start all your songs the same way. There’s nothing wrong with being a chords-first songwriter. But there is something wrong with starting every song you ever write that way. How a song eventually sounds has a lot to do with how you begin the process. So starting all your songs by working out some chords, for example, will give all your songs a similar sound, and that’s not good. SOLUTION: Never start two consecutive songs the same way. If you do a chords-first tune, find a new approach for your next one. Maybe work out some lyrics, or experiment with some catchy melodic shapes/hooks.
  3. You only write when the feeling hits you. If you only ever do your songwriting when you feel inspired, I’m willing to bet that writer’s block is a constant companion for you. Good writing requires the discipline that comes from organizing your life and treating songwriting like a responsibility (albeit a pleasant one). SOLUTION: Set a daily (or almost daily) schedule for your songwriting. Keep your work and/or school responsibilities in mind when you create a songwriting schedule; don’t overload your day, because feeling stressed is never helpful. But you’ll reap the benefits and rewards of dedicating yourself to musical composition in this way.
  4. You compose all your songs on the same instrument. If you’re a guitarist, it seems to be a no-brainer that you’ll write all your songs on that instrument. But this can give your songs a sameness that you don’t want. SOLUTION: Even if you’re not a pianist, try working out songs (or at least some of a song) on piano. And try other instruments: ukulele, flute, mandolin… anything you can get your hands on. Why? Trying a different instrument gets you away from always creating those same stock chords and melodic shapes that you find your hands always moving to. A new instrument means fresh ideas. And you don’t need to be good at an instrument to write music for it. Classical composers write for full orchestra, and they don’t play most of the instruments they write for.
  5. You don’t use the benefits of 21st century technology to help you improve your songwriting technique. Here as we move from 2014 to 2015, there are so many easy ways to enhance your songwriting craft. Streaming services allow you to hear anything you want to hear. Practically every good songwriter has done interviews which you can read online, and most good sound engineers have posted advice for making great recordings. And those are just the tip of the iceberg. SOLUTION: Every day, set some time aside to LEARN online. You can be improving on every aspect of your songwriting on a daily basis. Getting advice from the world’s best songwriters is only an internet connection away.

As you can see, these bad habits all have very simple solutions that you should be doing today. Most bad habits can be cured immediately, and your songwriting will take a jump upward with each solution you try.

Good luck!


Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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