Written by Gary Ewer (Follow Gary on Twitter)
Does songwriting provide more frustration than satisfaction for you? If you can’t seem to find the success you’ve been looking for, don’t despair. Frustration usually means that you’ve got an image of what success could or should be. And that mental image is an important first step to improving.
If you’re ready to jump up to the next level and really commit yourself to making songwriting enjoyable and possibly even profitable for you in 2015, check out the following 10 tips that are essentials for doing just that.
- Stop judging your songs before they’re finished. Some songwriters write songs that come together almost instantly, but most good songs start as a hodgepodge of ideas that need to be honed and polished. Stay focused on that task, and cut yourself some slack if it takes weeks or months to get a song finished.
- Commit to practicing songwriting. Give yourself small writing tasks on those days when you don’t feel overly creative. Every time you write, you gain experience that makes you better. So short songwriting challenges, games and exercises will pay off. Some ideas: read this post for lyric-writing challenges, and this one for melody-writing exercises.
- Commit to becoming a better lyricist. I’m singling lyrics out here because most of the time, songwriters are judged by the quality of their lyrics over most other song elements. Show me a list of 10 top songwriters, and I’ll show you a list of 8-10 excellent lyricists.
- Commit to developing different ways of starting the songwriting process. If you start all your songs by vamping a couple of chords to see what ideas pop up, I’ll wager that you’ve got a catalogue of music that all sounds pretty much the same. Have the courage to try lyrics first, or start a song by creating a catchy melodic hook, and then add chords, rhythm, etc.
- Read what other songwriters say about what they do. Working in a creative vacuum is one of the biggest causes of creative blocks. The internet gives you instant access to what other songwriters have to say about writing. Just hearing them describe the challenges they face as composers can give you confidence that you can become a better writer.
- Keep a songwriting journal. The kind of journal I’m talking about isn’t referring to your own songs. It’s one you’ll write about good songs you’ve heard, why you like them, and what you can learn as a songwriter from them. To improve, you need to be able to verbalize what it is about music that you like. If you can put your thoughts into words, you’ve got a better chance of using those ideas in your own music.
- Commit to building your audience base. No producer, manager, or other industry personnel is going to take a chance on someone who doesn’t have a healthy fan base. There are very few shortcuts to making music a profession. Practically no one gets discovered out of the blue. It’s almost always the result of good, hard work by songwriters who pay their dues by building an audience for their music, both online and in person.
- Commit to building songwriting partnerships. Good, healthy collaborations benefit you in many ways, but the two most important ways are: 1) You can tap into someone else’s pre-existing audience base, building up your own; and 2) You improve your own songwriting technique by seeing how another songwriter approaches their art.
- Commit to improving the quality of your recordings. If your songs are great but the performances of those songs (whether live or recorded) are weak, all an audience hears is weak music. Improving the quality of your recordings means improving your technical prowess, but also means becoming a better performer, and finding topnotch bandmates.
- Strive for uniqueness. If you want your songs to stand out from the crowd and be noticed, you’ve got to give people something that isn’t simply cut from the same cloth as every other song out there. The best way to do this is to commit to writing music every day. The more you write, the easier it is for you to identify exactly what it is about your style that differs from everything else going on in the music business. And then, it simply takes personal courage to run with it.
If you’re ready and willing to commit yourself to a new and greater level of success for your songwriting in 2015, I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment below about how it’s all going. If you have other tips and advice for songwriters — ideas that have helped you become even better, please feel free to add your thoughts below.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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