Working on several songs simultaneously has definite advantages.
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One of the main causes of a small songwriting output is the feeling that you must polish one song before starting another. Once you get to the “endgame” in any one song, progress understandably slows down as you try to fix those last few lines of lyric that aren’t working, or the bridge that doesn’t yet satisfy you.
But most of those little problems can be solved while you’re working on a new tune. By having several songs on the go at any one time, you get several important benefits:
- You have a way to keep writer’s block at bay. When you get bogged down on one small detail in a song, frustration can set in. By having several songs on the go, you have a way of leaving a problem song alone for a few days, or a week or two, and start working on something completely different.
- You tap into different parts of your creative process. In one song, you may be working out lyrics, in another you’re working on chords, while with another, it might be coming up with better melodies. As you move from one song to the next, you’ve got an easy way of keeping the creative process alive and well.
- You build up a comprehensive song catalogue. It’s quite possible to take an almost-finished song into the studio to record it. Once you’ve got good players and a producer with good ears, the last little unfinished bits can come together quite easily. It’s often better than struggling for a month over one tune that just won’t get finished.
- You use lessons learned in one unfinished tune to help you with the next one. Identifying the problem with a song doesn’t necessarily mean you can easily solve it. But starting work on a new song often allows you to avoid the problems you encountered with the previous one, and gives you a sense of a “fresh start.”
- You’ve got unfinished bits of songs that might work when added to a new song. The Beatles were famous for taking bits of song ideas that didn’t seem to lead anywhere, but worked brilliantly when added to other unfinished bits. “A Day In the Life”, “Happiness is a Warm Gun” — these were songs that were compiled by two or three good ideas that didn’t have the legs to go the distance on their own.
Regarding point #5 above, that demonstrates why it’s never a good idea to literally trash anything you write that isn’t working. Sometimes, a song you just can’t finish simply needs a new idea to partner with.
So how many songs can one songwriter keep on the go at any one time? It’s all up to the writer of course, but it’s not unreasonable to have 5 or 6 songs at various stages of completion at any one time.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle packages look at songwriting from every angle, and have been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. Read more..