In the music industry, there’s not a lot of interest in a one-off. If sometime in the past you wrote a great song, but you haven’t been able to follow it up with something similarly excellent, industry folks will be skeptical when you metaphorically come knocking.
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So how do you become more consistent? How do you make sure that that one great song can be followed up by something similarly great. And then another?
Consistent excellence is hard in the creative arts because everything you do needs to be unique. So following up one great song with another great one means that you must write something entirely different but still appealing to your target audience, and do that right away. Not easy!
If you’re trying to develop your songwriting skills to the point where most of the music you write is excellent in some way, here are some tips to consider:
- Write fragments. Don’t be afraid to spend your day writing short fragments of songs. Bits of lyric that sound enticing, a short hook, a phrase, a part of a verse… putting them together can come later. Get your imagination working for you!
- Make songwriting a daily activity. Every day, if possible, pick up your guitar and see what happens. Staying “in the zone” means making songwriting a habit, and that’s always a good thing.
- Don’t forget to take breaks. Yes, it’s a daily activity, but any time you feel frustration setting in means you’ve likely spent too much time on one songwriting activity. That’s the beginning of a bout with writer’s block.
- Take entire days off. There are times when it’s good to not feel that you must get something written. Maybe it’s a day with family, hanging out with friends, or otherwise just getting away. Giving your musical brain some time off is occasionally necessary.
- Record demos frequently. By “demo” I simply mean pick up your guitar, or sit at a keyboard, and do a rough recording for yourself. This allows you to hear your songs, or song fragments, from a listener’s point of view, and that can help you develop ideas for what to do next.
- Find other songwriters you can collaborate with. Sometimes sitting down with someone else is a great way to explore different parts of your musical brain. Make sure that whoever you partner up with is someone you can easily work with. Don’t add frustration to your frustration!
- Explore different styles and genres. Every songwriter will favour one or two genres, but by exploring different compositional styles you increase the likelihood that you’ll write something unique, and gives you a better shot at being consistently excellent. Just think of how different “Penny Lane”, “When I’m Sixty-Four”, “Hey Jude!” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.” are from each other!
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