Songwriting analysis

Stuck in a Songwriting Rut? Here’s How to Break Some Bad Habits

Occasionally I write about the benefit that comes from analyzing your own songs. The biggest benefit that comes from self-analysis is that you get a clear picture of

  • the kinds of things you like to write about;
  • the words and phrases that seem to occur most in your lyric;
  • the kinds of chords you typically choose;
  • the keys you favour;
  • the tempos you like;
  • the kinds of backing rhythms that occur most often.

Most songwriters are creatures of habit. Most have a certain way they like to start songs (i.e., their process), and once a song is started, most of them have a way that those songs continue.

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There’s nothing particularly wrong with having certain aspects of music being your favourite. Most singer-songwriters, including the best ones, have a “sound”, and that sound comes from the combination of various song elements that seem to show up again and again.

But if you typically write about the same sorts of things, choose the same chords, the same keys, and the same tempo more often than not, you run the risk of boring your audience.

So what can you do about this? One of the best suggestions is to try to develop and use several different songwriting processes. By changing the way you start a song, you go a long way to breaking a lot of bad habits all at once.

If you start all your songs the same way, you’re more likely to continue on a similar track, and that’s where songwriting ruts, and lots of lazy habits, come from.

The best way to ensure that each song you write has an independent sound — something unique — is to never start two consecutive songs the same way. If you like a chords-first method, try a lyrics-first method next.

And once you’ve done that, try starting your next song by working out bits of melody first.

You get the idea: the more you change up how you start your songs, you come closer to changing how your songs continue. The end result is that you’ll build up a repertoire of songs that all have something different about them.

That difference is what can go a long way to building up a larger fan base, and will show you to be the kind of songwriter who doesn’t get stuck in ruts.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary EwerFollow Gary on Twitter

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