Psychologically speaking, there are two ways to approach songwriting; you can be
- the kind of person who assumes you’ve got it wrong, or
- the kind of person who assumes you’ve got it right.
Most of the time, your songwriting process relies greatly on improvisation and testing ideas as you go. When you create something — a bit of melody, a catchy line of lyric, and so on — you quickly assess it for how well it works with the bit of song you’ve already written.
Songwriters are very familiar with the chorus hook, but there are other kinds to experiment with, and you will want to discover the power of layering various kinds of hooks in the same song. “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base“ shows you how it’s done.
If it works well, you keep it, and then you keep going. If it doesn’t work well, you trash it and try to come up with something else.
The problem is that each time you toss an idea, you tend to feel a moment of failure. If you keep improvising, you’ll come up with something else quickly, and then the assessing begins again: do you keep it, or toss it?
Each time that you toss a musical idea that you’ve just created gives you that momentary negative feeling about your song, and the negativity can grow. Eventually, you can feel so negative about it that writer’s block sets in, and that’s the ultimate in negativity.
Going back to the first sentence of this blog, you might be surprised how prolific and successful a songwriter you become if you try to become the kind of person who assumes that you’ve got it right… that the musical ideas you’re creating have great potential. In other words, be more inclined to keep the ideas that you’ve written rather than automatically toss them.
As an example, I often think about Freddie Mercury writing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” So much of that song is so unusual — so different from what most other songwriters were even attempting at the time.
There must have been many times when he considered just tossing the whole strange song and turn his attention to something a bit more conventional. But I believe he put his positivity to work, and just made the assumption that he was on the right track to something amazing, something special.
In your own songwriting, can I make this suggestion: be more inclined to keep the ideas you spontaneously generate, and make the assumption that you’re creating something amazing.
I believe that the more you keep, the quicker you get to a finished song. Having something that’s closer to finished gives you opportunities to edit and otherwise change bits, and with a more completed song you have a better chance to make more relevant decisions.
With that completed song, you’ve given yourself the chance to test a theory of mine: that the line between a songwriting failure and a songwriting success is often a very, very thin line.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook bundle comes with a free copy of “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process,” along with a Study Guide. Learn how to make the writing of a good lyric the starting point for your own songwriting method.