I don’t know of a single songwriter who doesn’t want to improve on what they’re doing. But how do you do that? And in the songwriting field, what does improvement actually mean?
It doesn’t often take much; sometimes improving just one aspect of your songwriting — the lyrics, let’s say — will take an entire song to a new level.
And so it follows that there are probably dozens of ways songwriters can improve their songwriting skills. Here’s a list of five things you can try:
- Make time for active listening every day. Active listening is a bit different from the casual kind of listening we do when we’re just sitting back and enjoying what we’re hearing. Active listening means thinking about what makes a song sounds great, what you might have done differently if the song you’re listening to happened to be yours, and even taking notes. It means really paying attention to the song you’re listening to.
- Schedule your songwriting activities. Some people write songs when the feeling hits, but you’re going to vastly improve your skills and benefit from the discipline that comes from setting a daily time to write. This kind of consistency may take some getting used to, but you will love the results.
- Analyze your songs. Keep a booklet that examines the nuts & bolts of every song you’ve written. You might, for example, write down the form of each one (intro-verse-chorus…), the key (verse = Am, chorus = C major, etc.), the tempo in beats-per-minute, song topic, and so on. This will give you a good idea if there is too much similarity in what you’re writing, and where you need to look to become a more diverse songwriter.
- Think up songwriting exercises that will improve your abilities. In other words, don’t feel that every songwriting session needs to be something that results in a finished song. Some ideas? Try coming up with a list of ten potential song titles, or try writing a line of lyric, and then find five different ways to rewrite that line. These little “games” have a way of polishing your songwriting abilities, and they remove the stress that comes from always trying to write an actual song.
- Play your songs for another (very good) songwriter. There’s a tendency for a lot of songwriters to stream their songs online, and then ask anyone and everyone for comments.
The thing is, what you really want are comments from people who are seasoned songwriters, who know what it’s like to solve songwriting problems. They’re the kind who will treat you and your song with respect, and will give you good ideas for finishing or modifying what you’ve written.
There are lots of other ways you can improve what you’re doing, and certainly step 3 above will give you heads up for where you need to be looking to make yourself better.
Do all this with as much positivity as possible… don’t get down on yourself or your songs. Think of every little things you can do as part of the process of becoming a better songwriter every day!
Have a great melody, but stuck at the “how to add chords to it” stage? “How To Harmonize a Melody” shows you, step-by-step and with sound samples, how it’s done, with suggestions for chord substitutions that might work as well. It’s part of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Bundle.