Guitar - Songwriter

Setting Yourself Up for Successful Songwriting

For some, songwriting is the kind of thing that happens “on the fly”, at least in the sense that you can come up with a great idea when you least expect it.

But if for you, songwriting is always like that — where you write songs when ideas happen to pop into your brain, you’ll probably notice that songwriting success is a random event: not really predictable.

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What’s the best way to set yourself up for songwriting success? It’s this: think of songwriting as a project, not the result of a random musical idea that pops into your mind.

If you were to do any other kind of project — let’s say, building a bookshelf — you’d never just pick up some wood and start cutting and attaching. You’d probably:

  1. Set aside some time.
  2. Come up with a plan.
  3. Make sure you’ve got the materials on hand.
  4. Work methodically.

With songwriting, there are a lot of parallels. You’re going to want to set aside some time. A plan? Well, as you know, a songwriter’s plan for a song can change frequently as work on the song proceeds. But at any given moment, there’s a semblance of a plan.

Materials? Well, you’re likely to have a guitar or keyboard at the ready. And I think it’s fair to say that the best songwriters do work methodically.

So if you find that songwriting success for you is something random — something that may or may not happen on any given day — start thinking of your songwriting as a project, not an activity that spontaneously happens while you’re busy doing something else.

That means scheduling it into your day, having a quiet place to work, having all your materials nearby and ready to use.

And then, tackle it like you’d tackle any other kind of project. Give it the time it needs, and have a clear vision (as much as possible, anyway) of what you want the finished product to look (sound) like.

This is not to say that improvisation or experimentation don’t have valuable places in good songwriting. Of course they do. But if you leave everything to random chance, then your songwriting successes will similarly be random.

Organize your songwriting as a project, and I think you’ll reap the rewards.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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