Songwriting frustration - crumpled paper

The Best Way

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There are lots of ways to get better at the craft of songwriting, but certainly listening to the pros has got to be at or near the top of anyone’s list.

But there’s one little problem with taking the advice of professional songwriters: they all have a different way of writing. They all approach the task differently. They all employ a slightly different songwriting process.

And for any one good songwriter, that process itself might differ from one song to their next one, depending on when you talk to them.

So what do you do if everyone is saying something different about how to write a song? If they all have a different opinion about the best way to write a song, how do you learn from that?

My opinion has always been this: there is no particular best way to write a song. That’s true in all of the creative arts: there is no process that is necessarily better than any other process.

Having said that, I will add this: the fragment that you initially create — whether that fragment is a chorus hook, a line of catchy lyric, an enticing bit of melody — will tend to get more attention from you than all the other bits you write.

So in that regard, if you start with a few lines of lyric/poetry, you’ll find that you probably pay more attention to the lyrics than anything else.

If you’ve got a catchy chord progression as the basis for your song, you’ll likely find that chords will play an important role.

But there is no one particularly best way to start the songwriting process. Everyone is different. Everyone approaches the process differently. And those differences can be evident from one song to the next.

And all the creative arts work that way, and it’s why “assembling” a song is different from, let’s say, assembling a bookshelf. With a bookshelf, once you’re close to having it completed, you can’t usually change your mind and create a spot in the middle of your shelf for a large-screen TV. It’s too late for those kinds of changes.

But with a song, you can be practically finished, and then insert something new right in the middle, and it’ll likely work, if that’s what you want.

Because what really matters in songwriting is the end product. And if you listen to a dozen songwriters, you’ll likely hear a dozen different views on “the best way.”

And if they are good songwriters, they’ll probably also say: every time they write a song, there’s something different about the process.

If you find yourself always stuck at the process stage, unable to move forward because you don’t know what to do next, do this: write anything, and write quickly. Get something written to completion, and don’t worry about how you got there.

Once you’ve got that written, you can polish, hone and change anything you want.

And once your audience hears it, no one — not a single audience member — will wonder what process you used.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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