Two guitarists-songwriters

What a Songwriting Process WON’T Do For You

I don’t want to say that thinking about your songwriting process is a waste of time, because it’s not. And I often write about the importance of process on this blog.

But a songwriting process usually only attempts to give you a set of steps to achieve that song that’s bouncing around in your head. It doesn’t actually give you the song.

That last sentence needs repeating: A songwriting process doesn’t actually give you the song.

It’s understandable that when you hear a great song, you wonder: what process did they use to come up with that? And behind that question is this: …because if I can know what their process was, I’ll just use a similar process and I’ll be able to come up with something just as good.

What a songwriting process won’t do for you is give you the specific ideas that go together to make a song. If a songwriter tells you their process, you might learn:

  • who was involved in the writing, and who contributed what;
  • in what order the lyrics, chords, melodies and other elements were created;
  • how much time, relatively speaking, was spent on each element.

But those things miss the mark when it comes down to how was that great melody (lyrics/chords/etc.) written?

A songwriting process will do little if anything to help you come up with the actual melody or lyrics or chords. That part is completely up to your musical imagination. The success of songwriting has always come down to the quality of the ideas you create.

Studying songwriting is always helpful, because in really understanding the nuts and bolts of songwriting you will discover the principles in play when it comes to putting ideas together.

Don’t get fooled into thinking that if you replicate the process some songwriter used to write their greatest hit, you’ll also come up with a great hit.

As has always been the case, you’ll come up with something great if your musical imagination has created great melodies, chords and lyrics. Couple that with an understanding of the fundamentals of good songwriting, and you’ll have something potentially great.

And you’ll have done all that without overly worrying about process.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter. Hooks & Riffs“Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how a good hook can make the difference between songwriting success and failure. With great examples from pop music history.Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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