Guitar, paper and pencil

Five Reasons to Keep a Songwriting Journal

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If you’re a songwriter and you’re looking for ways to improve your skills, one of the best tools to add to your arsenal is a simple one: keep a songwriting journal.

A songwriting journal can be anything you want it to be. You might use it to keep snippets of lyrical or melodic ideas as they occur to you. Or it might be a way to keep interesting chord progressions. A journal can be a literal notebook, or a file you keep on your smartphone.

In any case, if you’ve been looking for a reason for keeping a songwriting journal, here are four to consider:

  1. Keeping ideas before you forget them. By using a note-taking app on your smartphone, you can use your phone’s mic to sing snippets. But you can also keep interesting lines of lyric, even if you’re not sure how you’ll use them in the future. Once they’re in your journal, there’s no risk of losing them.
  2. Designing your song before you write it. Once you’ve got a few ideas written down, a journal can help you create a design for how your new song will work. If you’ve not done line drawings or “maps” of songs before, here’s an article I wrote several years ago which will show you how you can do it: The Advantage of Sketching a Map For Your Song.
  3. Describing your songwriting goals. From time to time it’s a good idea to write down what you see yourself doing in a year or two. What are your goals as a songwriter? Where do you want to be, and what do you want to be doing three or five years from now? Keeping these thoughts in a journal gives you an easy way to look back and see if you’ve achieved what you set out to do.
  4. Finding inspiration and motivation. There are days when you’ll find yourself lacking motivation to write, but looking through your journal can be a great way to regain that creative spark. For this reason, you might consider using a journal not just as a way of keeping and organizing musical ideas, but also as a place to write motivational thoughts and comments, songwriter quotes, or anything else you find has given you your reason to be a songwriter in the first place.

A journal can and should be in any format that makes it likely you’ll use it. So if you’re an old-school pen & paper kind of person, a little notebook is all you need. But if you’re comfortable with today’s technology, an app that allows you make short recordings, save websites, and write ideas is all you really need. Practically every smartphone has this kind of app as part of the operating system, like the iPhone’s “Notes” app.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

Hooks and RiffsFor most good songs in the pop genres, getting a hook working properly is vital. “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how hooks have made the world’s top songs successful.

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One Comment

  1. I’ve been meaning to start a songwriting journal for a while now, but I’ve never gotten around to it. This post has inspired me to give it a try! I’m excited to see how keeping track of my ideas and progress will help me improve my songwriting skills. Thanks for sharing!

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