Songwriting Tips: How To Write Great Material

One of the biggest struggles for musicians is the writing process. What tends to happen is we get about a third of the way through the process and we quit. It can be discouraging to say the very least, so I’ve compiled a simple list of steps that outline how to write your best material.

 

1. Choose a style.

This is your chance to narrow in your crosshairs at a specific idea. Maybe you’re in a phase where you’re not sure what your specific style is. One great exercise to do is write down all of your favorite bands and try to find a trend in what you like to listen to. Be specific here. Take down some notes about the nuances in the music that you love.

This gives you an idea of a genre that you will enjoy listening to once you’ve written something in a similar style. And truly, isn’t that the absolute goal- to write and perform what YOU love? That will allow you to amplify your specific message.

2. Experiment with ideas.

Now that you’ve written down some of the things you love about your favorite bands, start taking some of those ideas and experimenting with them. Maybe you want to try blending two ideas that didn’t seem like they would be great counterparts.

This year I heard something that I never thought I would: country/rap. And it was on the radio, so it obviously spoke to a lot of people! Be creative with the elements you choose to combine, because you might stumble upon something brilliant.

3. Simplify your message.

Now that you have a beautiful mess of ideas going on, your next step is to simplify! This MAY be the most important step of all. This is the time to really use you ears and determine if an element of your work is distracting to your overall message. Maybe Reggae/Polka was not the sound you were going for. Maybe you went a bit crazy on the drum track and can’t hear any of the lyrics. Maybe what will really make your song pop is some backing vocals.

Whatever the issue may be, make sure you are being CLEAR and that all of the components gel well together. 

You don’t want to say 1,000 things in a piece of work; you want to say one thing, and say it WELL. Give yourself plenty of time to spend on this step.

4. Hone in on the details.

This is where we get to use the “good taste” that we’ve cultivated over years of listening to our favorite music. This is the step where attention to detail is paramount. If you’re not someone who has a keen eye for detail, seek out help from someone who does. I have a great ear for some things, but a lousy ear at others. Get feedback from other musicians. Finding the right dynamic balance and mix could make or break your creation. Buckle down during this step and go the extra mile, because if your song is worth releasing, it’s worth doing right. 

Note: One resource that is often underestimated during the mixing process is “the untrained ear.” Get someone to listen to your tune that has NO musical experience. They will know whether or not it is missing something, and they will give you different advice than a musician. What you choose to do with said advice is up to you, but keep in mind a large majority of your future audience will not hold a music degree. You want to appeal to that huge percentage of people, so listen carefully.

Now that you have an outline, pull out those abandoned tunes and bring them to life. It does take a lot of work, but in the end it will be worth it if you can start creating and performing music that meets your own standards and taste!

 

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Note: This amazing photo was provided by The OCD Photographer. Check out her awesome prints here.

Note: This amazing photo was provided by The OCD Photographer. Check out her awesome prints here.