In this article we’ll discuss four specific songwriting tips to help you organize and generate ideas for songwriting in a variety of styles – pop, rock, jazz, folk… whatever your fancy. These songwriting tips can be used by musicians of all ability levels, beginner through advanced. If you’re interested in composing your own music, reserve some time in your practice sessions for free exploration of your original ideas, as songwriting is a skill that gets better with practice!
Songwriting Tips: #1 – Develop Some Basic Piano Skills
Ok, so maybe this strikes you as a bit obvious for a “songwriting tips” article, but remember that not everyone reading this article is necessarily a pianist. I once heard a college professor tell his jazz arranging class (filled with brass, string, percussion, and reed players), that if there were a tool created strictly for writing music then it would be the piano. The piano is an invaluable composition tool. It’s polyphonic (i.e., can play multiple notes simultaneously) and therefore can be used to test various harmonies and melody-harmony combinations better than any other instrument. It’s sequential (black-white note pattern) and therefore range and register issues can be identified easily. In a nutshell, knowing your way around the piano and having an understanding of some basic core piano skills is a must for songwriters and composers.
Songwriting Tips: #2 – Have a Recorder Nearby at All Times
Nowadays, every smart phone has a built in voice-memo or recording function, making it easy to have a recorder handy when you need one. Since you never know when an inspirational songwriting idea will strike, get in the habit of using your recorder to capture all of your ideas, whether in the car, at home, at the piano, or at the gym. Sometimes what you think is a bad idea ends up growing into something great, and what might seem like an epic idea can sometimes fall flat.
Songwriting Tips: #3 – Many Great Songs Begin as a Single Nugget
It’s very rare that you hear a songwriter talk about an entire song – intro, verse, chorus, and bridge – taking shape all at once in his/her imagination. That’s because complete songs usually begin as small nuggets – perhaps a lyric idea, or a chord progression, or a melodic idea for the hook/chorus, or a rhythmic groove pattern. These small nuggets usually get the ball rolling, fueling other offshoot ideas which eventually grow into complete songs. Sometimes a great idea for a chorus sits on the shelf for a number of weeks, months, or even years before an idea for the verse finally feels right. So don’t discard an idea just because it’s incomplete. Instead, be patient, do some trial-and-error, try out some combinations, and allow the idea to morph into something else.
Songwriting Tips: #4 – Collaborate with Other Musicians
Don’t be afraid of sharing your ideas or doing some songwriting in a collaborative setting. Bouncing ideas off other musicians – or bringing ideas to others to get their input – is a great way to expand your musicality and gain an additional perspective. Plus, it will help you network and find creative partners to perhaps help perform your songs once they’re written.