By David Harrison
5 Songwriting Tips for the Beginning Musician
So you’ve picked up an instrument, you’ve gotten the hang of the fundamentals and you’ve learned some of your favorite tunes. What’s next? Writing your own songs, of course! However, writing songs is no easy tasks. Some artists work on a single song for months at a time, and many never get finished. Writing music for many is a love-hate relationship and a series of constant uprisings of inspiration, passion, disappointment, conflict and resolution. Not just anyone can write a song, but everyone can learn how to write a song. There are several schools of thought on songwriting, and none of them are right or wrong. Here are some tips on developing your songwriting skills.
1. Write a Sequel to a Song You Love
Is there a song you just can’t get out of your head? Maybe a song that you’ve always loved, and know top to bottom. A great exercise for writing songs is to take the style and message of that song and give it a part 2. There are several ways you can do this. You can take the message or lyrical structure of the song and write new lyrics and put it over the same instrumentals. Is the song pretty concise, but has a great beat? Maybe write some solo or instrumental breaks into the song. Using a song that already exists as a platform can help you ease into songwriting.
2. Don’t Try to Force It
When writing a song, the fastest way to come up with nothing is to try and force it. The best songs are born out of inspiration and developed through hard work, not the other way around. Instead of sitting down with the sole purpose of writing a song, get in the habit of improvising on your instrument(s) of choice or just humming random melodies throughout the day. If you mess around enough on your instrument (including your voice) you’re sure to come across something you like, and you can shape your idea from there.
3. Write Down EVERYTHING
In songwriting, there are no bad ideas. Some ideas seem bad, but they can later serve as either lessons or inspiration down the road. There are several songs that are recycled parts of songs the artist never completed or parts that were cut out of songs because they didn’t fit. Keeping track of all of your material is paramount to developing yourself as a songwriter, and you’ll thank yourself for it down the road.
4. Write Down Everything as Soon as You Think of It
It can be hard to remember something you thought of the previous day, so getting in the habit of carrying a notebook with you everywhere can help you to keep track of all of your ideas. Did you have a
dream that included a new melody? Keep a notebook at bedside so you don’t lose your ideas in the morning.
Lastly, working with other musicians is the best way to become a better musician yourself. Maybe they know a chord that you don’t that goes perfectly with your vocal melody, maybe they have a cool idea and want to work with you on it. Getting other perspectives and sharing tips and insights into music with other musicians is the fastest way to improve your playing, singing, songwriting and general knowledge of music.
Now that you have the drive, inspiration and a handful of useful tips in your back pocket, get to writing! Remember that every song won’t be perfect (when you’re starting out none of them are) and that you WILL improve over time. Just keep jamming, and see where that takes you.