Essential Songwriting Advice

Learn some of the essential do’s and don’ts when it comes to crafting songs…  

From Ed Sheeran to Dionne Warwick, our musical world is driven by songwriters. These creatives are the engine room of the music industry, providing the melodies, lyrics and more that can blow our minds and change our lives.  

With so much music now out there, it can be hard to know where to start if you’re an aspiring songwriter looking to break into this world. So for emerging writers, the big question is how can they give themselves the best chance of success and follow in the footsteps of the greats?  

Here are some essential tips to start you on your journeys…

Be ready to embrace inspiration whenever it comes 

As a songwriter, you should always be receptive and ready to embrace an idea. Of course, it’d be ideal if creativity hit when we were sitting at a piano or had a guitar in our hands. But inspiration doesn’t always work like this.  

Instead, make sure you always carry a notebook or a device (such as a phone) capable of recording an idea. You could be on the bus or getting ready for work – but wherever you might be, try to be alert to anything that comes to you, whether it be a melody, hook or line of lyrics.  

Get to grips with how chords and harmony work 

These are the nuts and bolts of the songwriting world. You can perhaps get by without them in certain musical situations. But if you want to be a songwriter for hire, work in sessions and across different styles, then understanding how this works will hold you in good stead. Knowing how chords and harmony can be used, manipulated or flipped on their head will help you avoid falling back on tired musical progressions which have been overused.

Try and co-write whenever you get the opportunity

Collaborating can be a brilliant way of expanding your skillset as a songwriter. If you’re in a creative rut or just looking for external insight or advice, then setting up a co-write can be an effective solution. It might spark off a new way of thinking about a song or idea or introduce you to a different approach to your music. It can also help you grow your musical networks and connections. Adopting a collaborative mindset can be a really effective way of growing as a songwriter. 

Create without concern 

One way of approaching the creative process is to try and write music without thinking too much about it. Rather than being afraid of your blank page, just start playing or singing the first things that come into your head. The point of this is not to come up with a perfect finished product – but is all about getting the creative juices flowing. You don’t know where this might end up (which could be somewhere brilliant). At the same time, flexing your songwriting ‘muscle’ can be a good way of developing it. You might also need to write a number of poor songs to create something great. Just don’t worry too much – and get writing… 

Look to your songwriting heroes for inspiration

The Beatles, Prince, Kate Bush, Fraser T Smith, Dave, Stormzy, Tom Petty, Paul Simon, Primal Scream … the list of songwriting greats is endless, no matter which musical style you are pursuing. So if you find yourself in a creative cul-de-sac, then put your instruments or pen and paper aside, and immerse yourself in music. This will not only expose you to influence but give yourself a break from the music-making process.  

Don’t force your music 

If you’re coming up against a creative block, then try not to force your music out. This can lead to frustration and make the block even worse. So if you can, give yourself a break from your music if it’s just not working out.  

Step away from your computer, DAW or instrument, leave the room and go for a cup of tea or walk. Sometimes, when you’re least expecting it, this is when inspiration might come to you. Giving your musicality some space rather than trying to force it can really help… 

At the same time, work at your craft 

There are certainly periods of creativity and less productive periods for every songwriter. While we’ve already said that you shouldn’t force your music, it’s also sensible to give time and effort into enhancing your craft.  

By practising at writing your music and performing, then you will get to know your process more intimately, the scenario in which you work best and your way into your songs. This should (hopefully) mean less creative blocks and more music… 

Be nice 

Being a great communicator both online and in-person is an essential in the music industry. Despite it being a global sector, the business can seem deceptively small and many people know each other. If you’re not polite or easy to work with, then word will get around. So try and be as nice as possible. You never know who might open up a great opportunity or room for collaboration.