How to Improve Your Song Writing Skills
How to Improve Your Song Writing Skills & Write a Hit Song!
You don’t need to be born with musical genius in your DNA to create great compositions. Whether you want to become the next Taylor Swift, or you simply write songs for fun, improving your songwriting skills will help you become a better songwriter.
But what does that mean? How do you improve your writing skills? Keep reading, and we’ll share 13 songwriting tips to help you write better songs.
13 songwriting tips to help you write better songs
Whether you’re at the beginning of your songwriting journey, or you’re trying to break into the music business and have a career as a professional songwriter, the ability to write good songs doesn’t just happen, it’s a practice that great songwriters hone over time.
1. Make every song a story
When writing, try to make every song tell a story. It might not be a literal story (though it can be), but there should be an element of storytelling within every song. This is because telling stories is what makes music so powerful and emotional for listeners.
To make your songs have this quality, try using the hook as your opening line and the chorus as the main idea of your song—just like any great book or movie does. In addition, use verses to give details about characters and settings that aren’t found in the hook or chorus. Perhaps end with a bridge that contrasts with everything else in order to build up anticipation for your next song.
2. Write lyrics that have a universal meaning
The best way to make sure your song is relatable and timeless is to focus on writing lyrics that have an element of universality. Draw on your own life experiences, but don’t make your songs so specific that no one else can relate to them.
Avoid including things like: “my life sucks” or “I hate my boss.” Instead, be more specific like: “I’m sick of hearing about how great my ex is doing” or, “my life sucks because I’m stuck at this job with no hope for advancement.”
In short: write about real life experiences in a way that helps listeners relate.
3. Create a new melody, not a copy of someone else’s melody
Look to others’ music for inspiration, but don’t copy someone else’s melody. It can be tempting to recreate a catchy tune that you hear on the radio, but what you’ll get is a second-rate version of something that already exists.
Instead, make your own melody:
- Use the same chords as in whatever song you’re trying to copy,
- But change up their order or add some new chords in, and
- Make up a new melody for each chord change instead of just singing along with the original.
4. Develop your own style
This is the most important part of songwriting, and it is also the hardest part to do well. You want to be original, but not too original.
You want your songs to sound like you, but also be accessible for other people to enjoy. It’s a fine line that many artists never cross successfully. But it can be done if you put the time in and you practice often.
Eventually it will just “click” for you and then everything else will fall into place after that point onward (or so we’ve heard).
5. Practice practice practice
Writing song lyrics every day, even when you’re not feeling up to doing so, is a great way to keep your songwriting skills sharp. You should write when you’re inspired and comfortable with the process—and also when inspiration doesn’t strike.
The more you put yourself in a position where writing feels natural, the easier it will be for those creative juices to start flowing. That said, don’t let this make you feel pressured into writing if you don’t want. If nothing is coming out of your pen or keyboard today, put a pin in it and come back to it.
6. Use other people’s problems as inspiration
Waiting for inspiration strikes? Use other people’s problems as inspiration instead. Write about a problem that you’ve heard about and find interesting, or a problem that you’ve read about or seen on TV.
Try not to focus on one particular problem and write an entire song based around it. Instead, try composing multiple verses for different songs where each verse is about a different person’s problems. This way the lyrics will feel more original than if they were all focused on one thing.
7. Don’t worry about what other people think
Yes, you want other people to like your songs, but don’t get hung up on worrying about what other people think. You should be writing songs to express your thoughts and feelings, not to impress other people.
If you’re trying to impress someone with each new song you write, then it will keep them from being true expressions of who you are as a person and artist. You have to trust yourself and believe in yourself. And if people don’t like your music, that’s their problem – not yours.
8. Don’t try to be too clever
Too often songwriters try to be too clever and end up over-complicating their song. This can then result in a song that sounds more like an essay than an actual song. The best way to avoid this is by keeping it simple, just write the hook first. Once you have written your hook, then add in some verses and choruses until you have a full song structure.
9. The rules are… there are no rules for songwriting
Songwriting is a creative process, and like any other creative endeavor it doesn’t have one set of rules that work for everyone. But there are some general guidelines you can follow to help improve your songwriting skills. For example, the key elements of a great song are melody and lyrics – if your music has a great melody but boring lyrics, or vice versa, then your song will be lacking.
The best songs are the ones that sound like they came from nowhere (but somewhere). You want the listener to feel like they’ve never heard anything like this before while still being able to relate to it on an emotional level.
10. Analyse great songs you admire
Whether it’s a particular songwriter you admire, or just your favourite band, listen to their music with an ear for what makes them successful this is a great way to learn how to improve your song writing skills. Then try and figure out what makes that song/album great.
- Is there a common thread that runs through all of their songs?
- Do they all share similar styles or genres?
- What do they do differently from other bands?
Identify things in songs you don’t like or find boring, and try to understand why those elements aren’t working for you.
- Do any specific parts sound off-key or uninspired?
- Are there any lyrics that don’t seem relevant or meaningful?
- What about instrumentation choices—do the melodies fit well together with each other, but also match up with the vocals (if applicable)?
11. Get better at listening
Listening to music is an important part of the songwriting process. Not only do you need to listen to your favourite songs and artists, but you should also be listening to songs that you don’t like.
It’s particularly helpful if you’re listening specifically for things within these songs that could be used in other compositions: chord progressions, melodies, rhythm patterns etc.
12. Learn to play a musical instrument
While many songwriters aren’t proficient in a musical instrument, it certainly does help if you have some basic musical knowledge and can play an instrument or two, like the piano or guitar.
But if you don’t have time to take a guitar course, or you aren’t interested in learning how to play music, there are plenty of other ways to get around it:
- Some people use software like GarageBand (Mac) or Pro Tools (PC). This allows them to write music and record their own acoustic demos without having any musical training or knowing how to read music, for example.
- Others people prefer writing lyrics on paper before they find a melody that fits them best. This method works well because it lets you focus more on creating chords and rhythms, while still keeping your words flowing smoothly through every barline changeup with ease.
13. Take an online songwriting course
Taking a songwriting course is a great way to learn how to improve your song writing skills & improve your creative writing skills. When you take a course, you will learn all about the different elements of music and how they work together to create songs that sound good.
At Elevate, we have a wealth of songwriting courses that will help you master the art of songwriting, learn the basics of music theory, understand how to generate song ideas, how to structure lyrics, and how to bring your songs to life.
Get in touch with our team today and let us give you the tools to write your own songs.