Songwriting Habits: The Good and Bad


Just like playing a sport or learning an instrument, mastering a new skill requires disciplined practise and songwriting is no exception.

The evidence is there in the most successful writers of all time- they were incredibly prolific. Take The Beatles for example. Not all of their songs were perfect or groundbreaking, but they wrote so many that the odds of them producing something incredible were massively increased. Songwriting is a numbers game and it is important to realise that you are not compromising the quality, as songs can later be edited and perfected. But by repeating the process, you start to fine-tune your technique and personal process.

Trying out new techniques is an important part of your evolution as a songwriter. The process of trial and error will eventually lead to discovering what works best for you. Consequently, you will find your strengths and weaknesses and be aware of them when approaching songs in the future.

New songwriting techniques to try out

  • Writing the lyrics, melody, beat or bassline first.
  • Starting with the title.
  • Taking lyrics from a newspaper article or book.
  • Take inspiration from the chords of one song and the melody of another, then make it your own. Be careful not to sound too similar to the original.
  • Play your first four chords backwards in the next section.
  • Edit older ideas.
  • Write out the lyrics of your favourite songs by hand, put yourself in their frame of mind and go on the journey with them.
  • Play a different instrument that you’re not proficient on. That way you will be listening to the notes and not playing songs that your muscles have memorised.
  • Use other songs template/structure as a basis.
  • Put your music out there and get feedback. Soundcloud is a great place for this.
  • Co-write with others, it forces you to write to a deadline.
  • Write about what you are living, not what you are trying to live.

Generally, start with a moment of inspiration and see where it takes you. Worry about the fine tuning and making sense at a later stage.

Good Habits:

  • Write everyday. Allocate a time slot to writing.
  • Make this early in the day so that you’re in the writers frame of mind for the rest of the day.
  • Get it down! Get in the habit of carrying a notebook around with you and making a note of ideas as soon as they come to you. Don’t let a great song disappear. Put it in your notes on your phone or create a voice memo.

Habits to Avoid:

  • Writing the same song over and over again, challenge yourself to write in a different style, tempo, key.
  • Not finishing songs.

General Point

Don’t be too precious. It’s great to have a vision of how a song will sound when it is finished, it is this vision that inspires you in the first place. But don’t let this idea stop your progress. Just keep moving forward and progressing with the song, if it doesn’t finish exactly how you expected, it’s not a failure, it’s part of the learning process. For more songwriting tips check out our previous blog

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