Songwriting can seem like an elusive craft. But the truth is, it’s like any other. And there are things you can do to excel at it.
In this post we’ll give you some advice on how to be a better songwriter.
If you put this advice to work for you and you give it time, you will level up your craft to heights you wouldn’t think possible.
But it will take effort on your part…
If you’re brand new to writing songs, first check out our beginner’s guide on how to write your own songs.
10 Tips to Become a Better Songwriter
Below are the 10 absolute best ways to improve as a songwriter.
These aren’t hacks or cheats or “one weird trick”‘s that will have you writing a hit song immediately. Those don’t exist, trust me.
These are more like mindsets/attitudes and habits that you need to cultivate. Over time, you’ll see how much your writing improves as a result.
Analyze Your Favorites
The absolute best way to improve your craft is to study your favorite songs and songwriters.
There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.
Analyze songs that you love as deeply as you can – the structure, the melodies, the lyrics, the hooks, etc.
Learn them inside and out.
A great way to do this is to re-create the songs yourself, entirely from scratch. This is easier to do today with the help of studio software.
Recreating great music is a time-tested strategy for getting better, also known as “transcribing” music.
Then you can take it a step further and change things up – re-write various parts/melodies/lyrics. That can be a very helpful exercise.
Become OK With Sounding Stupid
When you’re writing songs, you have to be ok with sounding weird and being embarrassed. Even if you’re alone in a room writing by yourself, your ego can step in and stop you from giving your all.
Don’t let your self-consciousness play a role in your songwriting sessions. Even the greats sound stupid sometimes.
But the real trick is being willing to sound stupid so often, that statistically you’ll sound absolutely amazing every now and then.
And those are the gems you keep that have the potential to turn into hit songs.
The reason you want to be ok with sounding bad is because you want to open up and try different things. And the thing about trying new things is that not everything will work.
And you have to be ok with that.
We have no idea where or when inspiration will strike us. And that can be a problem if you’re not capturing your ideas effectively.
You see, the brain is a GREAT generator of ideas but it’s really bad at remembering them.
So you need to have a system to capture the little lyric and melody ideas that pop into your head on a random basis.
Use your phone’s voice notes or carry around a little recorder. Hell even carry around a small pad of paper and pen.
Just capture everything. And the cool thing is, the more you pay attention to those little sparks of ideas in your head and you capture them, the more often they’ll come around.
It’s eerie like that…
Learn the Craft
As much as you may not want to hear it, there’s a craft to writing songs – best practices and guidelines to creating songs that resonate and connect with others.
They’re not hard-and-fast rules, but they’re hundreds of years of experience boiled down into simple axioms.
Song craft includes things like crafting infectious melodies and hooks, writing great lyrics, structuring a song effectively and much more.
Learning the craft won’t kill your creativity like some people believe. It’ll actually unlock your creativity. Because when you learn craft, you have a framework you can build off of or alter to your own liking.
Like I said, they’re not rules. But even if you want to break the rules, you have to know the “rules” first.
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Put In Your Reps
If I only had one thing I could tell you about being a better songwriter it would be this – put in your reps.
What does that mean?
Simple – write lots and lots of songs, all the time, for as long as possible.
That is truly the best way to become a better songwriter. And if you couple it with constructive feedback and constantly learning good song craft, you’ll become unstoppable.
There’s a common saying that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. But I think Naval Ravikant’s idea of doing “10,000 iterations” is more accurate.
Do something 10,000 times and you’ll be the biggest expert in the world.
Apply it to songwriting.
Finish Your Work
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last couple decades, it’s that making music is super fun.
But finishing music, is the most dreadful job you can think of.
We all love sketching out new song ideas every day, but very few of us actually finish those sketches/ideas at all.
And being a “finisher” is something that will propell you further than just having 10,000 rough ideas.
Try your best to finish all the songs you start writing.
The trick to finishing music is to not overthink it. Just do it until it’s done, regardless of how good it is or not.
We often put off finishing our work because we have perfectionism in our personality. It’s an ego thing.
But if you can just force yourself to finish your songs, you’ll get better much faster than everyone else out there.
Collaborating with others is another great way to level up your own songwriting.
That’s because everyone has their own approach to the craft. They have their own strengths and weaknesses.
And because of that, we learn from each other. Remember, steel sharpens steel.
So get out there and do as much co-writing as you can. The more people you work with, the more you’ll learn about your strengths and weaknesses, and how to improve them.
Tap Into Culture
If you think about it… the best songs capture a moment in time in our overall cultural zeitgeist. They’re able to distill the feelings of the masses down into succinct lyrics and melodies.
So try to pay more attention to the culture of where you’re at (or where you’re paying attention).
If you can tap into what people are feeling on a deep emotional level, you’ll write great songs. If you’re able to recognize and distill cultural movements, you’ll write great songs.
This also means paying attention to other art – because art is a part of a society’s culture. So watch movies, play video games, read books… Pay attention to what’s going on out there in the big bad world.
Steal and Repurpose
As cliched as it is, it still remains true – great artists steal.
Now, that’s not exactly true – it’s more like “borrow for inspiration,” but you get the idea.
Find what you love about another piece of art, and take it – use it as inspiration or a jumping off point for your own innovative creation.
Of course, you need to be careful of copyright issues in the modern world, but you should be using others as inspiration for your own work.
Don’t just lift an entire melody or lyric and pass it off as your own – that’s corny (and illegal). But repurpose it for yourself – make it your own.
There’s nothing wrong with that. And it’s true… all the greats do it.
Live a Life
Finally, it’s important that you go out there and live a life.
Life itself serves as the building block for inspiration. If you’re a songwriter, you need material to write about. And the best material comes from the ups and downs of life.
Go try new things, make and break friendships, fall in love, get your heart broken, fail at something – live a real life.
That will be the food for your songs and ideas.
And all of that experience will make you a better songwriter in ways you won’t even realize or recognize.
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Songwriting is an intimate craft. And unfortunately it can be a little like trying to capture lightning in a bottle.
It’s difficult to write a truly great song, but it’s absolutely possible for anyone to do.
Work at your craft, follow the tips here and just keep writing music. Over time you will look back and be amazed at how much better you’ve gotten at writing songs.
It’s inevitable – if you put in the work, you WILL become a better songwriter.
If you really want to level up your songwriting skills, I highly recommend you join HitSongsDeconstructed – they’re the best resource on the internet I’ve found on how to write hit songs.
Thanks for reading this post on how to become a better songwriter. I hope it was helpful.