It happens very often that students ask me how to write songs and more generally how to have the right tools to compose and write music. Most of them are driven by writing guitar-related music, most of them (like me nowadays) would love to start to compose songs.
I’ve already talked about this topic in my first article How to learn to write songs and I only scratched the surface of it.
The way you can write songs are so many, and honestly I don’t like that much talking only in therm of “songwriting”.
Composition and songwriting are nowadays the skills that more than everything make the difference in any musician’s career. It divides the people that are passionate about the instrument and spend their time learning covers to put them in YouTube, from the people that make a true effort to be creative artists more than just musicians, trying to write a story.
I’ve nothing against YouTube covers, I’ve few covers on YouTube too and learning covers might be a very good exercise to monitor our progresses. But let’s just face the truth: YouTube is PACKED with EVERYONE putting his/her cover stuff in the platform… Do we really need it? Does Music really need it?
The REAL problem about making music for many people is not the lack of skills. Skill can be “easily” acquired with some effort. On the other hand, the lack of inspiration is something very hard to overcome for any artist and specifically for any songwriter out there.
It has been said already so many times that the possibilities of pop songs are becoming quite limited.
People who listen to radio are becoming the more and more intrigued by a classic 4 chords songs, or at least this is what major propose. It can be discouraging for many serious aspiring songwriters in any style, but everything depends on how you use and interpret the few chords.
Most of the times it is not the skills or the style itself, it’s just about feeling really inspired and having that idea that makes you have goosebumps.
So how to find this Grail? In this article I’ll try to give you my suggestions based on what I do to overcome the lack of creativity and avoid getting stuck in the white paper syndrome.
Tip #1: Don’t push your creativity, let it flow naturally
This has a lot to do with our ability to understand our boundaries.
I would overall say that a true composer and songwriter has to have the right skills to stay creative even when the mood is down or when the focus is lacking
If you’re professional and serious in what you do, you will have to work towards the direction of being able to create regularly, no matter how or if you’re inspired or not. It’s about taking actions, it’s about sitting down and do the hard work without thinking too much. This is the best starting point to achieve consistent results.
On the other hand you’ve to accept the fact that as human being you’ve limits. You can go with automatism for a while, but you know already inside of you that it will end.
Listen to yourself and your body. Try to understand when too much work is just too much and you’re not productive whatever is the action you decide to do. In that case, the best is just to disconnect for a while and let the flow coming naturally to you. I would say that a good work balance for me is 50 minutes production, 10 minutes rest.
Careful: rest is rest. Taking a pause is not staying into the same subject. For example, you’re writing a song and in your pause you keep on listening to other songwriters or other music related stuff. Your brain has to stay disconnected for a bit, so take a walk, talk with your friends/partner etc, take some distraction.
Then you’ll see how easy can be to come back to get focused again.
Tip#2: Use the free moments at your advantage: take note and record.
As human being, you’ve to take care of the many aspects of your life in order to stay healthy and balanced.
You can’t dedicate all your time to work: there are your friends, there’s eventually your partner, there’s your family, there’s your health. The very good side of all of this is that you can use this time at your advantage.
Music is the expression of the artist him/herself as person. If you don’t take care of the person, your music will lack of deepness. If you don’t observe, listen, try to learn from other situations and people, you will have nothing to say through your songs.
Real life is most of the time your best inspiration. It’s you, you’re unique, as unique can be the way you tell a story if you really listen to yourself.
During your daily activity, take note of what happens to you, force yourself to write down your emotions. Try to capture every single melody or idea that comes to your mind during your day.
The best and most spontaneous ideas come where we are unfocused. Our brain is not conditioned by the expectations we have from ourselves nor from our audience. When we compose songs we are subconsciously trying to fill in our expectations.
This doesn’t happen when you’re out with friends or with your family or partner(s). Write it down or record it, you’ll be grateful to yourself afterwards.
Tip#3: Study Music Theory and Harmony
This is pretty obvious: if you don’t know how to compose a good chord progression or a good melody for your songs, maybe it’s because your harmony and theory skills are lacking.
The fact that most of the most famous songs are built out of 4 chords is an excuse. You need to know the weight of every chord you use, and its function related to the contest you’re writing. You also need how the relationship between the melody and the chord works.
So no excuses, study music theory and if you need for Skype lessons about this topic I’m available at this email address.
Tip#4: Analyze the songwriters and composers you love the most
Music analysis is a strong weapon to grow up your vocabulary. Listening and understand the composition method behind the songs you love will lead you to a more consistent knowledge of what your limits and strong points are.
It’s not about putting yourself in competitions with the others: you will never ever have the same songwriting ability of Stevie Wonder, nor the same fantasy of Burt Bacharach. This is because you’re unique, your life experience is unique, the music you love is the result of your personal tastes.
If you analyze the most important songwriters, you will absorb not only their songs but also the way they approach the art of composition.
The more you know about what’s behind you, the more you will be lead to be yourself and sit in the Giant’s shoulders.
Tip#5: Read and watch movies, be culturally interested
Creativity is not something that comes out of nothing but it’s mostly a re-elaboration of past information.
The more your brain is stimulated by different forms of creativity, the more you’ll find your inner voice.
Read to have stories to talk about, watch at movies, go to expositions. In few words be culturally interested. This will lead you to have more deepness in your way to express yourself, you will be able to tell your own story in your own way.
I hope these five tips can be helpful for you. If you liked the article please leave a comment and share it.
Also, if you’re interested in growing your songwriting skills in function of a career, you can take a look here.