When we start out as songwriters, there is always a personal quest for writing better songs every day. Seeing ourselves improving in the craft is the best motivation we can receive at that point. When I started writing songs, I thought I was writing really good songs. I wrote the first song, the second song, the third, and then I started realizing the fact that I was not growing as a songwriter. All my songs had the same level of artistry. It didn’t mean that the songs I had written were not good, but what’s the point in continuing if my skill doesn’t improve with time? And then I implemented a few things which gave me really good results in terms of improvement. Here are 8 tips to improve songwriting skills, that have helped me a lot. And I was able to see the results as soon as I started implementing them.
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1. Daily Object Writing
Do object writing for 10-15 minutes every day. Object writing means picking up a random object and writing about it. You don’t have to stick to the theme though. There is no theme for this actually. The object or the word you choose is just a starting point and then you can let it flow. Deviate from the main topic, go wherever you want, just write. Write with your senses – how something feels, appears, etc. Look out for some unique metaphor. Doing this every day will help your mind open up for possibilities of writing more, and also help you overcome writing blocks. And you never know you might end up finding new and unique metaphors every day!
2. Maintain a Journal
Maintaining a journal is fun. It also helps us keep track of our daily life and dump our emotions. But did you know that maintaining a journal can improve your songwriting a lot? And by a lot, I mean a LOT! Well, what are songs made up of, experiences and emotions right? That’s what a journal is made up of as well. So when you maintain a journal, you can always refer to it while writing a new song, and you’ll always find something amazing that adds more value to your song.
3. Dive deeper into Music theory
No, by music theory I don’t mean reading musical notations. While learning to read music really adds up to our skills and helps us properly notate our songs, it is not necessary. We can keep a record of our songs simply by recording them. But what I mean to say here is, you need to learn the theory of music and dive deeper into it. By theory I mean, scales, modes, how chords are constructed, chord families, different types of chords, etc. While having a basic understanding of key, scale, chord progression, is enough to write a song, diving deeper really improves our melody writing. I’ve experienced a drastic improvement in my melodies after I started diving deeper and deeper into theory. Trust me, once you get the hang of it, it’s totally interesting!
4. Learn Raagas
If you don’t know what raagas are, they are a part of Indian Classical Music, somewhat equivalent to scales. While there are a lot of details in raagas, you don’t have to learn it all. Here, all we need is to discover some new raagas and check out which notes are being used. So here’s what you can do. First of all, learn how chords are formed and how a chord progression for a particular scale is determined if you don’t know it yet. Then pick up a raaga (just one google search away), you can start with a simple one. Check out what notes are being used, and then based on that, figure out the chords. After you’ve figured out the chords, use them to create a progression and experiment with it. That’s all! This way you’ll be able to discover some unique chord progressions and thus, you will be able to write better melodies.
5. Re-write a popular song
Do this once in a while. Choose a popular song, then re-write it differently. You can change the song structure, write different lyrics for the same melody, change the melody to the existing lyrics, or re-write everything in your own words where the theme of the song is the same, but with completely new lyrics. The possibilities are endless! This will help you train your mind to expand a theme, get more ideas for a particular theme, and discover more words and phrases to describe a particular feeling.
6. Explore a new genre of music
Let’s say pop music is what you usually listen to. Or maybe rock, or whatever you like. Try exploring a new genre, there are many to explore. Country, jazz, r&b, folk, and many more. Even if you don’t want to write a song in a different genre, learning about other genres and listening to the songs will introduce you to new musical concepts and ideas, which will definitely help you improve your songwriting.
You can check out the Song of the Day section of the blog; I listen to new music every day and share here.
Write with others. It’s well and good if you can find someone in your area. If not, there are many communities of songwriters on the internet. Maybe you can check out r/songwriting on Reddit. How does co-writing help? When two people are writing on a common theme, both of them have different ways of describing it. This way you are able to discover different perspectives and trust me, we don’t realize it sometimes but the perspectives of two people are really unique from each other, especially in terms of writing a song on a particular theme. You’ll definitely learn new stuff!
8.Maintain a word book
This was the most effective thing that helped me improve my songwriting. I used to struggle with words and phrases a lot. After writing two-three songs I realized that I’ve used the same phrases in all three songs, and the first thing that came to my mind was, “I need to find new words, new phrases, and store them in one place”. So I bought a small notebook, pocket-sized, to carry around with me. Every time I come across a cool word or phrase, I note it down. I could’ve done that with my phone too, but a notebook just felt right. So start doing it now. Maintain a word book. Whenever you come across a word or phrase that you like, while reading a book, watching a movie, listening to a song, or thinking about random stuff; note it down. You can also use Pinterest to discover new words. Search for something like ‘new words’ or ‘unique words’ or ‘unique phrases’ and you’ll find plenty. This list comes in handy when you’re writing a song.
That’s all. Please leave your suggestions below. Thank you & Good Luck with your songs!