How to Become a Songwriter

Having struggled with songwriting before, I fully understand the predicament you’re going through. Songwriters each have their own way of coming up with lyrics for their songs, and you will too eventually. But when I was starting out these tips really helped me a lot.

Learn Traditional Song Structure

Traditional songs follow a simple structure: verse 1, verse 2, chorus, bridge, verse and chorus. Of course you can also add an intro, outro, solos for the guitar or other instruments, but for now just write the lyrics using the basic structure. It doesn’t matter which comes first, the verses or the chorus, just make sure they’re there.

As to where to get ideas for songs:

• I get my ideas everywhere including personal experiences, my views on sociopolitical issues, love, life, death and so on. You can also get ideas from a good movie or book too. Believe me, it’s not that difficult to get ideas and writing them down once you know how songs are structured.

• New songwriters may find it difficult to rhyme words, so I suggest you keep a thesaurus handy to look up alternate words. Or you may want to try those free rhyming dictionaries online. But once you start writing, the right words will come.

Say it with a Twist

If you find yourself writing about falling in love, breaking up, etc. that’s okay, since it’s a theme that everyone can identify with. But to avoid sounding just like everyone else, I suggest you use different words, or even use metaphors. What I’m saying is you should write about it from different perspectives so it will strike a chord with your audience.

But I want to make clear that you shouldn’t feel pressured to write about love alone; you can write about anything you want, as these are your songs.

Keep Writing Simple

Sting once said that he’s having a more difficult time writing good songs since he started analyzing them too much. I totally agree with that, so avoid over analysis. There’s this notion that a song has to be complicated to be good, which is absolutely untrue. The simpler your lyrics are, the easier people will be able to identify with it.

My advice to you is to keep your songs simple: write around the basic song structure I described earlier, and only add other sections if the song really requires it. Keep in mind that you have heard the lyrics of your song over and over, but your audience will hear it for the first time, so it has to catch them. Simple lyrics and catchy hooks will do this.

There’s one more thing I want to add: try collaborating with others sometime. There are times when it’s easier to write alone, but getting out of your comfort zone can help you produce different and unique songs.

The Top 5 Tips for Writing Better Songs

  1. Don’t try to be perfect – revising songs is okay but don’t overdo it. Your goal is to improve your songwriting skills over time and not write the perfect song the first time out.
  2. Get feedback – how can you know if your song’s any good if you don’t show it to people? If it’s not good, then you can revise. If they like it, then you know you got it right.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try something new – are you sick of artists who seem to sing the same tunes repeatedly? Then don’t stick to formula and do something different.
  4. Failure is a part of the process – you only hear about a songwriter’s success, but the truth is all the best songwriters have struggled to write at some point. The only way you can succeed is to learn from your failures and mistakes.
  5. Look at the big picture – as soon as you start writing songs, you’ll know quickly what part needs to be worked on, revised or removed. Don’t waste your time over nitpicking and focus on the part that needs working on.

Don’t forget to take breaks. I’ve had on more than one occasion spent 12 hours straight trying to write a song and I was very disappointed with the results. If a song is taking way too long to write, it’s probably not going to work. Take a break and forget about it for a while, and come back later refreshed.

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