Whether in music, books, or art in general, songwriting is the only tool that can turn your work into a journey, the ultimate goal of which is to take people with you. The power of songwriting is behind some of the greatest hits in music history. Whether through derision, emotion, or denunciation, words give meaning to your songs.
Here are 7 tips to help you develop your songwriting and make a lasting impression:
1. Get inspiration from your idols for a good songwriting
The songs that have made music history, or those that are particularly dear to you, all have something in common: they are timeless. A song is often timeless because of its narrative quality and the universal message it carries. We all have idols that we admire more than anything else and that inspire us on a daily basis. These figures are an inherent part of your development as artists and musicians. What you have to keep in mind is that these inspirations can shape you and allow you to find your own creative momentum.
Joy Division would be nothing without David Bowie, the Rolling Stones wouldn’t exist without Muddy Waters.
First of all, take the time to analyze and rediscover the songs that you like. Make a playlist of all the songs that inspire you and ask yourself what makes them so good. What is the structure? What are the arrangements? The melodic progressions? The rhythmic variation? The tonality or the texture? By investigating the songs that inspire you, you will be able to take a step back from your tastes and ambitions and really dive into your creative process.
2. Good or great songwriting ? 👉 Active listening
The most effective way to take advantage of your influences is to use the active listening method. When you listen to a song you like, take notes of the parts, elements and techniques that appeal to you. Schematize the entire work, giving shape to the ideas in order to get a visual overview of the entire creative process. This will help you visually represent the structure of your favorite songs.
3. Keep a journal to grow as a songwriter
In order to improve your lyric-writing skills, the greatest favor you can do for yourself is to keep a lyric diary, and take it with you wherever you go.
Sometimes even writing down your most mundane thoughts in prose can help you write lines you would never have thought of otherwise.
No one witnesses your creative process.
IMPORTANT: If you don’t allow yourself to write, you risk staring at your paper and playing with your pen for a long time.
4. Use a narrative arc to structure your songwriting
Songs are stories. Applying a narrative arc to your writing is a clever and effective way to make your songs more interesting to your listeners. Working with narrative arcs gives you a guideline when writing the lyrics to your song. The beauty of this method is that it allows you to structure your songwriting without restraining it.
Each section of your narrative arc allows you to gradually bring tension and density to your piece. Just like in a recipe, season to your liking and most of all, be creative!
TIP: Building a song to its climax (climax then resolution) is a foolproof and recurring method in pop music. Similarly, hinting to upcoming parts keeps the listener on the edge of their seats (between the introduction and resolution for example).
Example of an iconic Beatles song that follows this narrative arc:
IMPORTANT: The narrative arc can take many forms, so it is up to you to find a structure that suits you and allows you to optimize the creative process of your songwriting.
5. Improve your songwriting by collaborating with other artists
If you find it difficult to write lyrics on your own, try working with other people. Writing on your own is perfectly fine and you will probably spend a lot of time doing it, but there are many advantages to working with someone else. You’ll find that you can learn a lot by sitting down with another musician and working on a song together, especially if you’ve never done it before.
Think about Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), John Lennon and Paul McCartney (The Beatles), Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones). The list goes on and on… Co-writing songs has many benefits. It allows you to:
- Build your network
- Open doors to new ways of writing
- Learn more about your strengths and weaknesses
- Obtain relevant criticism
- Give a new dimension to your creative process
6. Experiment, experiment, experiment
Once you’ve tapped into the songs that inspire you, you’ll have the background to develop your own style. Listening leads to creation. Once you’ve captured the essence of these pieces, enjoy yourself and take the time to deconstruct and rearrange them to your liking. This is a kind of “creative destruction”. Start from several established bases in order to completely transform the inspirations into something new. Be a sponge: the goal is to mix everything that inspires you in order to end up with something unique, that resembles you.
Let yourself be influenced, but don’t fall into copying. Enjoy yourself.
The important thing to remember is that nothing happens under a flash of genius, you must first understand what you like and then have the tools to shape your own creative universe. Likewise, don’t set any limits on the creative process of your songwriting. There are a whole host of myths and anecdotes about legendary artists who used completely crazy methods to write songs. One of the most well known is Bob Dylan who started each writing session with a few minutes of deep meditation by listening to a song that inspired him. Or David Bowie who used the “cut-up” technique which consists of writing a bunch of words that come to mind, cutting them out and rearranging them into ideas.
7. The art of songwriting : one good song is never enough
Now that you’ve got the tools to develop your songwriting, there’s only one thing left to do: write a ton of songs! It’s with experience that you’ll progress. Finding your unique sound is not easy. Take advantage of failure or attempts that are too adventurous. Leave room for experimentation and your creative impulses- you can never be too ambitious. Savor success and learn to value your progress. Your next great song only needs one last important ingredient: experiment and never give up!
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– Article written by Amy Cimpaye in its original version, translated by Mackenzie Leighton –