– by Brendan Reid, Editor –
Songwriting is no easy process, and is a skill that comes from practice, dedication, life experience, and musical intuition. Here are a few tips that can help you get started, or get you out of that songwriting rut you’ve found yourself hopelessly mired in.
1. Keep a notebook with you at all times
Inspiration can strike at the most unexpected of times. While you are in the grocery store, perhaps, or while you are working your day job. Regardless of where you are, keep a notebook on your person or nearby; if a stream of brilliant lyrics suddenly jump into your head, they can just as easily slip away. Write it down, however, and you’ll never forget those words, or the melody that was attached to them when they first appeared to you. While actively writing, keep that notebook close by as well. If you don’t write down the chords you are playing or the lyrics you are conceiving, they can easily slip away.
2. Draw from your experiences
Songwriting must be an honest process, plain and simple, or the songs you are creating won’t sound any good. Use what you have experienced, and what you know. Delve into what you feel and observe, and you will be able to write music that translates these ideas well, even if their meaning is not plainly stated. Utilize your own musical abilities to their fullest, and be humble with your skills. There is always more you can learn, both with the instrument you are playing and in the life you are living, and every new lesson can help inspire a song.
3. If you have found something that works, try variants of it
So you’ve been messing around on the guitar, and have landed on a chord progression that you like, and a vocal melody that works with it well. But where do you go from there? The answer eludes you hopelessly as you try playing new chords and attempt to weld everything together. However, the solution is simple. Try rearranging the chords you are already using. You could prolong or shorten the length of time you play the chords, reverse their order, or add another random chord into the mix to create a sense of variation. Whatever inspires you! The amount of diversity you can achieve with three or four chords is staggering, and using variants of the same set of sounds within a song can really tie things together, making the song feel complete.
4. Try things you have never done before
One of the best things about music is that it is always changing, just like you as a musician are always growing. If you wish to grow as an artist, the songs you are writing must evolve as well, and this is only possible if you try things that you have never done before. If you are a guitar player, give the piano a go, or the bass. Use common household items as picks or slides, or mess around with those dials on your pedals and amplifiers. Try new rhythm patterns that you’ve never played before, or different tunings. A new tuning can work wonders for inspiration, and make you feel as though you are playing an entirely new instrument. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone! You’ll be amazed by the new sounds you discover.