These are some tips I’ve learned over the years that I think may help you moving forward, no matter if you are a beginner or an experienced songwriter.
So where do you start? Well, most musicians may start with the music first. However, if you are a lyricist, you may start with the words and if you’re a vocalist, you may start with a melody. Music, words, and a melody are some of the major elements to write a song.
1) You need to come up with a cohesive and compelling story that you’re writing about. The most memorable songs resonate with everyone. It’s usually a story that they all can relate to at one time or another in their lives.
2) Get into a habit of recording or writing down your song ideas immediately! I can’t count how many times an idea was in my head and I forgot it just because someone walked in the room or I got a phone call or a number of other reason that stopped my creative flow. Make sure you start recording and writing down your ideas right away.
3) Don’t get stuck on one idea of the song too long. You get stuck on trying to find trying to a word that rhymes with “orange”. or the right chord.... should it be a minor flat 7th or flat 9th chord. Learn to look at the whole picture of the song first, you can always go back and add the details later. You want to stay focus on the creative flow of the song. As you rewrite you can at the details
4) Work on the song structure, ex. intro, verse, chorus, verse2, chorus2, bridge and tag out. Most popular songs have a similar song structure and for many different reasons. Ex.1 One being that most songs are 3 to 5 minutes long because of radio airplay, ex. 2 you need to keep your listeners engaged, making a song too long can be the quickest way to lose your listeners, especially if it’s an original song and they are hearing it for the first time.
5) Collaborate with others. If you’re a great musician but you’re not good with lyrics to find a great lyricist to work with. If you are a great lyricist you don’t plan instrument you may find a great musician to work with. The key is to make the strongest as possible. Don’t let your pride or ego get in the way from you having a hit song! Be open to work with others, if there is an area in your writing where you could use help collaborate with others songwriters.
6) Always be listening and analyzing songs that you love. Listen to the song structure, listen to the lyrics, melody, and rhythm of the songs. Also, listen to the instrumentation of the songs. Your goal is to try and figure out what is it that song that people really love about this particular songs? Then use these elements to write similar songs yourself.
7) Discipline yourself to write every day! It’s the only way you are going to become stronger and better songwriter. It may be just a title, some lyrics, or a great melody that came into your head from a dream. Many success stories come from people who have come up with just the hook of a song, they put it away for some time until they were inspired to write a verse. The key is to be consistent with your writing and make sure you do it every day. The more you write the quicker the idea else will come to you.
8) Always have some type of recording device with you at all times. You never know what may happen that will inspire you. It could be in a dream you had, while you are traveling, talking on the phone, a book you’ve been reading, a sermon title, a billboard sign, a heated conversation, a bad relationship, meeting someone for the first time, family, politics, a lover. Always be prepared to record any ideas that may inspire and motivate you to write!!
9) Don’t be a perfectionist when you’re writing! I've seen perfectionist with 10 to 20 different ideas of music, melodies, and lyrics that they never finish it. Why? because they will think it's never good enough. I hope that’s not you. You want to at least learn to finish a song from beginning to end. You can always go back and perfect it later. Get in the habit it of finishing the songs that you started.
10) Get into the habit of playing your song for others before it comes out. However, don’t only played for people who you think are professionals. Played for the people that will be listening to your song. If you’re an artist, play it ( or at less snippet of it) for your fans. Find out from them what they like or don’t like about the music and the lyrics.
Here's a bonus tip for you.
11) Take notes, If you hear most of your listeners saying the same thing about what they don’t like about your song, that’s probably the part that you need to work on. For example, they may like the lyrics but not the vocalist. They may like the vocalist but not the instrumentalist. However, remember everyone will have different opinions about the song but don’t let that distract you! Never forget, the more you write the better it will get!