Improving your craft is something you should always be working on, whether you’re just getting started or even if you’re a pro. And this is particularly true with songwriting, since styles are constantly changing and technology is constantly evolving. But the good news is that there are a ton of resources out there to help you improve as a songwriter and stay on top of the latest trends. Here are five to get you started:
1. Streaming Sites
There are all kinds of streaming sites out there: Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, Apple Music, YouTube… the list goes on. At this point, we have streaming access to just about everything now, new songs and old. AND it’s usually free. So hop on a streaming site of your choice and find out what’s new, what’s exciting, and what’s striking a chord with you. Keep playlists by genre so you can refer back to them for inspiration when you’re writing that type of song.
If you’re writing music for film and t.v. (or even if you’re not), one of the best resources for finding common themes to write about is television. Turn on the t.v. (guilt-free!) and pay attention to the kinds of songs are being placed underneath the dialog. What are the common and universal themes? What is the production like? How do the songs make you feel and how do they enhance the mood of the scene? Try muting the sound and coming up with lines based on what’s happening on the screen. Then take those words and start a song with it. Or keep the volume up and try writing a song using a line of dialog which is the central idea of the scene.
3. Other Artists and Songwriters
Find the artists and songs you love and figure out why and how they resonate with you. Study what they’re doing. What are the lyrics about? What is the chord progression? What is happening with the melody and the rhythm? What are the production elements? Try writing something with those rhythms, song structure and production choices. Great inspiration can come from other peoples’ work.
Book readers make good songwriters. Next time you’re reading a book, as yourself: how does the author string together words to describe scenes and make you envision the story? What verbs does the author use? What choices of words are exciting and create a visceral reaction? Which verbs pump up the action of the story? What writing styles move you?
5. Your Ears
Your ears are the BEST resource you have. So listen to songs. Critically listen. By that I mean really hear, study, break down and understand the individual components of the song. Examine the structure, the rhyme scheme, the arc of the music. Study the chord progression and the phrasing of lyrics. Study the melody. Study the vocal delivery. Never underestimate the two appendages at the sides of your head. They are your weapons.
So there are 5 resources you can start using now to improve your songwriting skills. Check back later this month for five more resources that will make you better at songwriting!
Already using these techniques? Comment below and share what works for you.