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. In my last post, I told you about five of them. If you missed it, read it here.
Here are five more resources that will make you a better songwriter:
6. Car Radio
Listen to the radio in your car as distinct from your phone or speakers. What makes you like the tunes you hear? What makes you wanna change the station? Pay attention to how they subdivide genres for each station. I prefer Siruis (although it’ll cost you) to terrestrial radio because of not having to listen to all the ads, BUT if you are listening to regular radio, listen to the music that is being used FOR the ads. Which products match with what types of songs? For example, Target ads for kids usually have fun, quirky hip-hop beats. Ads for Cadillac are chill or aggressive blues rock. Ads for trucks often have souther rock and country music. Listen to what those lyrics are doing… do you mostly just hear a big chorus? Or maybe just the hook? What parts of the song are they using for the ad?
This is the 2nd best weapon you have next to your ears and it’s an incredible resource if you use it. There is no better way to improve your songwriting than by actually songwriting. You can’t study or think your way into mastery. You have to practically apply your skills in order to improve them. The definition of practice is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” There are no shortcuts.
8. Rhyming Dictionary
If you’re stuck for a lyric, a rhyming dictionary will help. And wait … there’s more to a rhyming dictionary than just the rhymes! The real gems are hidden in the other sections of the rhyming dictionary. Look at the antonyms, synonyms, phrases and related words to spark ideas and keep you in the “key of your song idea”. But carrying a dictionary around is always convenient, so find an app instead. My favorite is Rhymezone.com.
RELATED: 10 SMART Smartphone Music Apps for Songwriters
9. Live Shows
Attend a live show. Study what’s coming across and making an impact on you. Observe the audience. What excites the audience? What makes them turn silent and listen in? Observing reactions at a live show can inform a songwriter about which songs are “sticky“ and which aren’t as much. What melodies are people resonating with? What is the band doing arrangement-wise? What is the vocalist doing?
Why are some songs working and others not as much?
Unlike the feedback you might get from your friends and family, publishers and pros who work in the biz will give you honest feedback, most likely without partiality. It might seem scary and direct at times but it can help if you have the wear with all to listen with an open mind and look at criticism as an opportunity for growth versus getting shut down by it. Remember, these people have experience and who listen to thousands of songs professionally.
So those are 10 great resources you can start using today to get better at songwriting. What tools do you use? Comment below and share what works for you.