There are tons of tips and how-to’s out there on songwriting. Hundreds of books and dozens of online classes. Plenty of professionals who will teach you all their “secrets.”
Many of them are great tools to learn the mechanics of songwriting… Like rhyming and song plots and melodic movement.
But there’s something else you need. Something that no teacher or lesson plan can give you. I believe it’s what makes you stand out, stamps your work and differentiates you from every other person in the world.
Its your “writer’s voice”.
It comes from you and can only be cultivated by you.
In the literary world, Hemmingway and Steinbeck had it. All of the great authors had it. So have all the great songwriters. Bob Dylan has it. The Beatles had it. Marshall Mathers has it.
It’s their unique way of describing and delivering their thoughts and feelings. Their writing is undeniably “them.” It may be in the melodies and chords which they choose. Or the way they string words together. But you know who they are the minute you hear their song or read their writings.
This is such an important part of the songwriting puzzle. This is the piece that makes a songwriter special and unique.
In light of that, here are a few tips to help cultivate YOUR “writer’s voice”.
1. Be fearless.
Write crap. Don’t be afraid to. Everyone does.
For every good song written, there are probably hundreds of dogs. I know… I’ve written plenty.
Leonard Cohen would write pages of lyrics in a day and be delighted if he got just one useable line out of it. Because in the process of writing crap, you learn about writing and you learn about yourself. You become comfortable with expressing yourself, and you get quicker at doing it.
The practice of writing makes you better at it. So flex those muscles and put the crappy stuff in perspective. Take the best and trash or re-purpose the rest. I compare it to learning to play golf. You are going to to shank a few balls. Maybe a lot. But occasionally, you’re going to hit a beaut straight down the fairway.
2. Write often and consistently.
Writing often and consistently is probably the most critical step in discovering your voice. When you do something enough, there’s a flow that happens. And then there’s the way that only you would transcribe that flow. Tune in to that. If you don’t write often enough, it’s harder to jump right into it.
Explore your thoughts, your feelings, your world.
Mine your heart, your soul, your experiences.
That’s what makes you, you.
And all that stuff will show up on the page, either knowingly or otherwise.
4. Edit later.
Just let it out. Don’t stop. Disregard the voices inside your head that are judging your output. For now, getting out the bones is most important. Analyze and edit later.
Listen to the songs you love. Learn from the songs you don’t. Take all of it in.
Try and understand why you love the ones you love. Take what you love and use that inspiration to write what you want to write about it in your way. In YOUR writer’s voice.
It’s true that imitation is the best form of flattery. All the greats have had their mentors and muses. But in the end, they cultivate something new and unique. If you have a writer’s voice, it will be unique because no one but you lives in your body. You put it as only you can see it.
Hopefully this will help you in find your writer’s voice. But remember, the process of finding your voice takes time. So print out these tips and keep them close by as a reminder.
And if you’re looking for more songwriting resources, check out my post, 10 Resources That Will Make You Better at Songwriting.
You can also subscribe to receive more tips on music craft, production and business by subscribing to Savvy Songwriter here.
Updated: October 2017