The Hit Songwriting Formula

A cutting edge fast track to writing great songs

Becoming and Staying Consistent As a Songwriter

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When you wrote your first song, you likely didn’t immediately self-identify as a songwriter. But there came a point, almost without thinking about it, where it seemed obvious to you that you were indeed a songwriter. That meant that you had written at least several songs, and that you derived creative satisfaction from doing so.

Being a songwriter or composer is a kind of badge of identification one wears. Calling yourself a songwriter makes no claim as to how good or prolific you are. There are millions of songwriters in the world. Some make their living at it, while some do it at an amateur level. And even that has little to do with quality: it’s possible to be writing excellent songs as an amateur.

We often use the word consistency when it comes to describing someone who displays the more positive attributes of being a songwriter on a regular basis. When we use that word consistency, we usually mean at least two things:

  1. a songwriter who writes songs on a daily (or almost daily) basis;
  2. a songwriter who usually writes good songs, ones that gain a strong following – songs that build a healthy fanbase.

You may have written many songs, but perhaps lately you’ve been worrying a little. It may be that one or two of those songs are the kind that people seem to react positively to when they hear them, but the others seem considerably less noteworthy.

That’s what people are talking about when they question their consistency as a songwriter, and consistency may be a quality you fear you’re lacking.

So the question is this: how do you improve your songwriting abilities to the point where most of your songs are notably good, and where you can churn those songs out on a regular basis?

Here are some tips for becoming and then staying consistent as a songwriter:

  1. Make songwriting a daily activity. It’s part of the evidence that songwriting is something from which you derive creative satisfaction.
  2. Don’t feel the need to write full songs every day. Songwriting is something that can and must be practiced. In that regard, you may find that devoting a day to a specific songwriting task is going to be more beneficial than sitting down to write a full song. For example, you might spend a morning working out many short, 1- or 2-bar melodies over a given chord progression. You might try rewriting a line of lyric. You might work solely on a chorus hook. I have an entire chapter of such activities in my book “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music,” but you can make up your own.
  3. Put songs away for a short period, and then return to them. Once you’ve finished a song, it will surprise you how many ideas you’ll get to improve it if you put it away and ignore it for a while. Then a month or so later, take it out and play it. Suddenly you’ll notice that you’ve got new and interesting things to try, ideas that will improve the song and make it more interesting or otherwise stronger.
  4. Get advice from professional songwriters. Songwriting circles can be great places to make contact with others who have considerable experience, and you might be surprised how many of them love to give advice, as long as you are specific about the kind of advice you need. Asking a songwriter, “Hey, what do you think of my song?” will yield almost nothing useful, but describing a particular problem you’re having is more likely to get you some practical advice.
  5. Learn to be an objective listener. To improve your songs, you need to be able to hear them as others do. So you need to develop the ability to listen to your own music as if it’s someone else’s. Decide whether you like it or not, based on what you hear, not on the fact that it’s yours. This is a tricky ability to hone, but it’s an absolutely necessary part of becoming and staying consistent.

Many songwriters have the dream of making it big someday. It’s not unusual for someone to be “discovered out of the blue”, but fairy tale stories like that are actually rare. The most important part of becoming successful in any art form is to be excellent at what you do, and to be excellent consistently.

GaryWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

Hooks and RiffsDoes your songwriting process start with writing a good hook? Gary’s eBook, “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base, will show you how to make the most of that vital element of hit songwriting. READ MORE.

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