1. Bring a Notebook and Headphones Everywhere
Top of the list for songwriting tips is listen to music and write down ideas on the bus, in waiting rooms, even in long lineups. You never know when inspiration is going to strike, and it’s just as easy to forget an idea as it is to be struck with one.
2. Record Everything You Do
Keep a recorder running even while you’re just jamming. That way, if you ever forget something great you came up with, you can just go back and find it on the track.
3. Know a Song’s Components
A simple, three minute modern song has basically five essential components:
All of these depend on each other, but they can also be considered independently. You can write a poem first and then set it to music, or you can work out a rhythm part first and build a song on top of it. Whichever order you work best in, it’s important to ensure all of these components are covered and are the best they can be for the song.
4. Choose Different Entry Points
A less obvious one on the songwriting tips list is, many songwriters prefer to start with whichever of those five elements is most important to the song. Dance songs often start with rhythm, pop songs with structure, and folk songs with lyrics.
However, it helps if you hit a block, to change your start point. This gives you new creative energy and often helps you find new approaches to your sound.
5. Understand Structure
Structure is a lot like paragraphs and chapters in books, or the three act plot of a movie. There’s no particular reason why every song needs similar structure, or every movie needs a late climax, but now that those sequences have become the new normal in society, they help fans understand the basic language of art. You can play around with structure, but fundamentally, your song will need identifiable verses, bridges, and choruses.
6. Understand Conventions and How to Mess With Them
Structure, and other conventions, serve a purpose and shouldn’t be broken entirely. But they can be bent. For example, let’s look at one of the reasons why the song “Uptown Funk” feels so good and original. First, it’s not a dance song at the rhythm level: at 115 beats per minute, it’s just a little too slow for dance pop. Everything about the song is recognizable and familiar, but it’s just different enough to be new and exciting.
7. Add Some Technical Complexity for the Geeks
Our songwriting tips list includes something for the intelligentsia. Not everyone appreciates songs on the metric level, but some do. If you have short notes, use long words. If all your verses are the same length, make one shorter.
8. Build Tension and Release
Tension and release is part of every art form, but especially part of music. You can build tension by dropping instruments from the mix, breaking down the bridge, or displacing the beat from the melody.
9. If You’re Stuck, Reverse Your Chord Order
If you already have a verse but need a new part, a quick trick is try reversing the chord order of what you already have and seeing what happens. It works more often than you’d think.
10. Buy a Rhyming Dictionary
Songwriting tips back to basics, it’ll be the best $5 you ever spend. There are several online that will come in handy and if you have a laptop, they are always at your fingertips.