Songwriting Collaboration: A Double-Edged Sword

In music, collaboration is usually seen as something that can only be good and helpful to musicians, but that’s not the case for every project. Every musician is completely different, and while some artists work best by sharing and developing ideas with other people, others thrive in a space where they have complete say over how to make music.

If you’re used to collaborating with other songwriters in your band, it might be time to go it alone and see what you’re capable of writing on your own. When songwriting is a group effort, there’s a huge potential for the generation of good things to happen but also one for perfectly good ideas to fall to the wayside and get lost.

Taking some time to work alone and develop songs by yourself will allow you to fail and succeed in a way where you’ll be able to be completely responsible for everything you’re creating–– whether it’s good or not. In an ideal band setting, each songwriter has equal say over what ideas go into a song and how those ideas are developed, but that’s rarely what actually happens. If you’ve ever felt frustrated or unheard during a collaborative writing process, then working on some music on your own will probably be a good change for you.

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Writing and producing music on your own means that every piece of a song from the melody and chord progression down to the lyrical narrative starts and ends with you. This can be intimidating to songwriters who are used to writing with other people, but in addition to being great practice, writing songs on your own is the only way to strip the layers of outside influence away from your writing process to see your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

Songwriting is like everything else we do as humans in the way that we typically repeat the way we do things over and over again.

But on the other end of the spectrum, if you’re someone used to writing music on your own without any outside input, collaboration could be a way to bring new life and ideas into your songwriting process. Songwriting is like everything else we do as humans in the way that we typically repeat the way we do things over and over again. When you find yourself strumming the same chord progression or writing the same sorts of melodies over and over again, this is why.

Collaboration is a great way to break out of this pattern because it opens the writing process up to different perspectives and ideas. Even if the collaboration is minimal and one person mainly leads the writing process, the end result is typically a world away from what it would’ve been if you were making music completely by yourself.

The decision to work alone or with other musicians each brings its own benefits and drawbacks, so if you want to be the best songwriter you can, consider changing things up whenever you feel too comfortable. If you’re used to writing with your band, take some time and explore making music on your own for a bit. If you’ve been writing alone for years, reach out to an artist you respect and try collaborating with them. No matter the musical result, you’ll be a better writer for it.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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