Why Time Spent Practicing Is The Only Way You’ll Improve As A Songwriter

In an era where the promise of instant gratification seems to penetrate most aspects of our daily lives, it can be tempting to look to technology and branding for ways to help us create better music. But in truth, the only thing that will improve your songwriting is practice. Yes, there’s a ton of non-musical work that’s involved in sustaining a meaningful career in music, but when it comes down to the sheer art of creating new music out of nothing, the time spent experimenting and honing in your craft is the only thing that will help you get better at what you do.

Separating the work of a modern musician

There’s two types of work you’ll have to do in music if you want to be successful, and that’s songwriting and everything else. The everything else category includes stuff like booking shows, sharing your music with press and media outlets, and coordinating rehearsals. The songwriting side of things is the simple act of a person sitting down and actually producing new music. For some reason, people get the two categories confused, and this can lead to big problems. Surprisingly, this is a problem that impacts new bands as much as seasoned ones.

Whether you’re a seasoned music veteran or are working on your first couple of demos, time spent writing, experimenting, failing, and succeeding is the only thing that’s going to help you write good music. All the other stuff is hugely important, but what’s it all for if your music––the very core of your project––isn’t solid and engaging?

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Getting back to making music after a break

The catch about finding some success in music is being too busy to write songs. If you’re lucky enough to be at the point in your career where you’re touring regularly, the time needed to make music simply might be non-existent. But in today’s music industry of expediency and a seemingly bottomless well of terrific music being constantly released, waiting too long to put out new music could be a serious detriment for your project.

No matter what stage you’re at in your career in music, constantly returning to the basics of songwriting is becoming more of a necessity than ever. There’s often a great deal of pressure linked with making new music––this goes for songwriters at every level. But if you really want to find and engage audiences, you’ll have to make a habit of putting hours of songwriting practice in as often as possible.

Discouragement and distraction

Anyone who’s written music seriously knows how much of a challenge creating a great song can be. It can often take a long time to get to the point where a writer is able to create something of merit, and that can be hugely discouraging for some people. Pair this problem with the constant barrage of distractions we all face on any given day, and you begin to see why putting the time into making music can be so difficult. But without real practice and dedicated work, great songwriting simply can’t happen.

Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

DaveWhy Time Spent Practicing Is The Only Way You’ll Improve As A Songwriter


Join the conversation
  • greg were - May 31, 2018 reply

    I like this article – simple sound advice. I still don’t know any objective value of my song-writing but I sure as hell know I much prefer listening to songs I write between#200-300 rather than ones 0-100 which I never listen to and would never expect anyone to listen to. I believe something happens in the brain once you get over a particular threshold and task of balancing intuition and craft in song-writing becomes very familiar and enjoyable.

    Lori Lynn - May 31, 2018 reply

    As you craft a song and work with it over time, as you become more comfortable with it, so does your audience.

  • Stephen Monroe - May 31, 2018 reply

    One aspect of good song writing to me, is to learn challenging songs from others. I play solo and incorporate covers and originals. I never try to copy anyone and I can’t so they all come out as me “owning” my rendition. Some are very close some are not recognizable but they teach me chords, chord changes. I am self taught so this is my school and we all come here from where we are in our own way. You don’t even have to perform these covers but the learning is what makes you better as a player and a writer, hopefully. Keep going. Broaden your listening palate too. The more you take in the more you can put out.

  • Glenn Salgoud - May 31, 2018 reply

    Yes, I fully agree with these posts. And the article. Very sound advice. In my experience song writing is what music is about. Creation. A craft. I also make theatre masks and although its different there are clear stages in parallel. Ive written hundreds of songs, but only a handfull are good. When Im blocked I sit down, practise scales and techniques, try new rhythms with a metronome and even with the voice. Usually new songs come out if this process. There are no tricks, only dedication.

  • Will Fullove - May 31, 2018 reply

    Thank you!

  • Joshua Clark - June 1, 2018 reply

    The thing about songwriting is inspiration.
    For me, usually unexpected and without a notebook. (lyrics,melodies,riffs)
    Thanks to modern technology I can simply hum or sing my unexpected idea into
    a voice memo and return to it later.

    Record everything!
    Not every idea is a great one but, not every idea is a bad one.

    Becoming a songwriter is difficult.

    Jeff L. Childs - June 2, 2018 reply

    I agree totally with you…the best songs seem to come “out of the sky” and I record them as quickly as possible as they will be gone in moments! Most of the ones I labor over are mediocre. But, fine tuning is always good on every song!

    Alvin Zamudio - June 5, 2018 reply

    I also agree. Where music comes from is a mystery to me, yet I’m doing it every day.

  • Texroy Elliott - July 29, 2018 reply

    Hard work and dedication. Team work makes the dream work.

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