How Technology Is Making It Harder For Songwriters To Work

In 2018, solitude is a hard thing to come by. Because our daily lives are often revolved around technology, the non-stop noise of the internet seems to follow us everywhere we go. Whether we’re working on our computers or keeping up with friends and family on social media, solitude is something a person needs to seek out if they want to find it today. But while the distractions of modern culture brought on by technology impact everyone, songwriters are especially affected.

How technology impacts solitude

Solitude is essential for musicians who are trying to write music. That’s nothing new. But for those musicians who rely on technology to make music, there’s huge new challenges posed by the internet. If your laptop is the main tool you use to create music, it can be easy to give in to the temptation of checking notifications, the news, email, and social media over and over again during a writing session. Distractions like these mean that songwriters working two decades ago had a much easier time focusing on their craft than we do now.

And while songwriters who don’t exclusively write music on laptops have it somewhat easier, most everyone has a smartphone now, so technology distraction is a problem that impacts most songwriters in 2018. Figuring out how to work on music in a distraction-free environment is something every musician should be thinking about.

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Why musicians need to make discipline a priority

Remember when you first learned how to play an instrument? It took sacrifice, hard work, and loads of discipline, most likely. If musicians want to write music in a distraction-free environment, they have to choose to create that space for themselves, but it’s not easy. The same discipline that helped you weather challenges in learning to play an instrument can help you create the distraction-free time and space you need to make music, but it has to become one of your priorities.

Tools for carving out distraction-free time to make music

If you’re a songwriter that heavily relies on your laptop to make music, then software programs designed to help people focus in their computer work are worth looking into. For songwriters who primarily write on a main instrument but struggle to not look at their phones every two minutes, the answer might be as simple as committing to carving out phone-free time to write music during the week. Set a standard where no matter what happens, you’ll have x number of hours dedicated to writing sessions where your phone stays in the other room. And before you think this is a problem that only affects young songwriters, think again. As people rely on smartphones more and more, musicians of every age and background are impacted. This isn’t a problem that only affects millennial songwriters.

If you write with a partner or a full band, keep each other accountable. Setting a tech distraction-free standard for your writing sessions isn’t easy, but it’s important for musicians who want to get the most out of their time writing.

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.

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  • marcus davis - July 6, 2018 reply

    Personally i think its all to do with mind set when a musician is writing music.Those that are easily distracted with all this social media ,i would’nt call them musicians to begin with.Theres other ways to compose besides using a laptop if one is serious about composing music.One can record on a hard disk recorder which would be preferable in my book, less computor glitchs and problems.Nowadays with this generation and all this social media and internet ,i would’nt call them musicians.

    James Carbonaro - July 7, 2018 reply

    Call me a caveman, but the idea of composing music on a computer is completely alien. I consider myself primarily a percussionist. But let’s face it, you can’t compose music relying on percussion. That’s why I took a few lessons on how to play the bass guitar. Next, I taught myself a little music theory, as well as how to play keyboards & the baritone ukulele. I’ll start off with a bass line, then add a simple keyboard &/or ukulele part. The percussion part is, of course, the easiest part for me. That can be put in anywhere along the line. The whole thing gets finished off with vocals &/or some harmonica. When I go into the studio to record, I haven’t heard it all put together yet. It has only existed in my head. But little by little, thanks to multi-tracking, the whole song comes to life. Can’t imagine what anyone would need a computer for or how you would make music with one.

    TGR - July 9, 2018 reply

    You sound like the exact person digital formats are designed for buddy. You can multitrack your own stuff in your room instead of waiting for studio time, trying to keep it in your head as you say. All you need is a laptop, DAW program, midi keyboard and an interface for your bass/Ukelele. I trust you’ll find it’s best decision you’ll ever make as a muzo.With a little time, and being a percussionist, you’ll find drum machine program that you could lay out your drums and sample them as you see fit. Try it guy!

    TGR - July 9, 2018 reply

    So you reckon someone cannot be regarded a muzo if they are distracted by social media? Something you’ve just used now to make this comment. Okaaay then.

  • jennybabe - July 7, 2018 reply

    I agree with Marcus – too many songs now are written on laptops and are about making money and not good music – I personally can be walking along – and a line will come into my head then chords will suggest themselves once I have the song sorted in my head I will try it on guitar , once the song is ready then technology will come into play as DAWs can be a great tool – I use mine as I used to use my old 4 track fostex. There is certainly a lack of ideas nowadays hence all the covers and ‘tribute’ bands , live music for the karaoke generation 🙁

  • Cynthia Moore - July 7, 2018 reply

    I agree wholeheartedly with Marcus Davis. Those who use a laptop to write music, I dont consider them true musicians. Another term needs to be coined for that group. Neecessity has always been the mother of invention and always will be. If you dont do certain things manually like navigation, grammar, I can name two apps that do those things google maps and grammarly, you will inevitably be dumbed down and absolutely dependent upon these outside elements to accomplish your everyday tasks. As a musician I have struggled because I did something that not very many people have the courage or the insanity to do- I quit my day job (no I didnt have stacks of cash set aside) to focus on the music 100% to test the theory of pursue your passion and the money will come. It has proven to be true in the sense that I have found steady support that keeps me alive and keeps my music moving forward. I have also had to deal with NOT having every possible “easy” button provided to me right off the bat, which has forced me to try harder. Choosing to not have a plan B has also freed up alot of time which has increased my songwriting ability and frequency. There is also an element of either you have it or you dont. In the spirit of absolute gratitude I will say that I have realized that I was born with a gift of being able to write complete songs usually instantaneously, no matter where I am. I will say that having creative space set aside helps. I wouldnt EVER use a computer to compose, plain and simple. If you want to do something bad enough youll find a way and if youve been born with a gift and are in pursuit of developing it then the universe will always assist you along the way, even if the media wont.

    TGR - July 9, 2018 reply

    I’m a pretty decent guitarist and come from a family of musicians…I feel you don’t truly understand what a laptop can bring to the table wrt composing music. Please try a program called Band in a Box for example.It may surprise you as it did my dad , who is an accomplished Jazz guitarist. He absolutely swears by it now and has made some fantastic compositions as a result.Worth a look into.

  • James Carbonaro - July 7, 2018 reply

    I have 38 more weeks to go until I can retire from my day job. Therefore, by next April, I will be able to pursue my rock ‘n roll fantasies full time. Until then, I’ll keep on composing & recording as time & money allows. But by next year at this time, I will have to have found several other musicians who are also sexagenarians, who are willing to perform my numbers, & are able to take the act on the road throughout the USA & Canada – for starters.

  • Ger - July 12, 2018 reply


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