The world has a romantic image of how music is made that often involves scenes of musicians caught up in moments of passion and despair expressing their emotions through music. Sure, this sort of thing does happen to some of us from time to time. Yet, the truth is that great music almost always takes hard, consistent work to make. Inspiration is essential for creating music that connects with people. However, it’s up to us to be listening and ready for when it comes to us. That’s where the importance of a consistent, productive songwriting practice comes in. No matter who you are, making songwriting a part of your routine will result in you creating better music. Here are four tips for building a strong, fruitful practice:
1. Sticking to a schedule will develop your skills and give you time to explore ideas
Writing when you feel like it will most likely result in little to no finished music. Some musicians are lucky enough to make ends meet through their art. But most of us have jobs that require a great deal of our time and focus. Carving out time that’s purely devoted to creating gives you far more time to grow as a music-maker than you can have access to by only working when you’re inspired to. Some musicians don’t set writing schedules because it can feel somewhat like a job, but that’s exactly the point. If you want the world to take your music seriously, you’ll need to work as consistently and productively as possible.
2. Remove distractions
Crying babies, nagging partners, and talkative roommates are examples of distractions that can thwart your songwriting practice. You won’t be able to create at your fullest potential if distractions pop up in your writing sessions unexpectedly. It’s not easy, but carving space for making music effectively demands planning ahead of time for distractions and removing them. A good way to do this is by designating an area outside of your living space to be your studio. If you’re unable to do this, asking for space from the people you live with will have to do. Another thing to think about when it comes to distractions is your smartphone. Disabling the internet or leaving it another room is a great method to ensure a distraction-free songwriting practice.
3. Choose a place that provides easy access to instruments and equipment
Having to unpack and set up your gear every time you play might seem inconsequential, but it can keep you from focusing and getting the most out of your time. You should strive to make music in a space that gives you instant access to the tools you need. This will not only save you time but will also give you the best chance at capturing ideas that you come up with unexpectedly and instantaneously. If you want music to be a major part of your life, don’t make things harder than they have to be by hiding the tools you need to create it in a closet.
4. Have a recording device out and ready
Being able to record ideas as they happen is a crucial part of building a productive songwriting practice. Remember, we work around the ideas that come to us and not the other way around. It’s our job to be creatively ready and available to recognize ideas when they materialize, which is the whole point behind sticking to a consistent songwriting practice. Having a recording device ready to go is an essential part of capturing these ideas in the moment and developing them later. This can be done on your computer or even your smartphone. However, it’s still a good idea to shut off the internet to remove distractions during writing sessions.
How your unique songwriting practice looks is completely up to you. Some musicians thrive by creating music at home during the day. Others create their best work holed up in an outside studio in the middle of the night. The important thing is to build a practice that allows you to give the time and attention your music needs to develop and succeed.
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.