When times are good and inspiration is easy to find, making music can feel like the most natural and exciting thing in the world for an artist. But when things get rough, writing something exciting and meaningful can feel impossible. If you’re still sticking to the idea that writing music only when you feel like it will result in you reaching your songwriting goals, the truth is that you’re limiting yourself in a huge way.
Songwriting exercises are tools we can embrace to write music more regularly, and in ways that teach us to connect with inspiration. When the usual ways of making music just aren’t doing it anymore, exercises are a phenomenal way to learn how to connect with your creativity again. Here are four ways that songwriting exercises can bring energy and life back to your creative process:
They keep you focused and on track
What is a songwriting exercise, exactly? It can be anything from creating a weekly songwriting schedule to forcing yourself to write a specific number of songs within a month. On the surface, these exercises might sound a little boring if you’re used to writing when you feel the most inspired to. However, inspiration is unreliable if you’re constantly waiting for it to grace you. Songwriting exercises can keep you focused and on the right path towards reaching your goals because they help you write consistently and more often. The more you make yourself available for creativity to happen, the more likely you’ll be to feel inspired and ready to create something meaningful.
They give you the time and freedom to discover ideas
Structure is something we all need as creators and musicians, believe it or not. If you write music with a band, structure is the element that keeps you and the musicians you make music with rehearsing regularly. It’s easy for many creatives to see structures and predetermined plans as things that limit their creativity, but it actually enhances it. Songwriting exercises often take the unpredictability out of deciding when or how you make music so that you can delve into creating freely and in an unrushed way. Sure, amazing songs do come along once in a great while that take a couple of minutes to write. But most of the time and for most songwriters lots and lots of time is needed not only to discover great ideas, but to develop them into great songs. Exercises can create routines that are designed to give you all the space and time you need in your life you need to reach your creative potential.
They get you thinking about music differently
Whether it’s exploring songwriting in a new genre or forcing yourself to embrace minimalism in your creativity, songwriting exercises help put us in new, fertile mindsets. When we make music for the first time, everything feels new and exciting. But it’s common for songwriting to feel less exciting and rewarding the longer we create in the same ways. Exploring music creation with the help of a process-exploding songwriting exercise is an easy way to dig yourself out of a rut and inject curiosity, risk, and newness back into the ways you make music. If you’re bored with songwriting, turning to a songwriting exercise to change things up is a great way to go.
They help you work better with collaborators
Musical relationships are similar to marriages, business partnerships, and friendships in the way that they need constant work to maintain. You might have undeniable creative chemistry with someone, but that doesn’t mean you’re both operating at your full potential. Songwriting exercises can help you and your writing partners stay focused, challenged, communicative, and inspired.
How to choose the right songwriting exercise for your unique goals and process
Choosing the right songwriting exercises to try starts with identifying your specific goals, circumstances, and needs. If you need to write five songs to finish an album, exercises that enhance your creativity and time to write will be the best ones to consider. It’s crucial not to jump ship with a songwriting exercise until you’re finished. This is because the full impacts of these exercises can’t always be seen until you’ve followed through with them, but also because facing down the discomfort some of them might bring you with openness and a willingness to try is important for bringing newness and energy to your process.
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.