4 Tips For Writing Your Best Music

When you set out to write a new song, there are countless creative paths you can take. Most will lead to places you’ve been before, but some paths will take you to new musical territories. Obviously, new and exciting directions are the places we want to take our music as songwriters, but getting there is rarely easy. It takes work to write great music, but you already know that.

But what you might not realize is that embracing strategies and routines can up your chances of making excellent music in a huge way. Here are four of them:

Define your songwriting practice

How, when, and why do you write music? If you’ve never asked yourself these questions, doing so can be a huge help. You might find that you love making music, but don’t do it that often. Or, you could discover that you’ve been making music for reasons that don’t authentically inspire you. By defining your songwriting practice, you’ll have an easier time making music and opportunities for creating your best work. Whether doing this results with you scheduling more time to create or in you reassessing your priorities depends on your unique needs, writing preferences, and background. 

Create goals

If you’re a serious songwriter, you should have serious goals. I’m not talking about pie-in-the-sky goals like selling out arenas and becoming a famous musician. Instead, I think you should lay out ambitious and highly detailed short and long-term goals for your songwriting practice. This could be anything from writing a certain number of songs every month for a year to writing an album’s worth of material exclusively on a new instrument. These goals should be exciting and geared towards boosting your creative growth and productivity as an artist. 

Build time to seek meaningful inspiration into your daily life

The sad truth is that it’s completely possible to build an uninspiring and predictable life in music, even if you spend the majority of your time writing, recording, and performing. Writing loads of music will undoubtedly boost your chances of creating great work, but it will be much harder to get there without meaningful inspiration. Since great art imitates life and helps people to understand their own lives, music can’t just be about music. So go out there and live a deep, novel, and human life. Find authentic inspiration in your daily existence, and you’ll have a path towards creating human and relatable music. This often means walking away from the mic, DAW, or piano, and being a non-musical human being for a bit. Take walks alone in nature. Travel. Make amends with an estranged friend. Then, you’ll have something to make music about. 

Experiment, explore, and refine

This tip speaks to the grueling work of writing music that happens day after day and month after month for as long as we decide to keep creating. First, you’ll need to experiment and explore to uncover your best ideas. This often means tooling around on our instruments or singing gibberish until concrete ideas start to emerge. What it doesn’t mean is starting in the same place your last 18 songs started with. Writing “great music” is an annoyingly broad and vague term, but think of it this way: If an idea truly excites you and you can’t wait to work on it when you’re away from your writing process, you have true potential and creative energy on your hands. Arriving at these exciting ideas usually requires seeking out newness and risk accepting that failure is an unavoidable part of the work.

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While some great ideas are almost fully formed out of the gate, lots of them need development to transform into great finished songs. This is where refinement comes in. Whether it’s you alone in your bedroom or your band holed up in a studio, taking the time and energy to shape and develop your ideas is crucial for allowing them to reach their full potential. It’s the process of seeing what can make ideas better, and it involves a willingness to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s natural to create something exciting and want to preserve it, but countless songs die at this stage through underdevelopment. If you really love an idea, remember that you can always go back to square one with an original demo. 

We don’t get to choose whether we write conventionally successful music or not as artists. But we do have a say over quite a lot when we make music. By showing up to the writing process engaged, inspired, willing to experiment and fail, and committed to doing the work, we’ll have the best shot at making meaningful music. 

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.

reverb_administrator4 Tips For Writing Your Best Music

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  • Rick Herron - June 2, 2021 reply

    On the initial suggestion on learning a new instrument and using it for a year may be more of a problem than not. Here are my suggestion. If you are a beginner learn to sing as you learn your other instrument such as piano or guitar. The best songwriters I have worked with when learning bass or guitar have started singing along wile learning their chosen instrument (other than vocals). Many vocalist I know don’t even bother to use another instrument rather they rely on accompaniment instruments. But songwriters usually need a guitar or piano to be able to put down the melody line to copyright the songs. It seems it is unavoidable if you want to “become a songwriter”.
    Both instruments can provide lead as well as rhythm which are crucial to register songs with the copyright office. Also the guitar or piano but in particular the guitar is excellent to develop harmonic ability in your craft. You learn to use timbers, voice against the guitar. You are constantly working the piano or guitar against the vocals as a check and can use it to improve your vocals. Once the vocals and rhythm are on tape or digitized and you have a few songs written then is the time to pick up another melodic instrument such as bass, or accompaniment voice as a vocal harmony or a brass-woodwind instrument, etc. It makes learning the new instrument more fun and interesting as the song begins to have more depth. This facilitates the songwriter in exploring octaves or counterpoint etc.

  • Vince Dickinson - June 2, 2021 reply

    To point 4, I say this all the time: If you wait for “the muse” to show up, you might be waiting a long time. It’s nice when does happen but don’t count on it. There’s a great quote, i forget who it was from, “the Muse usually shows up at 9am when I sit down to write.” Everyone has a hard drive full of ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Turning those ideas into songs is *work*, and takes dedication and practice. Sit down, apply butt to seat, pen to paper and write, write, write You get better at writing by WRITING. The process teaches you the process.

  • Jose Godofredo Tuliao - June 2, 2021 reply

    Thanks for all the tips! Making music will take a lot of time for a working man like me. I will study all your tips and put them to practice. I’m in the 20th year of my life as a musician. I do much on metal music. I do love every other genre, but the guitar is the best ever instrument that I’ve learned my whole life. I still need more time to improve and put the best music out there!

  • Carl Berger - June 3, 2021 reply

    Collaborations are one great source of inspiration and can help take your songs to the next level. Yes we all need to be able to craft an idea well enough to “sell” it, but the initial sell can also be to fellow musicians you want to push the tune forward with.

    There’s only so much that automation can can do for creating great music. People create emotionally compelling content. Your auto-drums, loops, etc., can sometimes be filler – they get the job done, but don’t of themselves inspire.

    Take a chance, ask for collaborators when you have a decent sketch together. And let other know you want to work on their projects: when you need their help could be the difference in you getting it.

  • David Rothstein - June 8, 2021 reply

    Very usefull information!

  • JB.DAMESENJAH - June 17, 2021 reply

    Great info love keep living keep believing keep achieving!

  • Facunga - June 17, 2021 reply

    Trying different instruments or vocals (if you’re not singer) if definitely a great way to challenge yourself. Thanks Patrick. You are always a good read.

  • Mark Sullivan - July 8, 2021 reply

    Great advice Patrick… I’m going to employ these ideas into my process and life. Thank you!

  • Beauty - October 17, 2021 reply

    Great advice

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