You might not realize this, but there’s an internal conflict that plays out whenever you write music. As songwriters, we carry the weight of our experiences and allow them to shape who we are and the music we make. Things like a traumatic breakup or the six months you backpacked across Europe inevitably show up in your music in subtle or overt ways. However, we often forget that our musical pasts have complicated impacts on the music we make in the present. Believe it or not, how you approached learning your first instrument could be bad for your songwriting process through an overreliance on control.
If you’re having trouble finding your musical identity as an artist, it could be because your taste in music hasn’t been defined yet. Alongside musical intuition, writing music as often as you can, and letting life experiences shape your songs, your musical taste is incredibly important for your work as a songwriter. When you’re in touch with your musical taste, creating music that’s meaningful and authentic to you gets much easier. Here are five tips for defining your unique musical taste as a songwriter.
Write enough songs and you’ll eventually run into the problem of stagnation and feeling uninspired in your creative process. Combating this isn’t easy. It’s a process of willingly embracing newness and discomfort when we create. It’s the conscious decision to let failure and uncertainty shape your songs more than safely determining the outcome before you start writing. Bringing newness to your writing approach over and over again is one of the hardest but most rewarding things you’ll do as a music-maker, and it’s an essential part of sustaining a passionate songwriting approach. Here are a few ways to approach creating music in a completely new way:
Making music isn’t easy even under ideal conditions. If you’ve been a serious songwriter for years or even if you’re just starting out, it can be tempting to let doubt, fear, and even shame get in the way of your writing process when you inevitably run into challenges. Positivity might seem like nothing more than a self-help buzzword, but embracing it really can help you write better songs more often. When you allow yourself to step back from your process and let go of the burdens of expectation and ego, you’ll realize just how hopeful and positive making music is. You’re an artist putting something unique, human, and relatable into the world. What you do can truly make the lives of your listeners better. Here are four ways to bring positive change to your writing process:
When you hear the word “discipline,” you might think of the work it takes for a bodybuilder to build and maintain muscle, or someone saying no to certain foods because they’re on a diet. But as music-makers, discipline often means the difference of being able to write great music or not. It’s one of the most important attributes we can embrace if we want to be productive and meaningfully engaged.
We don’t need much other than an instrument and our desire to make music during the writing process, but we do need some things. What you have in the room with you while you write can absolutely have a big impact on the music you end up creating. Some of the items on this list might seem obvious, but their importance and benefit to your writing process really can’t be overstated. Nothing on this list should be too hard to get your hands on, and if you make sure to have these items out and ready when you write, your musical life will be a lot easier and more productive.
When you think about your favorite music, you probably immediately turn to the stories of what inspired great songs. Breakups, tours gone wrong, new love, etc. While these origin stories are crucial for shaping music and giving it purpose and urgency, there’s something important missing here that songwriters should know about.
There are the big stories behind great music, and then there are the many small things that had to happen in order for vague ideas and inspiration to combine and develop into something solid and memorable. Actions as simple and easy as having a recording device out and ready and labeling your spontaneous music ideas could make the difference of whether you’ll be able to create at your full potential or not.
Every songwriter has been in the unenviable position of loving a specific musical idea but not being able to take it anywhere. A dead-end idea can be as simple as a synth riff or as packed as an entire song. This situation happens when you come up with something you really like, but feel like it’s not going anywhere. When you’ve got a dead-end idea stirring around your brain and taking up room on your computer, do you pull the plug or forge ahead? The answer completely depends on your specific idea and goals. But if you’re leaning towards keeping your idea alive by giving it somewhere to go, these suggestions might help you make meaningful progress: