Songwriting Tips & Techniques

Posted: 20 October 2020

So, you’ve got some chords and scales down, you know the basic structure you need, you’ve learnt a few of your favourite riffs and you’re feeling quite competent on guitar but what next?

If you’re looking to write songs for your band or just yourself there’s a few challenges, you’ll face and things you need to know. We go through some of the key points to keep in mind when beginning your songwriting journey and some useful techniques that will help you along the way.

The First Song

The blank canvas, arguably the most exciting and terrifying place to be. Writing your first song! The most important thing here is an open mind, accept that your first song (and hopefully not your last!) might not be a Grammy-winning work of art, but consider it more the first step on a very exciting journey. Try not to be overcritical or hold it up to the music on the radio, a lot of work goes into production and arrangement and we’re just trying to get the bare bones of the track done here.

getting started

To get started, we suggest trying a few different songwriting techniques and finding one that works for you. If you’re a guitarist primarily, we suggest strumming a few different popular chord progressions and seeing how it feels.

sing!

If you’re writing songs - sing! Even if you sound awful, it’s the best way to start improvising vocal and lead melodies over your music and allows you to improvise at a much faster rate. If you’re really uncomfortable with that idea and you’re strictly writing for other performers try using a looper pedal. Loop a chord progression and then play lead melodies over the top until you’ve got something you really like.

tools

We suggest having a few tools by your side whenever you're writing. These include:

  • A notepad - to write the lyrics down
  • A capo - allowing you to change the key of your idea quickly
  • A rhyming dictionary - to help with the lyrics
  • A tuner - for your guitar and also to the help determine melody notes
  • A recorder - apps like 'voice notes' on your phone or a recording setup are crucial for getting your ideas down

get inspired

All the best artists study their peers and after all, a love of creating music comes from a love of music! Don’t be afraid to do your research. Look at your favourite artists and bands, listen to their album whilst reading the song lyrics, learn the chords and find out what key and BPM the songs are in. This gives you valuable insight and you’ll soon start to see patterns emerging in each musician.

Play and sing along to your favourite bands and that ‘muscle memory’ will stay with you when it comes to writing your own music. Whilst we don’t condone flagrantly copying your favourite band, your inspirations will shape your own style. Whatever you create will always be unique.

beat writer's block

The dreaded writer’s block can appear after your first or 100th song! The trick to beat this lack of motivation and tricky stumbling block is to understand what it is, a mental block. Writer’s block usually comes from a place of feeling insecure or worried about the end result. Ensure you’re relaxed and accept that you have good days and bad days writing music and just enjoy the process, once you understand it and dispel the myth that writer’s block even exists, you’ll never fear it again! Click here for more tips on writer’s block

quantity or quality?

So, you’re writing songs. Soon enough you might have 300 voice notes stacked up of half-baked ideas that you haven’t got around to finishing. The excitement of the next idea can easily distract you when writing but try to scrap any ideas you aren’t passionate about and always work on one song at a time from start to finish. This way, even if you scrap it immediately, you’re training yourself in the art of song writing and each finished track will bring you closer to a better one.