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Sometimes you just can't find the inspiration you need for your next song.

You've tried everything - searching google for new songwriting tips, downloading different songwriting apps to help you get organized, and you find that nothing is working to help you find the inspiration you need to write a great song.

That's because songwriting is a personal process. There's no one size fits all approach to songwriting.

Because of this, instead of putting together a simple list of songwriting tips from our own research, we decided to ask experienced songwriters, musicians, and producers to share their best songwriting tips, techniques, ideas, and exercises, and compiled the best responses.

The responses consist of people who make a living as a songwriter, artists who've been signed to major and large independent labels and toured with superstars, and even independent artists who are just starting out, but make awesome music from years of songwriting experience.

Responses also come from a diverse set of musical styles, including singer/songwriter, heavy metal, punk rock, and electronic, and others.

Note: This article includes affiliate links where the author may receive a commission.

Here are the 25 best songwriting tips we received from musicians, professional songwriters, and producers to help you explore new songwriting techniques to find what works best for you.

Valev Laube


Collaborate with other musicians or their already made pieces of music. Visit royalty free websites and music collaborations to find some inspiration. Sometimes just a little bass line or drum beats can help you find emotion or type of atmospheric style you were looking for and the melody just comes by itself. Definitely consider website like eJamming, Indaba, or Kompoz for sharing your ideas and connecting with other musicians and their work.

Tobias Rauscher

Website | Facebook

When it comes to songwriting I go for an intuitive approach that is rather based on feelings and emotions instead of theory and structure. Let me show you all the individual steps that I use or go through when writing my songs.

  1. Chaos Stage: First there is the chaos stage. The chaos stage is the moment before I pick up the guitar. At this point there are many factors that have an impact or influence on me. I’m inspired by different factors that can be a new song I have just listened to, a new tuning, riff or technique I have learned, a certain life event, experience or just a certain feeling or mood I’m in. At this stage I have the tools in my pocket, so the technical skills and I have a certain kind of inspiration based on external factors and or internal ones.

  2. The Riff: Next comes the “key riff”. While picking up the guitar, being in a certain mood and inspired I then jam around until I come up with a certain riff I like. It is such a great feeling if you come up with an own riff you love, it’s such a eureka moment. You then really know that you’ve created something cool and you play the riff over and over again.

  3. Setting Structure: After having my key riff I then start to build up on this riff. So I decide where I see this riff within the context or framework of a full song. Does it sound like an intro, is it a chorus part, a bridge riff or maybe a quiet middle part…?! Once I put the riff in place I build up on it and create the part that comes before or after it - and then the other parts. Mostly, I come up with other parts by just jamming around trying to take the riff further. Sometimes I even have more initial riffs that I can include in that song if they fit. Eventually, I get to the end of this process, and either things really feel “done” to me, or perhaps the song will hang around for a while. This can be anywhere from a couple of days, to months or sometimes even years. I wrote Still Awake within 6 months I think, Perspective on the other hand in just one or two weeks. And there are other half finished songs that I am carrying around for more than 3 years now.

  4. Refining: Once I’ve completed the structure of the song the refining stage starts. When I finished a song it is a great feeling and I play it over and over again for days. While playing it over and over again I refine it and add details. I for example add some additional percussive hits, add some more complex fills and I try to make it smooth and nice. This refining process takes time as well.

  5. Practice, Practice, Practice: And finally, when I finished and refined my song I practice it over and over again. I recommend playing it in front of friends and family and play it until you can play it while sleeping. You need to reach that stage where you feel absolutely confident and comfortable playing this new song. Your muscles need to know it by heart and you should play it without being too concentrated on the playing. Rather feel it and enjoy playing it - let it speak for you.

Okay, this is the process of how I compose my songs. If you would like to learn more about my songwriting and modern percussive fingerstyle check out my online guitar academy.

And now have fun writing your own songs.

Joshua Insole

  1. Remove yourself from your comfort zone - change key, tempo, time signature etc. It'll feel weird and alien, but you'll have to explore new ideas in order to make it sound good.

  2. Limit yourself. Use only certain strings on a guitar, or only certain notes from a scale. Necessity is the mother of all invention, and I think music is the same - this will make you break your "go-to" licks and chords and patterns, and will force you to be inventive.

  3. Learn something new and use it, like a new scale such as harmonic minor, or lydian, as opposed to pentatonic, or try fingerpicking instead of using a pick.

  4. Collaborate with others - they'll bring different ideas to the table and so will you. Combining those ideas will make something neither of you could have done individually.

  5. Be your own musician, don't imitate. Don't try to write in a particular style, just let it flow (I.e. don't try to write a punk/metal/indie song, just write a song without thinking of genre constraints).

  6. Write music that you enjoy first and foremost, worry what others think after.

  7. Inertia is the hardest part to overcome. Just play/write something, even if it's crap. You can always edit/improve/remove, but once you've started, good ideas flow quickly.

  8. You can never learn it all. Once you've mastered something, start learning something else to avoid getting into a rut/your ideas becoming stale.

  9. Listen to music that you wouldn't normally like, e.g. if you love metal, listen to EDM, indie or jazz - don't just listen to something once, find something in this genre that interests you, listen to it again and again and again, learn to appreciate it - think, why do others like this music? What about it is interesting? Try to incorporate what interests you into other genres.

  10. Try things that might be "wrong" or shouldn't work. Sweep pick in a jazz song. Use fingertapping on a clean electric guitar in an indie song. Fingerpick in a metal song. Use pinch harmonics in classical music. It might sound cool. Solo in a minor key over a major chord progression. Don't worry what others will think - this kills creativity. If it sounds good to you, then mission accomplished.

  11. Try to make each song sound distinct. Did you use E minor and fingerpicking on your last song? On the next song try avoiding those. You don't want your songs to all sound the same.

  12. Put down your instrument. You can't force creativity if it just isn't happening. Go for a walk. Watch a movie. Read a book. Hang out with friends. When you feel ready or something genuinely inspires you, pick up your instrument and channel what you're feeling. Coming back to your instrument with a fresh mindset can do wonders. It's important to enjoy writing, if you're feeling frustrated with your lack of originality, stop. Come back later. It shouldn't feel like work.

  13. Put your music out there. It doesn't matter how poor the recording quality is, just share it. Find others who are doing the same, talk to them, share ideas, collaborate. There are thousands of easily accessible online communities, take advantage of this. Soundcloud groups, Reddit Music etc.

Ari Herstand

Website | Blog | Twitter

This is an excerpt from Ari Herstand’s new book, How To Make It in the New Music Business.

Sometimes I am overcome with emotion from an intense moment that I can pull from immediately and channel that into a great song. But oftentimes I sit down to write a song and nothing tugs at me. No inspiration.

Instead of attempting to force a song in this state, it’s best to go on an Inspiration Quest.

You need to be inspired to create great art. Art cannot be forced. And inspiration doesn’t just show up either. Inspiration is always inspired. Wait, what? Yes, you can create inspiration by embarking on Inspiration Quests.

Sitting at home all day every day pressuring yourself to create great art is the worst thing you can do. During your writing process, make sure you have an Inspiration Quest of some sort every day. Go out into the world. Go on a hike. Walk to a coffee shop and journal. Smoke a jay and actively listen to music. Go to the gym. Meditate. Do yoga. Go to a con- cert. Go to an art gallery. Go see a movie. Watch a TV show (this may seem like procrastination, but my biggest song to date came from watch- ing a Grey’s Anatomy episode—don’t judge). Appreciating other kinds of art will inspire your own art.

Julia Cameron advises in The Artist’s Way to journal a stream of consciousness every morning to get the creative juices flowing. She calls these “morning pages.” This process can definitely help if you’re feeling blocked.

Your Inspiration Quests can be anything but working on your art or your business. Because most of your life will be consumed by one of these two activities, your Inspiration Quests are a shift in your mind and your heart. Allow yourself to be open to things that have nothing to do with music.

And be careful with these. Home in on only positive IQs. Don’t break up with the love of your life to get inspiration for your new album. That’s a Destructive Inspiration Quest. It may work in the short term, but you will be miserable for the rest of your life. No matter how great the art you create, your overall happiness is more important. Don’t ever lose track of that.

At some point, you need to channel that newfound inspiration into the actual writing. The creation. You can’t continue searching until you’re struck with the perfect song idea. Just sit down and start a song. If you’ve gone on Inspiration Quests, the ideas will flow once you’re in your studio holding your guitar.

Unfortunately most artists can’t spend all of their time creating art. Even major label artists with full teams around them still need to work at the business of their careers in addition to creating their art. Every artist needs to dedicate Active Writing Sessions. Most major label artists still maintain the traditional schedule of creating a full-length album, touring on it for two years and then spend the third year writing the next album. Indie artists don’t operate this way. You should be constantly in and out of Active Writing Sessions. When you’re not on tour or working on a new album, try to spend at least one day a week actively writing. Not every song you write will be gold, actually most will suck. If Andy Grammer, a chart-topping songwriter, had to write a hundred songs before he landed on the hit single, why do you think you can land on your hit at the first go? So keep writing. And don’t worry about writing the best songs ever written, just write your best songs. Rick Rubin said: “If you’re competing only with yourself it’s a more realistic place to be. If you say I don’t want to write songs unless I can write songs better than the Beatles, it’s a hard road. But if you say I want to write a better song tomorrow than the song I wrote yesterday, that’s something that can be done.”

Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business, a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take.

Neal Karkhanis of The Great Heights Band

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Songwriting in 2016 and going into 2017 is harder than it has ever been before simply because fans have an incredible amount of choices in front of them. Fans can easily access new music or stick to old favorites with a few swipes of their phone. Since it's so easy to get lost in the shuffle, the first question I always ask myself is "why should anybody care about this?" After I've written a song, if I can't clearly answer that question, then the song doesn't serve any purpose. Songs that truly stand the test of time are both meaningful to the listener and have them humming along without really having to pay attention.

The songs I write for The Great Heights Band are meant to be catchy and tongue-in-cheek. I try to write songs that are relatable to most people and are fun to listen to when you need a little escape from the monotony of everyday life. The way I've crafted my own songwriting is by studying songwriters I love, figuring out their tricks and habits and taking a little bit from everyone and putting my own little twist on it. I try to write songs that feel familiar, but are different enough to get people excited. Through this type of process, new songwriters can figure out what works for them and what their own unique voice and style can be. I'm always discovering new music and it helps me refine the way I write songs.

Finally, I stick with what I am really good at and listen to my band's feedback. I'm always trying to improve my musicianship, but I know what I am capable of and what my sweet spot is as a singer. Sometimes an amazing song just doesn't work for a singer no matter how good they are - for example, "Let it Be" has been covered numerous times including by phenom Aretha Franklin, but never has had the same charm as how The Beatles performed it. I write songs that I know I can perform well, and if I am not the right singer for the song, thankfully I play in a band that is filled with great ears and has another really good singer as an option. It's important to value your bandmate's opinions even when they might hurt your feelings. I think that has a lot to do with your own ego, setting aside personal issues, and doing what's best for the song.

Dan Armstrong

Facebook | Twitter

My advice to any songwriters is purely based on my experience so far. Generally, there is NO right or wrong way to write a song.

However, there is a “method” if you’re writing professionally (as opposed to for personal gratification)

  1. The quality (& quality control) has to be there. Every line, every note, every chord, every beat has to be good and suited to the song.

  2. Make sure that errors are fixed – tuning, timing, technical glitches.

  3. There is nothing BIGGER than the song – if your talent isn’t up to scratch, be honest with yourself and source people who can do the song the justice YOU want it to have. Leave the ego at the doorstep.

  4. Get it sounding right – demos simply aren’t good enough anymore. Labels, businesses or clients simply don’t have the time or money to imagine what your vision is going to sound like finished.

  5. Collaborate – it’s great for refreshing methods of composition.

  6. Don’t worry about copyright – theft is not as prevalent at the “top” as you might fear.

The reason for sounding so harsh is that whilst YOU will listen for the music aspects, others in a more critical listening stance will put your music under the microscope


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I don’t believe there are hard and fast rules to writing great songs, I think each writer should make it their task to set out to find their strong suit is and to build on it. Though great songs are not built over night. You should be open to the process and always nurture your craft, technique, your creative reserve and be sharpening your writing tools. With that said, the first and foremost step in the process of writing songs is to invest the time into finding your own unique voice and making the distinction of what kind of songs you want to write. Are you writing Pop Songs? Power ballads? Vibe songs? The earlier on you make these distinctions, the lighter your workload is down the road.

As a songwriter, your sole job is to communicate a compelling story in as succinct and few words as possible. Getting people to relate to your story is where the art of communication comes in. This is where you draw upon rhythm, contrast, lyrics, melodic variation, tempo, dynamics and poetry to achieve an artful balance of storytelling and entertainment. I had a teacher once who stated that you have to be a songwriting athlete if you wish to write great songs. This means consistently strengthening your creative muscles and never settling for average.

A few pro-tips to help your songwriting process:

  • If you don’t know where to start, a basic chord progression is your best friend. Pick a 3 chord progression (Guitar, Piano, Midi), record it, loop it, and write it.

  • Use visuals as an inspiration. Classic Art, Modern Art and especially dope photography can be a strong prompt for a visual storyboard. Hone in on one emotion or feeling from the art and then free write. You can freestyle these words over an instrumental or melody. Don’t worry about making sense of it, you can do that later, just get the ideas out and edit after.

  • Listen to new music and flip the ideas. I once took an intro of a song from the 70’s, flipped the chords, changed keys, and bam — totally new vibe.

  • Keep a stack of paper next to your bed. It gracefully forces you to write first thing when you wake up, or right before you go to bed.

  • Write from different perspectives. You can practice writing from the opposite sex’s POV if it’s a love song, or you can write from the perspective of a stranger. This helps you come up with new fresh emotional triggers and will get you out of your narrative zone.

  • Once you get a toehold on a completed first drat of a song, be down for rewrites. Chisel away at unnecessary words, take out anything that feels excessive. Replace average words with juicy words. Rewrites are where the magic happens.

Most recently I wrote a song over a track that really surprised me. I gave myself one challenge when I set out to write the topline: to sing in the highest possible register of my vocal. Establishing one creative limitation (no vibrato, only back-phrasing, performed in a rap style) gives your songwriting just enough direction coupled with the liberty to take the song wherever it needs. Once you carve out a basic story, you simply connect the dots till you finish your master piece.

Also, some helpful tools for the songwriter starter kit:

  • Hip Hop Rhyming Dictionary (my preference for Urban music).
  • Magazines, you never know what words will jump out and awaken the muse.
  • A blank journal or fresh paper.
  • Guitar or Piano or whatever your principal instrument is (could be beats/software).
  • A recording device (I’ve written entire songs on the subway platform with Apple Voice Memos).

Stephen Noel of Pyro, Ohio

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The dynamics of being in a band aren’t that different from being in a serious relationship. You meet, try dating (jamming), decide to make it Facebook official (by making a Facebook band page), then you go on trips together and make plans for your future. One of the most difficult and sometimes frustrating parts of each is the phase where you attempt to get in tune with your partner(s) by learning how they think and being comfortable enough to say anything and be yourself around them.

We have to go through the same thing when we start jamming with a new group of people. If one person pushes their musical view too forcefully, they could make others feel like they don’t have a voice or end up frequently butting heads. If others choose not to express their opinion or style, it won’t be long before they feel disconnected from the group and seek out a different group where they can have a say musically.

What it comes down to is practice. Like everything that is of any value, writing quality music with 3 or 4 other people isn’t something that always comes easy. I’m not talking about running through scales together – I mean practice practicing. Practice composing a whole song on your own and bringing it to the group. Practice jamming together and seeing what flows naturally. Do whatever works for the group dynamic. Above all, communicate. As in a relationship, you might find a partner you connect almost perfectly with – but you’re still going to have bad days. Sometimes you change as people and have to readjust the dynamic of the relationship (or band). If you find a group of people who have the same goals with similar work ethic and passion, work at it. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to writing music.

  1. Be adaptable.
  2. Communicate with your bandmates.
  3. Find the writing routine that works for everyone – then practice it.

Owen Campbell

Website | Facebook

Firstly I don't consider myself any great authority when it comes to songwriting, but here is my opinion such as it is -

  1. A lot of people make the mistake of trying to write music other people like. To me, that's bullshit. As a songwriter, allow yourself to be selfish, write stuff YOU like, and the rest will fall into place. No harm in getting feedback though, I'd rather hear a good cover then a bad original!
  2. Be honest in your songs - write with truth and conviction, whether it's a happy, dark, dirty, or depressing song. In the end it's honesty that resonates with the masses.
  3. Be realistic. If your not getting the results you want from your music there's a chance you're delusional and need help. Don't get me wrong, that's not a negative, it's just like any profession - everyone has blind spots and it takes collaboration and constructive criticism to create mastery. Be bold and be willing to seek guidance.
  4. Lastly, do you think your song is ready to record? Well, before you go burning cash and studio time, record and listen to your song at least 100 times on your phone. Be ruthless, cut the fat off before you hit the studio - try it out live, film it, critique it, sweat it, bleed it. Don't put another half arsed album out there to clog up the ether - preparation is EVERYTHING.

David Swift

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My advise for songwriters is to “Start With The End In Mind”. Not only is this one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (as described in the book by Stephen Covey), it’s also essential to achieving music that is meaningful.

What do I mean by “Start With The End In Mind”? Well, here is a practical example — in Sia’s interview with Howard Stern, she mentions that she often starts writing with the title of the song and nothing else.

When I heard that, it was an eye opening comment to me. The song title was usually the LAST thing I worried about… but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

The song title paints the picture, it gives you a framework for which to build your song’s atheistic. You have a baseline to compare melodies, textures, and harmony to. You’ll know immediately what fits and what does not.

When start with the end in mind, you’ll spend less time strumming chords mindless and less time searching for the perfect drum loop “that speaks to you”. You’ll stop looking for your tools to provide inspiration externally, and start using them to express the message of your song.

Josh Cravey of Palm Trees & Power Lines

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When writing music, finding what works for YOU is more important than what the “proper” way to write a song is. Obviously, there are some general rules that help make songs better. Things like keeping a consistent rhyming scheme and a somewhat consistent syllable count can help a song feel neat and structured. You might not be going for that vibe though. There are artists who can pull off crazy rhyming schemes and song structures, but it’s better to at least start with the basics.

A huge songwriting tip I can give is to explore which of these few methods helps you write the best song:

  • Starting with a (vocal) melody
  • Starting with lyrics
  • Starting with instruments

Typically, I do better when I just have an idea for a vocal melody in my head, then I come up with the instrumentation, and lastly, I construct the lyrics. The order in which you do those three things can completely change your songwriting. Find what works best for you and stick to it. If you find yourself writing awesome melodies, but you can’t think of the right words, consider having someone co-write or just asking for help from a friend or bandmate. Either way, if you can master the order in which you write parts of a song while keeping those basic rules in place, you’ll definitely see improvement.

James Edan

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The best advice I was ever given was from my Dad, who said to me, “Just try and write a song everyday.” He made his career as a songwriter having written songs for Paul Young, Rachel Sweet, Lena Lovitch and Manfred Mann. He later went on to have a very successful band called ‘The Silencers’ so my dad was really my main inspiration and influence growing up. I quickly realised that It’s not really possible to write a song everyday with all life’s complications; however, I never really fully grasped his advice until I went to Nashville TN for a three week writing holiday, and setup by my label and publisher. I had never co-written and was very reluctant to do so, as I was ‘The Artist’ only writing songs by myself. I got the writing schedule and couldn't believe that there were two writing sessions a day. I was a prolific writer, but not two a day style! I went into the sessions full guns blazing and quickly realised that it WAS possible to write melodies, lyrics and record songs in a day like this. Now, not all of the songs were, as youngsters now say ‘bangerz,’ but there was some nice ideas in some of the songs I ended up writing that later went on to do something else. I also made some great contacts throughout that journey, so it was a win-win situation. To go back to the advice my Dad gave me, I realised that songwriting is a craft, you work and work on it, like a carpenter hones their cutting/shaping skills over the years, or an artist learns new creative techniques in their painting styles. The creative universe will pay back at some point!

So I ended up signed by Universal Germany and a major publisher. I released four records with ‘Martin and James’ and went on to have some success in Europe. I toured with people like Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding, Bryan Adams, One Republic and many more. I wrote songs with big players like Albert Hammond, Tim Myres, Marshall Altman and again...many more. This career was fantastic BUT it came with ups and downs, blood, sweat and tears, betrayals, deaths and newborns, fallouts, and eventually me hating music to say the least. Although what couldn't be taken away from me was having the ability to write a song, putting music together, and writing lyrics of some meaning. This is what drives me to keep on writing...and learning!

My two cents to new songwriters wanting to do this as a career would be...

  1. Read books - You need content for your lyrics. Reading helps you stay tuned to literature and words in general. Being able to have stories is important. In those moments when you have nothing, being able to use a book as inspiration can work a lot of the time. Some writers I’ve met always use a rhyming dictionary. If you’re doing a lot of writing sessions then this can help I suppose, however I personally like to channel what comes naturally lyric wise.

  2. Lyrics again - A first line is important in any song, it sets the listener up for you wanting to continue to listen. I personally feel that if your first line is hooking people, then your story can be bullshit the rest of the way...until the chorus. The chorus again has to hook people. Get a great fucking line in it somewhere, and make it the headline of the song. I always have my iPhone nowadays, and if I’m reading something or thinking about something, I always take a note of it somehow. These are my latest titles in my phone:

  • Live a little
  • Spinning wheel
  • Better than Gold

So with these titles, I really need a story that people will relate to. Every person can probably relate or have a personal angle on these song titles e.g. My first thoughts on these titles are.

Live a little - Get out from where you are stuck and have a second lease of life. The song journey could then be about contrasting where you are, to where you want to be, ups and downs, good times with bad, etc.

Spinning wheel - the wheel could represent how you are just going around with a partner in life, going through the motions or it could relate to being a rolling stone in life, just going where it takes you...I’m just a spinning wheel, deals, chasing heels, etc. But It’s a starting point.

  1. Listen to popular songs and chord progressions - You will find that most of them are the same or similar. the biggest hits have this four chord thing, and to be quite honest, I hate it but I hear it all the time on the radio. I now call it the Ryan Tedder chords. He’s had countless hits using this progression. It goes G, D, Em, C. You can translate it into other keys and mix the chords about, but this gives you the idea. Start out by using a chord structure and build melodically from it. Mix it up too - so if you’re a guitarist, try a piano or vice versa. Sometimes starting with a cool groove can inspire you also. It gives you room to think about where you want the song to go.

  2. Live with your songs for a while before letting outside ears hear them - I always thought my newest idea was the best and in the past, I let everyone hear them, and ended up having some weird and embarrassing moments, with managers and publishers, not understating my creative journey or to be frank, just not liking it. I now personally live with an idea for a few months, continuing to go back to it, either working more on it, or binning it entirely. If I can go back with fresh ears and say ‘yeah, its still good’ then It’s worth pursuing. If I go back to it and like my former managers used to say ‘SNOWGOOD’ then I bin it.

  3. Always have a recorder handy - You don’t want to miss the channeling of creativity. I’ve done it lots of times... "Eh what was that melody again...Shit! No it wasn't that...It wasn't that either!" You end up getting more frustrated and forget everything, then you’re in a bad mood all day!

  4. Co-write with people - As I said before, I was reluctant to do this in my early career but ended up doing a ton of it. You can never go wrong with this approach, unless you end up fighting and killing one another! It’s good to learn from other writers - see how they approach their songwriting, keep in contact with them and their contacts, have them sing on your song, etc. Remember - it’s better to have 50% of a potential big song, than 100% of your own songs that aren't doing anything. Most of the biggest hits these days are collabs, with writers getting together doing this as a living for labels. Seek out artists in your community and ask them if they would be interested. They can only say no.

  5. Coffee - Thumbs up!

  6. The studio - Learn how to put tracks together if you don’t know how to do this. It can help in the songwriting process when using preset beats and melodies. Get yourself a pro-tools or Logic DAW and let the creativity rip!

  7. Hooks - You can never have too many hooks in a song. Advice from Mick Hucknell (Simply Red) to me was “If you think you have your chorus, then writer another one” At the time I was like "He’s had to much Champagne," but in the end, his advice was spot on. Look at Lady Gaga for example - she just has killer hook after killer hook in her songs. I always think you know deep down when your song is ready or finished. Keep those hooks coming until you have the same feeling.

  8. Schedule your songwriting - Cat Stevens used to get up in the morning and work from 9am till 5pm. After that was his family time. It’s important to have a structure to your work to, just like a normal working day would have lunch breaks. If you’ve never tried this before then I would recommend it.

  9. Read Paul Zollo Songwriters on Songwriting - This is a great book I refer to as the Bible. It gives a deep insight into exactly what I’ve been waffling on about for the last 500 words, but the artists are timeless and much more talented than any songwriter nowadays!


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Write songs you'd want to listen to. Write music that makes you feel like you would turn on that CD if it were someone else's music. When we wrote Do You Ever Think? we took a basic song structure and added bass lines, vocal harmonies, and it all started with a simple guitar part and some lyrics. Writing songs should make you happy and feel like what you're pursuading is an accurate representation of what you're feeling at that time.

Kevin Deelay

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  1. When you're in the studio, think outside the box. Turn off the Internet, hide the clock and dare to leave your comfort zone. Then, the results will come. Don’t get caught in the same settings that you have always had.

  2. Don’t be afraid to use hardware, such as Rhythm Performers, compressors and instruments, even if you make electronic music on your laptop. For example, a guitar... you can never get a VST-guitar to sound as good as a live recording.

  3. When you create a track, at least 95% of the work should be done in the mix. If you have a bad mix, the end result will still sound bad after mastering.

  4. Show people that you are serious. Buy your software, build your name, and work with people who believe in you.

  5. Travel across the world every year to get inspiration for new tracks.

Michael Meinhart of Socionic

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In my experience, songwriting can be both an elusive, amorphous beast and simultaneously one the most uplifting and incredible pursuits I’ve known. At it’s simplest it is a raw release of expression and emotion through sound. At its toughest it’s a directionless journey riddled by doubt, frustration and seemingly insurmountable complexity. Especially if you tend to be somewhat of a perfectionist, as I have been known to be on occasion.

Art in any form comes down to the need for expression and the facility through which to realize that expression, whether it be paint, pencil, clay, guitar, voice, keyboard, pen, or computer. Where those two meet in the most harmonious of ways is where great works are created. Those that resonate with people of all origins and stories. When everything comes together, art, and music specifically is truly a universal language. I’ve made it somewhat of a life goal to find the point at which the language of expression and music meet, to be able to effortlessly translate an idea or emotion direction through skill and instruments or tools into something that best represents the truest reflection of its origin. It is a never ending journey, and I’m far from where I want to be, but with it’s progress comes great understanding, fulfillment and growth. That is the challenge and the beauty of art.

As far as the approach, I believe there are infinite ways to create music. The most important thing to maintain along the way is that original feeling and intention that inspired you to create the song in the first place. That feeling could be as simple as an emotion, a sound, or as complex as a vision for a whole orchestral suite outlining the history and evolution of man. The important thing is to have something off of which to build, and from there expand into form, structure and arrangement. Keeping that initial inspiration as the anchor and origin, sometimes the flow of the harmony, rhythm and music in general will naturally reveal itself. If you stay true to the original vision, and the song absolutely needs to be written from deep within your soul, then your intention will aid in manifesting the rest of the song and push you through struggle and frustration you may face along the way in the more technical aspects.

Practically speaking, from that origin, you apply musicianship, theory, technique and talent to create something that is unique and a reflection of who you are as an artist and musician. To take that to the next level, collaboration with other musicians is an incredible way to expand and diversify that talent and expression. In my band, Socionic, the other guys are incredibly talented musicians and apply their unique musical strengths to realize something where the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. We all have a personal technique and style that we contribute, which brings about a greater complexity and depth in harmony that couldn’t otherwise have been achieved.

In the end, inspiration and the metaphysical aspects of art and music are the most important to me, and what keeps me going back to learn, grow and create. Those are the things that drive you to expand in the more measurable aspects of theory, technique, musicianship, harmony, rhythm, and ultimately resonance with other people in your art.

After all, a guitar, a piano, a brush... they are nothing without the inspiration and ideas to put them into action.

Josh Ivey of A Call for Kylie

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Don't overthink it. If I'm working on an idea and it doesn't really inspire me I'll set it aside for another time when I might have some more motivation. I spent a lot of time when I first started writing songs to make it something complex and ground breaking which always ended in me getting frustrated and not really amounting to a song in the end. Some of my favorite songs that I've written stemmed from a cool melody I'd sing while working or going on walks that I later just put with a progression. Sometimes committing to something is better than over analyzing it to death, you can always change it later or jam with friends and watch the song develop organically.

Dane Myers of Custom Tracks

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As a songwriter and producer I spend a good part of each day thinking about how to tell good stories. Both our local singer/songwriter studio Wholehearted Productions, and our online studio Custom-Tracks.com, have songwriter events where I’m able to meet with other artists, test out new material, and regularly have in-depth conversations with others about songwriting.

Here are some insights people have shared with me that I think will help you too.

  1. Write a song thinking about a specific person you want to impact and thinking about the reaction you intend to create with your song in that person. Writing with someone specific in mind will help your writing be more focused. Plus, if your goal is to benefit people with your music, better for your song to matter to one person than for it to not matter to a million.

  2. Be present when you’re writing. Making time for writing means clearing your head and focusing on connection with that listener. Try not grasping for a “perfect line”, but instead just spending time focusing your mind on the connection. Let the words come to you. My lyrics are less contrived and I struggle less with them when I take this approach.

  3. It helps to have a good foundation of chords and craft elements like song structure, voicings, etc. This way when you have ideas you know how to make them come to life. Here’s one idea that really helps me.

  4. Spend time listening intently to music. Learn other people’s songs too! This won’t help you have your own ideas, but it will help you build a vocabulary for when you have something to say.

  5. Have fun. You can hear when someone smiles as they’re singing. The joy you experience will translate to the joy your listeners experience and people will like working with you.

  6. Writing starts to taste stale when you aren’t releasing stuff and seeing the connection with people. Set a deadline to follow through! Make a list of the people who care about the music you make, tell them about what you’re going to do, and then do it! Gauge their reaction to it and then keep writing.

  7. Play gigs. Try to find opportunities to perform for an audience who are listening. Not so much sports bar’s and cover gigs so much as opportunities to play original songs to people who are listening like house concerts or venues. The ability to have your songs heard is powerful because you’ll get people’s immediate reactions and you’ll know what resonates. When you get a feel for a venue, you can even write with that venue in mind. Certain songs go over better certain places.

  8. Join a community of songwriters that will help inspire, inform, and motivate you. At our studio in Orlando, we’ve been hosting a monthly songwriter night for a couple of years now. We get a bunch of pizza and invite writers to come hang out together and play new material for each other. It’s a great way to foster positivity for people who are putting themselves out there by writing songs. If you have trouble finding a local songwriter night near you, you can join an online songwriter circle.

Paul Dean of Jerusalem

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  1. Don't assume every song you write is great. In my experience 1 in 5 is worth pursuing all the way. You can always use the special bits in the rejected songs to make a new one.

  2. Always take in to consideration the other members of the band. Guitarists tend to write songs in their favourite keys. These keys are not necessarily the right keys for your vocalist!

  3. Some songs are good for recording, others for live performance. Give it some thought before putting on an album or playing live.

  4. If you want to pursue a professional career remember the importance of being DIFFERENT. Don't be too influenced by your influences or you may as well be a Cover band!

  5. Hooks are very important whether vocal or musical. Use them as much as possible. You only get one chance to grab listeners initially.

  6. Beginning of songs are critical, if you don't grab the listener within the first 30 seconds, you've lost them. 30 seconds is actually quite a long time, try it.

  7. You can stretch songs live, but when recording, remember most of the time there is no visual distraction, so don't bore listeners on recordings.

Mike Liorti of ROSEDALE

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I think it's obvious but worth mentioning because what I consider to be the most important thing when writing is to really take care and take your time with the song. No need to rush. Put the distractions away and focus on the goal. So many bands and artists are just trying to write as many songs as quickly as possible. Sometimes it flourishes simplicity and it works, but often it just makes a bunch of B-sides. Even if you are trying to bang out a bunch of simple songs, it's important to stop and think about each line. Each word. Do they flow? Is it the best it could be? Will you look back on it in five years and still appreciate it? Do the lyrics have an interesting relationship with the music? Don't sit and stare at the page for too long. Keep that pen moving and write down any and all ideas. They might spark the golden idea. If you're stuck, circle or underline it and come back to it when you've got the gold. But don't settle and don't rush. Make sure you've got it to a point where you're really proud of every line.

Tommy Marolda

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There are many ways to approach writing a song and most of that relies on what type of song and genre are you writing for. I teach and have summer workshops at my recording studio in Las Vegas where I wrote and became the catalyst for Imagine Dragons and The Killers. Having thousand of songs in my catalog that have been used in movies such as Rocky Balboa, The Expendables, and many more along with TV placements and major artists, I've come learn that one of the most important factors is the the title.

The title needs the elements of originality and cleverness. One of my writing partners is Richie Sambora from Bon Jovi, and we cam up with titles like "Wanted Dead or Alive." That immediately indicates many emotions and stories that it can relate to. Sambora and I just wrote a song for his newest solo album with Orianthi called "She Moves Like Sex." Titles like this tend to want the listener to investigate this song further.

Country music is synonymous with great titles that almost tell the whole story in one line. Start with a great title and you're 90% through the song.

David Borges from DAVII

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I have written songs for over ten years now, and in my opinion, experience and passion are the keys to writing a good song. I’m not great at teaching things, so I’ve decided to just write out my process for songwriting.

  1. The first thing I do is ask myself “who do I want to reach with the song?” This is very important to me, and helps me organize many important things including the genre, what instruments I’m going to use, the tempo, and the key of the song.

  2. The second thing I do is consider what the lyrics will be about. I'll go ahead and give the song a name from one of the many ideas I've had lately (ether with part of the hook, or just a word that stuck with me). Doing this helps me find the feeling - is this going to be a sad, or uplifting?

  3. Next, I'll search for songs that remind me of my ideas, and then find the things I love or don’t love in them. I also try to look at what's happening and what looks like is going to happen in music during the next few months. Getting influenced by other songs is not a bad unless you simply copy the chord progressions and lyrics from them. I think most songwriters have their own styles, things they're obsessed with, and things they love to do. These things come from experience. When you combine all of this, you have an original song.

  4. I start my songs with piano or guitar. When I have my structure divided and my chord progressions in order, I try to find a hook. I start by mouthing lyrics that usually make no sense, unless I already had an idea, in which case I try to find a melody that sounds familiar but that I've never heard before. I record these and move forward.

  5. I love sound designing. I use Massive for most of my synth and bass sounds. I usually make my own kicks too using a VST (Virtual Studio Technology) called "Kick".

  6. Once I have some of the sounds I want to use for the song, I turn on my midi controller and start programming the percussion parts (unless the song is based on guitar).

  7. I like sleeping on a track once I feel I'm 50% done. As I’m falling asleep, I'll think about some of the melodies I wrote and what I thought was good or bad. The next day, I know what to focus on. I'll keep doing this for a few days until I'm happy with it.

  8. Here is where I struggle the most - writing lyrics. Some songs will take me a few hours to write, but some take weeks. This is because I like smart writing, but I also love simplicity. I'm all about having meaning in my lyrics. I'll sit and think of things I've seen, things I've read, and things I've experienced, then turn the microphone on and start writing lyrics and melodies.

  9. I always do pre-production and show it to family and friends. Within a few days I already know what I want fixed, then jump onto the final recording, editing, and mixing process.

  10. I usually rename the song at this point, because somehow the song turned out a little different from what I first expect. This is a good thing - it means your song is original.

If you take one thing away from this, please take this: plan, but don't be afraid to deviate from these plans. Music comes from experience and passion.

Young Z

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  1. You MUST locate yourself in a comfortable, tidy area to work in.

  2. Make sure your headphones are tuned in and you got your mind right.

  3. Just let the music take you places. Be as creative as possible, do the unthinkable, and go as far out the box you can go because trust me, you dont wanna be another basic rapper. Me? I just let the music flow and I always make sure I'm in a positive environment. I haven't had a problem with music since I began. I prefer my lights off/dimmed quite a bit, I prefer to be alone when I'm making my art, and I'm happy to say I have found the style I'm comfortable with!

Joshua Hoffman from Drop the Act

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Use technology to your advantage, it is one of the greatest assets of the 21 century. If you have a melody, record it and build it from there. Even just lay down a simple guitar track can do wonders. For my band technology has helped us create songs and throw ideas back and forth so you get the best of the song you are writing. It gives you a chance to experiment with key changes, leads, and vocal patterns. Also, always be open to others ideas whether it be with a producer in the studio or the practice space with the band. Throw ideas around and don’t stop creating.

Stefani Fedra

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  1. It’s always helpful to have a theme in mind and develop around that theme. At times I am presented with a beat and I write and develop a melody that goes with the beat. This is how my single “Same Kiss” was developed, from a beat to a song that I am really proud of. The sound was melodic, so I chose to write about love, betrayal, deception and a broken heart.

  2. A couple of incidents of conflict and violence touched me so profoundly that I wanted to write about them. In cases like these, I get overwhelmed with emotions that the lyrics and words flow and I end up writing a full song with no specific melody. Then I go back and develop the melody. I find this approach more laborious but I was pleased with the results.

  3. For “Miss U Baby” I started with one verse and the chorus and then worked from there to develop and complete the song.

  4. Each song has its own unique way of coming into existence. The most important thing is to have fun and tap into one’s creative side.

Zane Alexander

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Writer's block - one of the worst things a songwriter will go through. You're sitting down in your room or your studio, and you can't think of a single melody or phrase to hook an entire song theme to. When writing a song from scratch, with no predetermined ideas, things can get a little foggy - but it's not rate that during times like this, you'll come up with your greatest work.

Talk to people - It's been something that has helped catapult me into a plethora of ideas simply by having conversations with strangers or just people I can bet on never seeing again. When you're in a waiting vicinity or area, just spark a conversation. People often spill thoughts out to strangers without fear of consequence - you're a stranger to them and they bet they'll never see you again either. Most likely they may not even remember you by the time they do see you again - unless a song of yours becomes huge of course. If you strike gold and get them to talk about something they are passionate about (talking to war vets or experienced musicians has always been a gold mine), that passion will definitely spill onto you - even if it's not what you agree with or care about. They will usually say a phrase or something that can be quoted and it could potentially turn into an idea for you. This is all coming from an introvert (a pretty shy one), so I know you can do it. Simply talking to people is what helped me create one of the first songs I've ever done - We're Crazy. It's a psychedelic pop/rock tune about love circles.

Find your inner child - People always say "grow up," but I really think society teaches us our whole lives to grow up, resulting in some of us missing out on potentially great childhoods. Re-imagine events that occurred when you were a child - or events that you wished would have occurred - use that emotion and write them down as you think of them. Beside each one, write the emotion it evoked in you. Things you write down don't only have to be events - they can be anything you liked as a child, including objects - toys. A lot of kids growing up in my era played with toys. Even as an adult I have an urge to play with toys.

I was working on an EP that I wanted to push myself to complete in a month - produced, written, recorded, mixed, mastered: the whole nine. I came down to my last song and I was stuck on a beat without knowing what to write about. There were three days left before release and I had still had to get a cover photo done, and submit the music to my music manager and peers for review. I was working desk duty at my job and someone left two things - a pair of pearl finger bracelets, and a mini transformers toy. I took a cell phone charger cord and just created a smiley face with the two finger bracelets as eyes - I don't know why I did this, but staring at it for about 10 seconds made me happy. I did amuse myself a bit by changing the transformer toy's position every now and then. As I was doing this I phrased "I'm so happy" over and over again in my thoughts, then I put a melody to it. That night, I created an entire new beat and song called "Fall Away" (the outdo on my Happy Birthday EP) - and it's one of my favorite songs simply about me wanting to get out of my current life and be "happy."

Wow, you made it to the end - nice!

Hopefully these songwriting tips have provided you with enough inspiration and actionable techniques to write something awesome.

Once you've written you have an awesome song or album, and have registered your songs for copyright, you'll be able to effectively promote your music with higher returns on your investment in both time and money.

With good music, marketing and promotion becomes a lot easier, and people will begin to take you more seriously as a musician.

Do you have any songwriting tips you'd like to share from your experiences? Let us know in the comments!

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