Helpful Songwriting Tips

By thoroughly understanding the elements of songwriting, you can be a great songwriter that creates memorable songs that visibly impact listeners. Siobahn Hotaling has been a songwriter since the age of 15, and studied some of the great songwriters of the 20th century, such as Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, who are known for their evocative storytelling through music. There are songwriting tips that can assist you as a songwriter in creating quality musical lyrics and a melody that catches the ear of a listener.

The first tip is determining your starting point. The most challenging part of the songwriting process is during its infancy stage. Some say that the best place to start creating your next track is the song’s main melody or central chorus. After getting the hook or chord progression, you can create the rest of the song.

However, if you have difficulty finding that perfect melody, there are other methods that you can utilize. Some songwriters prefer to start composing their songs by focusing on the intro and opening lines first, while others prefer to write the lyrics first and then process the melody later. Still others will create an entire song’s melody by using placeholder words or syllables, and then return to refine the lyrics later. For many songwriters, the placeholder words even end up in the final result!

Another tip is composing an original catchy melody. The same three and four-chord sequences can be found in millions of melodies. If you ever wondered why certain songs get stuck in listeners’ heads (what we often call “earworms”), the melody may be the answer. When you want to compose a catchy song, the melody is essential for the songwriting process. Successful melodies are often performed gradually with just a few jumps. They also often have a focus, which is the high-note of a melodic phrase that fixes the melody line.

Another songwriting tip is taking a step back from your instrument sometimes during the lyrical composition. Writing a melody while sitting on the keyboard or playing the guitar makes sense if that is your primary instrument. Sometimes, especially if you are in a creative rut, relying too much on your musical instrument can cause you to stay stuck in conventional patterns and to write the same type of song over and over. To break this pattern, you can set the instrument down and go outside to compose the melody and rhythm using your head. If you have a good idea, you can record it in the form of voice notes. After the composition, you can head back to your instruments and determine how to use them with the new composition.

Also, make sure to take quality breaks. Songwriting from scratch can be a stressful and emotionally draining experience, especially when idea flows are not going as smoothly as possible. When this happens, a 15-minute break from your songwriting tools can rejuvenate your creativity and prevent your thoughts from becoming cloudy and losing sight of the ideas and inspiration you seek. It does not matter if it takes two hours or two months to create a song lyric. What matters is the result.

Lastly, during song composition, avoid overthinking. Musicians and composers sometimes end up being their own harshest critics. If you appraise your melody too strictly, you may not accomplish anything. To avoid this, try keeping an open mind. It is good to take the time to explore every aspect of a new song, but it is often easier to get things done by allowing the songwriting process to flow, relieving stress, and moving on. Focus on laying the foundation for your song since you can change things later.



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Siobahn Hotaling

Siobahn Hotaling — Musician and Digital Marketing Professional