Want to be a Great Songwriter? Here Are 10 Songwriting Tips from the Pros

Songwriting is a passion, not a job.  But how can you become an amazing songwriter and build a lucrative career?  Here are ten tips from established, professional songwriters that could change the way you write.

First of all: big thanks to boutique publisher and songwriter incubator Reservoir Media Management for compiling these tips for Digital Music News.  They’re honest nuggets that you should experiment with.  Some of these may not work for you, while others may absolutely change your songwriting for good.  And maybe change your life.

So let’s go through these, songwriter by songwriter:

Jamie Hartman’s tips.

Songwriting Highlights: “Human” by Rag’n’Bone Man (2016 Brit Awards Critics’ Choice Winner); “Start Again” by Conrad Sewell, “Stranger” by Sawyer Fredericks; “Move Together” by James Bay

1. Don’t ever try to write anything that sounds like current radio because it was probably written/produced between 2 and 5 years ago.  And therefore, the song you’re currently writing won’t be coming out whilst that radio song is current anymore.

2. Don’t kid yourself that an idea is truly new / good if it isn’t.  You know deep down whether it is or not.

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Beatchild’s tips.

Producer and Songwriter for: Drake, Justin Nozuka, Amaal Nuux, Divine Brown, and more

3. Try to co-write with those who are more experienced and better writers than you are.  Not only will you learn from them, your chances of exposure to a solid placement are much higher.

4. Seek and build a go-to team of writers and composers who share your drive but excel in areas other than the strengths you possess.

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5. Try different variations of those writers together in a room until you feel that undeniable “magic”.  Spend considerable amount of time with that “magic” team writing as many songs as possible.

6. Educate yourself by studying the greatest songs from the beginning of the commercial music industry to today. Break down the lyrics, mimic and invert past hit songs. Essentially, try studying hit songs by reverse engineering and rebuilding them with your own twist.

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Mike Campbell’s tips.

Songwriting Highlights: “Say Something” by A Great Big World; “Sit Still, Look Pretty” by Daya.

7. Write as honestly as you can.  Chances are, if you’ve gone through something, your listener has too, and they will hear that honesty as it applies to them and (hopefully) connect with it.

8. Commit to your ideas before judging them too harshly. It’s better to finish writing a song and come back to it later with fresh ears to revise it than it is to get hung up on one melody or lyric and end up with nothing.

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Lauren Christy’s tips.

Songwriting Highlights: “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” by Dua Lipa (2016 Brit Awards Critics’ Choice Finalist); “Me, Myself & I” by G-Eazy & Bebe Rexha; “Team” by Iggy Azalea, “Stand in the Light” by Jordan Smith

9. There is no original thought just original presentation.  Say it in a way that’s never been heard before.  And my favorite phrase in the studio that I tell myself : “Don’t bore us, play the chorus”!

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If the chorus doesn’t hit within one minute, it’s probably not going to get on radio.

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Phil Bentley’s tips.

Songwriting Highlights: “Secrets” by Tiesto; “Half a Heart” by Seal; “Christmas Time to Me” by Jordan Sparks

10. Don’t settle until every part of your song feels undeniable.  If it just feels “good enough” it probably isn’t good enough.  Don’t be afraid to rewrite until your song is the absolute best it can possibly be.

 

Got more tips?  Add them below.

17 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Top Secret

    and now my tips..

    1. Listen and learn from Max Martin, Nicky Chinn/Mike Chapman,
    Mike Stock.

    In pop music Max Martin is the most continuously successful writer
    in modern times..

    2. MUSIC: Focus on great melodies, interesting chords and
    elements of excitement and intrigue.

    3. LYRICS: Don’t write silly love songs.. we’ve heard them all
    before.. Corny rubbish is over.. either write great lyrics or
    use minimal lyrics and use the music to captivate the listener.
    Be inventive and imaginative without alienating the listener.

    4. Radio is (nearly) DEAD – you have to have Hit Internet Songs..
    Once you crack Spotify/Apple/iTunes top charts (and playlists)
    then radio, tv and sync will follow..

    Be brilliant, Be amazing, Be Incredible..

    As Barbra Streisand once said.. “it’s gotta be commercial….”

  2. Avatar
    BLarger

    ..but if you just want to make good art:
    1. Write music that compels you to emote and you will stand a chance of compelling others to connect to the music emotionally. 2. Imagine your song being played 100 years from now and imagine what the words you’ve used might mean to that audience. 3. Shut the fuck up about your “charmed life and talent” or your girlfriend’s amazing pussy. 4. Keep it simple and honest. 5. Take time to respect and perfect your message. 6.Repeat all steps as needed.

    • Avatar
      Chum

      Yep – I think if one is after creating something meaningful to oneself, you have to create for yourself. What do you want to say? How do you want to say it? What sounds good to you? Trying to satisfy other people or chase the trends is an endless rabbit hole that I’ve never found satisfying or engaging.

      Songwriting is one thing, trying to write to get your songs sold by pop artists is an entirely different thing. And, what gets played and what becomes popular have little to do with quality or art or anything other than the whims and forces at work in the music industry and all the messed up stuff involved in that.

    • Avatar
      Delia

      Stop being so inappropiate and start telling us some good tips, god!

      I bet I’m higher at music than you:

      Grade 7 piano!

  3. Avatar
    HMS

    Teaming up with other writers seems to be more difficult than it sounds. I have posted stuff all over the internet and gotten very little response when I’ve put out there that I am looking to team up with or seek help from other like minded song writers. What’s with the hesitation or ego? It’s not like any of them are breaking any records yet? I just don’t get it….

    • Avatar
      Chum

      I’ve been down that road and yes, it’s very hard to find people willing to team up, or even try. Why? I’m as clueless as you. It may simply be because songwriting is a difficult, personal thing and people don’t want to partner up unless they know the person?

  4. Avatar
    Top Secret

    Co-writing with others is not easy.. songwriting partnerships is the second most
    intimate thing you can do .. you really have to be able to open up and freely exchange
    ideas and be prepared to have your great ideas knocked on the head in order to keep
    the peace..

    I think collaboration works well when someone writes the music and someone else writes the lyrics – this way you have set specialties.

    Otherwise.. try writing the words and music yourself..

    The benefit of collaboration:

    1. It makes you actually sit down and start writing..
    Solo writing is a hard discipline and it’s easy to keep putting it off..

    2. The other party might actually be really good at their craft..

    3. The other writers might have strong connections in the business..

    4. It might just be fun and you may find a new friend..

    5. You might get rich quicker.. (that’s a good one..) !!

  5. Avatar
    Greg Windrum

    This is awesome and very interesting informative advise tips and short cuts I can really use at this time in my life , plus interesting in many ways to myself as well probably to a lot of people , from all walks of life globally too , Thanks to all who helped us all out with this. I will use these tips and terrific statements for songs I wish to create for an upcoming event I hope to make from a personal dream and challenge I have and guide to become reality from a dream of mine and many other musicians and artists before me I have been imagining to create soon in Vancouver , B.C. ; Canada , soon to help the people of our Nation join together and send out the message about , who we are , what we are about and to help other Nations , as well , then invite as many of those countries as I may perhaps to interest in helping all people of our shared , precious and very unique planet we our caretakers of , that all of us today presently have received from our forefathers and to intern love the opportunity to hand down to our future decendants as well and wish this will go on into the universe’s future and beyond for eternity. Yes , I do see , hear myself ,voicing a very enormous dream involving everyone who would like to help , but when we may meet in times ahead people from all around will notice my gigantic imagination , I hope , Greg Windrum . Peace.

  6. Avatar
    Alvin hollingsworth8

    I agree with the good stuff, you have said. I soon to be a song writer myself. Thanks for the things,you said.I will be in the studio, in October.

  7. Avatar
    Alvin hollingsworth8

    Thanks for the other things that are important for the people who are trying to make something out of themselves

  8. Avatar
    Bonsai

    Wait for the hook.

    When it comes it may be in the middle of a shopping centre, in the middle of the night, or in the middle of an argument.

    Stop what you are doing and write it down, record it on your iPhone at that very moment.

    The hook can be a line of lyrics or a melody. If it is a melody, try to feel the words, if it is a lyric, bend the words until you hear the music.

    Collect your hooks. Play them all back and pick the ones that move you. Work on them night and day, melt them, shape them. Pick up an instrument and play them. Add stuff, carefully, feel your way forward as if you are stuck in a dark maze.

    Write the lyrics down. Don’t worry about the meaning, just get them done. You can change them later. Your hook has now become a song.

    Fix the chords where necessary. Add the breaks find the structure. Follow the hook, don’t break it by strapping it in too tight, let it breathe.

    Work on the intro, you need a build up. Or go right into the Chorus. Sing a solemn line to start. Or throw yourself onto the floor and start screaming. Whatever feels right.

    Congrats, you got yourself a song there. Sing and play it over and over again until you get to know it inside out. Treat it well, rest it, pick it up or take it for dinner. It’s yours to do what you want with it.

    • Avatar
      In all truthfulness, I read this entire article including the comments. And what you wrote, resonated, inspired & blessed me the most. Thank you again & God bless you. - Įsɪ₫ʀᴏ ℳᴏʀĮɴ

      In all truthfulness, I read this entire article including the comments. And what you wrote, resonated, inspired & blessed me the most. Thank you again & God bless you. – Įsɪ₫ʀᴏ ℳᴏʀĮɴ

  9. Avatar
    FeagueMaster

    If you are looking for songwriting advice, ask whomever is giving that advice to provide evidence for their claims. Much information on songwriting is biased and has no supporting evidence to show that it is actually productive, and is only “feel-good” at best. Here’s a resource that provides that evidence and information that will actually improve your songwriting skills:

    https://www.songmatrix.com/

    I find it very fascinating because it’s one of the few endeavors that is actually illuminating the cross-roads between art and science.

  10. Avatar
    Ari

    Great article, thanks! My own tip is that you learn songwriting by writing lots of songs. Always aim for your best but don’t get stuck since there are so many songs to be written.

    – Ari
    Ghosts Welcome – The Songwriting Blog (ghostswelcome.com)