Get rid of the roadblocks
We music loving people with families, day jobs, and all that jazz, have a smaller window to express our musicality. We typically set way too high expectations for our efforts in the first place. Many of us are so critical of ourselves, that we even end up trashing the best ideas.
We all hide behind excuses; limited time and experience, insufficient funds and tools, lack of space or what not it might be. Stressing about the outcome this much, truly gets in the way. It’s time to work on ourselves to bulldoze these preconceptions, and free some space for creativity. It’s time to go through your archives of existing songs, snippets and sounds and press some musical juice. What would it actually take to get them closer to a final mastered track, something that you could be proud of?
Learn to be consistent
Songwriting is basically like any other task, where you have to sit down and get it done. You have to start and keep sustaining your efforts, and coming back to it as long as it will take to finish. Usually, there’s no magic, just hard work.
So, do yourself a favour and start to work on your consistency. Try to work on your music every day, even a little bit. Set a time, wake up earlier. Strive to give all you’ve got, every time you set to write. That’s what the professionals do anyway. Trust your ideas, work on them and mold them. Give them a real chance. The only thing that’s required from you is that you keep on trying, and that you don’t stop until it’s ready. Remove “give up” from your vocabulary.
Create a structure
The options are limitless, and that fact sometimes makes it difficult to even get started. Creating a song structure and maybe even setting some limitations very often help to kickstart the songwriting process.
You can, for example, take a song that you like, listen and analyse the structure, and mark it down in your DAW as a starting point for your own track. Or you can download ready-made templates. You can always edit and change them as you move along. On the other hand, by setting some limitations, you can force yourself to be more creative. You might even come up with original solutions during the different phases of writing, recording, and mixing.
Download 10 song structure templates for Ableton Live for free here.
Create a space for creativity
Having a dedicated place for your creative moments is vitally important, and it really helps in working towards consistency. Trying to work in your kitchen with kids running around doesn’t really make the production of your next hit easier.
Even a small corner of workspace, preferably behind a closed door, and with all the tools you need ready, serves the songwriting greatly. You have to be able to get on it quickly, record and write down your ideas, so you don’t blow them into the ether. You can use your phone or other handheld recorders, too. Always keep them with you, ready to roll. Try to capture the moment, even a little bit of it. You can always dig deeper on it later.
Trust the process
Crafting a full song with chords, melodies, lyrics, and then arranging, recording, mixing, and mastering it, is a demanding process and one that takes time and know-how. Lots of it. When starting however, you shouldn’t concentrate on the amount of work ahead. Break it down to smaller, more easily digestible pieces.
First, just worry about getting the song right. After that, everything else is just execution and details. You have to be determined to do whatever it takes to make the final product as close to your vision of it as possible. Be ready to turn all stones that get in your way, while tolerating the incompleteness during the creation. Once you complete all necessary steps, you absolutely will arrive to your destination – the final track.
Be a problem solver
Let’s face it, if you are not a production process professional, and quite frankly very few are, you will have to dig deep in order to find the answers and implement them into your situation. The good news is that via the internet, we have a direct and quick access to exactly the right kind of information. A tremendous help.
Just make sure you don’t get caught in the web. Find the answer to your particular question, and make a fast return back to work. You can’t know it all but be mentally ready to solve whatever issue you might face. In order to solve things, you have to be able to make decisions. Lots of them. It’s alway better to make one and move forward than to hesitate and procrastinate yourself into oblivion. Also, if you know others working with music, ask around. Or go online for advice. Other people can most probably help.
Spark creativity with limitations
What kind of music should I make? What topics should I cover with lyrics? What kind of sound am I after? When creating something new, the infinite possibility might get you overwhelmed. Don’t let that stop you from getting started.
One effective way is to set some limits for yourself – who knows, it might even spark some creativity. Draw out limits for whatever you feel like: time, recording channels, instruments, other tools, literally anything. The point is to create a more controlled setting that helps you focus, think, and execute your ideas within the limits. The stricter the limits, the more creative you have to get. For example, if you normally record drums with ten microphones, try going with just one. Suddenly you have to really think about where you’re going to put that mic, where you set up, how you tune, play, and what cymbals you use.
Learn from other people
Interview people in the industry, talk to friends who make music, and just generally be open for advice. How do they do it? What’s their thought process? You can learn a lot by asking a ton of questions and listening carefully. It doesn’t even have to be people from the music industry, the same success principles apply to everyone else, too.
Find a person you know that has true drive for success, works hard with high moral and ethics, and go to them. Ask how they get things done, and make them explain their typical week in detail. Get to know what drives them. What great habits have they created over the years? You’ll be surprised of how much you’ll learn. And you know what? You can directly apply all of it to your songwriting process and life in general.
Note: Have you downloaded our latest FREE ebook – the “Crash Course in Mixing”? If not, grab it for free here
Maintain your health
Staying prolific and able to work requires sound health. This is priority number one. It’s easy to get carried away by life and work and thus neglect yourself. It’s easy because the same high work ethic is required to stay fit than it takes to make a great song or to succeed in general.
It’s plain hard work. It hurts, and it’s not always fun but it’s necessary. So pay attention to how you eat, drink, and sleep. Move your body every day. While working, take breaks, stretch, and get outside to the sun. Walk, ride a bike, run. Find the stuff you like. Embrace the massive difference it all makes to how you feel, perform, and create.
Put yourself in the first row
Play the tracks to your friends. This is a great way to put yourself in the audience in a friendly setting. Expose your music, and help yourself to hear the stuff that’s not yet working properly and get fresh feedback. Also, recording a scratch track with just vocals and maybe an accompanying instrument will be immensely helpful in many ways. Listening to it gives you the much needed perspective of the whole thing.
A great song will always sound good, even with the most simplistic presentation. You can fine tune the different parts until you’re happy. Then, if you’ve recorded the scratch in correct tempo, you can start to record the final parts playing along with it, not having to rely on a plain click track. It’s a much more musical way to approach the later phases of producing your track.
Reflect on your work
From time to time, it’s good to reflect on your previous work. This helps understand where you were at that time in your life, and analyse the deeper meanings and feelings. It helps to understand that any song is just a reflection of the moment of its creation.
How does the song tell this story? Would other people relate to it? Once you start to hear and pick these key things up, you can apply the same analogy in your future work. Sparking emotions and writing about your real life experiences equal gold. They’re the things that make your music unique while having a sense familiarity to the listener – the common ground.
The final word
Take these tips, and begin to work on yourself and your music. The only constant is change, and we have to adapt to it. There’s tons of interesting gear and other music stuff coming out every day, and you’ll never get anything done, if you get hooked up on the latest and greatest. New plugins or devices won’t make your song great, period.
Simplifying is the key. Pick just a couple of good quality tools, and use them to their fullest. Learn them inside and out. Start with a DAW that’s already filled with amazing tools. If you can play an instrument, study and play it whenever possible. Sing your heart out. Finish an old tune or start something new. And most importantly, have fun doing it. Off you go now!