Transforming Musicians into Songwriters

Cooking a Better Song

Songwriting is cooking with sound... 14 songwriting tips... learn to taste, test and write better songs in a 5 minute read
Cooking a Better Song, musical instruments in a pot

Table of Contents

Songwriting is Cooking with Sound, let’s explore song writing, using the metaphor of  cooking…

To find out what we can learn and cook up some better songs!

Cooking is:

Mix ingredients (sounds… words and music), 

use alchemy (cooking and song writing are mystical, magical processes) 

to transform the mix into a tasty dish (song)

Cooking takes skills, inspiration, creativity, practice, work and excellent ingredients, the same goes for songwriting.

Songwriting is more than randomly mixing up the ingredients... musical instruments in a pot

Cooking Advice for Your Songwriting

1. Everyone’s palette is different, can’t please everyone…

Good to remember, don’t take rejection personally!

There are days when I don’t want to listen to my own songs… already know them. 

It’s ok if somebody doesn’t want to listen to my song, or if they don’t like it! 

I’ll write more songs and people will hear them!

2. Variety is engaging (same=boring)… sometimes you want different tastes

Do something different… don’t write like everyone else.

In your songs: balance new/surprise with common/expected.

There are different tastes, sweet sour salt bitter, etc, textures, crunchy, smooth, soft, hard; colors and smells: balance them, explore and experiment with them.

Balance musical elements, use contrast and change as the song progresses.

3. Poor ingredients can destroy a bulletproof recipe.

boring chorus = boring song 

4. Even a good recipe fails if you mess up the cooking process.

Don’t cook it too long… and always serve it fresh!

Write more songs… demo the best immediately, don’t shelf it for weeks….

Frozen crab apples Finish your songs even if they aren't 'good enough"

5. Every chef adjusts while cooking 

and adds small improvisations and changes as needed. Your recipe or song structure is a guide.

Follow the music, change your plans when you discover new/better ideas, go with it!

For example: the final song form should come from the material, just because you planned it, you can’t always impose a form, be ready to adjust things to fit the music.

6. The wrong recipe will taste bad

Wrong recipe (song form) can weaken the ingredients (hook, lyrics, melodies, etc.).

Listen for new ideas… don’t overuse the same song forms, 

Steal and create instead of just repeating what you have already done.

Write like you mean it, piano keyboard

7. Test before serving 

Always test a recipe before serving (and frequently taste while cooking) 

Test your song with a live audience, find out what impacted on them, get feedback with as much detail as possible, listen past polite praise and hear what they are trying to tell you…

Don’t try a totally new recipe for a first date or dinner party.

Don’t record a demo without useful feedback and input from people with ears that you trust… get second, third, fourth opinions before you decide a song is “finished.”

8. Cooks follow recipes, master chefs create recipes

Recipe = song form… got it!

Every master cook was once a beginner, then a cook… it takes patience, practice and help from people that know more than you do!

9. Everyone burns dinner sometimes

Not every song turns out… 

But more playful and attentive while writing to create better songs!

Some lights burn brighter than others

10. Good cooking takes experience and practice

Learn from your experiences… write more songs and live more life.

Your songs improve as you write more songs… your early songs are rarely as good as your latest ones!

11. A well stocked pantry makes cooking easier

Keep an ongoing list of song titles and ideas so you’ve always got something new to write about.

12. Spice is important, but don’t over do it

Spice is life so stock more than salt in your pantry.

Season your songs to taste. Variety is the spice of life, so keep your songs interesting with contrast between ideas and between song sections.

Mistakes are okay as long as you learn from them... border collie trying to get ball unstuck

13. A clean kitchen makes better food

Clean up when you’re done and keep your songwriting tools in good repair.

Keep your dedicated songwriting space clean and as neat as possible. 

14. The best meals are shared among friends

If you don’t share your songs, are they really music?

Forest Scene, "If your songs never leave your music cave are they really music?"

Cooking a Better Song: Summary

A metaphor has limitations, but you can still get useful and inspirational insights from them.

What other insights can you get from a cooking metaphor?

What other metaphors could give you useful insights into your songwriting process?

Leave a comment below to help other songwriters…

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Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff has taught, played and written music professionally for the last 25+ years.

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