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Songwriting Cross-Training

Songwriting Cross-Training:

7 Ways to Sharpen Your Songwriting Skills without Songwriting

# 1 & 2 you can do lying on your couch, only # 5 & 6 involve sweating!


Like most part-time songwriters, I have spent time stressing over “not enough time” and “not enough songwriting!”

Life can be busy, so instead of getting down on myself I decided to make changes to my thinking and my actions….


There are obvious ways to improve your songwriting:

  • learn more about your voice or instrument… buy an internet course or get some lessons
  • learn more about songwriting… buy a book or surf the internet hoping to find some golden inspiration or ideas
  • go outside… do interesting things and meet interesting people


and Don’t Give into Distractions, like:

  • Reading songwriting inspiration blogs that makes you feel fuzzy and warm but don’t help you finish the song you are stuck on
  • Reading songwriting hacks that might work for you, but don’t help you sit down to do the work in the first place
  • Buying a book on lyric writing, but not completing any of the exercises


Why settle for the obvious when a little deeper thinking can help you along, especially when you are already hard pressed to create regular songwriting time?


Spoiler Alert:

  • There isn’t a substitute for songwriting… if you don’t write (and pay attention to what and how you write), you won’t get better.
  • But you can build your songwriting skills in between your songwriting sessions.
  • (I tried to subtitle this article: “7 almost free ways to sharpen your songwriting skills in between songwriting sessions” but it felt too long…)



Here are seven ways to cross train your songwriting skills:

Listed from quick/free to take some time/cost some $

(Cross-training = different form of exercise to balance and complement your main activity, such as yoga stretching to balance tight running muscles)



Songwriting Cross Training



1. Read Stories

Read stories and fiction for your songwriting skills… read for fun.

Put words in your head for 10+ minutes a day.

If the story gets boring, choose a new one to read!


Read for:

  • Good stories
  • Word play
  • Captivating description
  • Emotional reactions
  • Characters, description, development,
  • Ask yourself why you do/don’t want to keep reading


As obvious as it is… I need to spend more time reading song lyrics and poetry for ideas.


You can find:

  • Free books at your local library
  • Free books on Amazon Kindle, as well as paying for ebooks
  • Paper books at used book stores, local bookstores, chain bookstores… 



2. Read nonfiction books

Read about people, places, ideas… learn new things, try out new ideas. Read to spark other interests, read to learn more….

Read paper books… not just your Kindle. YouTube videos, Blogs and Podcasts are awesome,

but I’m thinking of paper books, explore ideas for hundreds of pages…

I remember better when I read paper books rather than ebooks.


I buy books faster than I read them… I’ve been reading: Songwriting, Home Studio Recording, Self Improvement Books (Habits, Decisions, Information Processing), Business Books, Blogging.



3. Learn a new song

  • Choose a song you love and learn how to sing or play it.
  • Buy a copy to support the songwriters and musicians who created it.
  • Listen and sing a little bit at a time until you can sing all of it.
  • If you want to play it, sing it first, then get out your instrument (trust me, it’s faster!) ….


Learn the Fastest Way to Memorize Songs – so you can clay them or analyze them to improve your songwriting craft…

Fastest Way to Memorize a Song


Or search YouTube: video, official video, lyric video, tutorial, how to play, how to play on guitar, how to play on …


Or Google: lyrics, official lyrics, tab how to play, how to play on guitar, how to play on …



4. Free Writing

Choose an idea and write. Don’t stop… write without judging your words. Practice letting your words and ideas flow.

Yes, this sounds like songwriting, but you can also practice writing without trying to create a song. If one happens to start forming, go with it!


For more exercise ideas, read:

Brainstorming: How to Create More Songwriting Ideas Than You Need

Ultimate Songwriting Jumpstart-Brainstorming Lesson


What to Write When You Don’t Know What to Write

What to write when you don't know what to write your song about


To use free writing in your songwriting work flow: Songwriting Cycle: Solutions

Songwriting Cycle: write, edit, test, level up, publish & publicize



5. Exercise

Your body, mind and positive attitude are connected… exercise makes them stronger.

Don’t make any more excuses… use Daily Songwriting to start a manageable workout schedule… substitute “exercise of choice” for “songwriting” gets you 30 days of ab crunches for 5 minutes a day

Click below if you haven’t already downloaded: the Guide to Daily Songwriting




6. Listen to Live Music

Go out and hear a band… take your significant other, invite friends, spend a few dollars for fun times… make some fun memories!


Songwriting Inspiration Hack:

A live show energizes your music powers… I get 10x the songwriting ideas listening live instead of listening to a device!


You get to:

  • Hear local music
  • Watch the audience react to songs, figure out what gets their attention….
  • Check out their merch (buy something if you like it)
  • Talk to band members
  • Talk to the fans


In a conversation:

  • Start with a genuine compliment
  • Introduce yourself
  • Be positive
  • Don’t complain
  • Don’t put any one down, including yourself
  • If you like them or might work with them, get their email and follow up same/next day



7. Co-Write a Song

Write a song with another songwriter, create something you couldn’t do alone.

Everyone says this is good.

It sounds scary until you do it.

You will learn every time you try it.

You can do it.


Yes, this is technically “songwriting” but it’s often talked about and rarely tried, so don’t start making excuses….


  • How many songwriters do you know?
  • If you are still counting, pick two, and contact them
  • If you can’t think of anyone… spend some time meeting songwriters
  • Find a songwriter’s group in your area and go to a meeting



Bonus: Call a Friend

Reach out, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while, another songwriter, an old friend, a FaceBook friend.

You could email, text, FB message, twitter… but talking in person, on the phone or Skype is more personal. You get more from a real time conversation!


In the end, it’s all about paying attention, engaging with the world and engaging with other people.

Interesting people write interesting songs, engaged people write engaging music.



What do you think? Leave a comment below:

How do you cross-train for your songwriting?

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© Trevor Dimoff,, 2019