Transforming Musicians into Songwriters

Songwriting Cross-Training

7 Ways to sharpen your songwriting skills without writing songs... you can do #1 & 2 lying on your couch, only # 5 & 6 involve sweating...
Songwriting Cross Training

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7 Ways to Sharpen Your Songwriting Skills Without Writing Songs

This isn’t another songwriting inspiration blog post that makes you feel fuzzy and warm but doesn’t help you get words on a page any faster.

If you’re down on yourself because you haven’t been writing enough lately… let’s snap out of it and sharpen your songwriting muscles between writing sessions.

Bonus for cheap, easy, free and less fattening

There are obvious ways to improve your songwriting… 

Learn more about your voice or instrument

Study songwriting techniques and analyze songs, and

Go outside, do interesting things and meet interesting people.

Spoiler Alert

There’s no substitute for songwriting… if you don’t write (and pay attention to how you’re writing) you won’t improve, but you can build songwriting skills in other ways when you aren’t songwriting

what do you mean i have to work at my songwriting, sleeping grey cat, songwriting meme, songwriting advice that works

Here are 7 Ways to Cross-Train Your Songwriting Skills

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

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

Read song lyrics and poetry for ideas, and analyze songs you love to find out how they’re put together.

You can find:

  • Free books at your local library
  • Free and paid books on Amazon Kindle
  • Paper books at used book stores, local bookstores and chain bookstores
A songwriter at rest... a border collie who normally doesn't stop, resting in a field

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 where you can explore ideas for hundreds of pages… there’s something about holding paper books that is more satisfying than a tablet or my phone. I find I remember information in paper books better than ebooks!

I buy books faster than I read them… I’ve been reading about:

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!)

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

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. 

5. Exercise

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

Don’t make any more excuses… even if it’s a walk around the block. 

If you even find yourself unable to sit still while you’re songwriting, it’s your body asking for exercise or a change of perspective… go for a walk.

Quit Stopping Your Songwriting, 3 stop signs at different angles

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 or watching a recorded or streamed concert!

You get to…

  • Hear local music
  • Observe how the audience reacts to songs, to help you figure out what gets their attention
  • Check out their merch (buy something if you like it)
  • Talk to band members 
  • Talk to their fans

In a conversation…

  • Start with a genuine compliment
  • Introduce yourself 
  • Be positive
  • Don’t complain
  • Don’t put anyone down, including yourself
  • If you like them or might work with them, get their email and follow up the next day
When you can't find inspiration look in a different way

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, technically co-writing is songwriting, but so many songwriters resist even trying it. Other songwriters, such as Chris Kirby, almost exclusively co-write. Get out of your comfort zone and give it a try… it’s a very different experience if you’ve never co-written before.

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
Cat sleeping beneath hosta leaves, "I get my best song ideas when I'm chilling"

Bonus: Call a Friend

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

Send an email, text, FB message… but in person, on the phone or Skype is more personal. 

Have a real time conversation!

Songwriting is…

Songwriting is  about paying attention, engaging with the world and engaging with other people.

Interesting people write interesting songs. Engaged people write engaging music.

Leave a comment to help other songwriters…

How do you cross-train for songwriting?

More Articles to Train Your Songwriting Skills


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Picture of Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff

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

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