For anyone learning songwriting, songwriting tips are the most common “solution” for songwriting problems. Unfortunately, it’s thinking small… tips are little pieces of the larger puzzle. To solve a songwriting problem, you really need to examine your entire songwriting process. Songwriting tips are single points along the journey from your first song idea to a finished song.
There is value in some songwriting tips, but there are many songwriting tips that are either incomplete or just wrong. This article is a breakdown of five of the worst songwriting tips, including my answers to them. Now you’ll recognize them and know what will actually help you develop your songwriting process so you finish songs you’re proud of!
Below the video lesson is a written transcript and bonus links to other songwriting resources so you don’t fall for these terrible tips!
Begin Video Transcript
If you’re having trouble with a song, or writing songs, the most common is looking for songwriting tips, but some songwriting tips are incomplete or just wrong. Trying to follow them won’t help you, and only makes songwriting harder. Here are 5 of the worst songwriting tips I’ve ever heard, and what you should actually be doing instead. I answer each of these broken songwriting tips, with advice that actually works.
Hi, I’m Trevor Dimoff, I transform musicians into songwriters, here on YouTube and at my website EpicSongWriting.com. Check the video description, I always post bonus help or links there…
Worst Songwriting Tip Number 1: “Write from the heart”
What does that even mean? Talk about useless. I know the idea is you should sit down and let a song flow out of you. You should use your musical intuition to create a song out of thin air.
This is incomplete advice for three reasons…
1. It doesn’t help you actually do it. Either you can already do this to some degree or you can’t. So it’s not helpful without further guidance.
2. Virtually any line, lyric, section or song you write can probably benefit from editing… anything from changing a word or phrase to completing rewriting an entire song section.
3.It falsely implies that songwriting should be easy. That if you encounter a problem or lose momentum you’re doing something wrong.
Yes, you should rely on your intuition but you also need songwriting knowledge:
- What you need to do to write a solid song section, (Learn How to Write a Song Bridge, & How to Write a Pre-Chorus)
- What goes into each type of song section, (Parts of a Popular Song)
- How to tell a story, (Deliberate Songwriting)
- How to craft a melody or a chord progression. (Writing Chord Progressions for Your Songs)
If you only have your intuition, when you get stuck you think you have songwriter’s block. You don’t have songwriter’s block, you’re just stuck and this tip won’t get you out of it.
Click and enter your email address and I’ll send you: How to Write a Song Chorus, a legit way to learn a simple songwriting process to write the lyrics and music to a song chorus that I explain in 10 minutes. Save yourself hours of cruising for songwriting tips and spend that time writing your next song!
Worst Songwriting Tip Number 2: Write when you feel inspired
Oh please… songwriting inspiration is just an emotional state that isn’t dependable. It also implies that if you aren’t inspired you can’t do anything… sit yourself down and write some ideas, don’t try to write a complete song.
This is the “waiting for inspiration” mistake so many developing songwriters fall for. It implies that songwriting follows inspiration. Any professional songwriter or composer will tell you the best way to find inspiration is to start writing. You may not get instant gratification, but you find ideas and play with them… that’s where the fun is in songwriting, don’t passively wait for it.
Stephen King, the author of over 60 novels said “”Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Source: https://quotefancy.com/stephen-king-quotes
“Write when you feel inspired” is backwards… inspiration follows action. What really works is doing something to get inspired!
If this makes sense, hit like on the video (this article) and keep watching (reading)….
Worst Songwriting Tip Number 3: Write what you know
This is partially correct advice, often attributed to Mark Twain. It seems to make sense, telling you to write songs about your own experiences, your areas of strength, so your lyrics are more convincing and authentic. Your audience will get it because you get it. This seems to make sense, but what about your imagination? Take a situation or a topic and imagine what emotions you’d experience. Use that to drive your song.
The second part of this problem is that to grow as a songwriter, and as a person, you have to get out of your comfort zone. If everything is safe, if you already “know it” then it’s something you can already do…
Now, if you’re working on a song with a tough topic, say Black Lives Matter… I’d only suggest taking that head on if you have direct experience living as a person of colour. I don’t, but I can write about “not standing by watching the crazy” or “I’m not going to just watch those racists” or “I’m an ally even if I don’t fully understand your experience”…
Don’t limit your songwriting, find ways to expand it. That’s how you grow!
Worst Songwriting Tip Number 4: You should write songs on your own.
Any tip that discourages you from collaborating or writing with others isn’t going to help you. Music is a social act, music is more fun with friends, co-writing is a valid way to write songs. Believing a song is inherently better because you wrote it by yourself, and recorded your song on your own, and played every instrument, and mixed your song and mastered your song without any help is really just your big ego getting in the way of your songwriting.
Instead ask yourself: what’s the best for your song? Wouldn’t a professional singer give a better performance? If you’re a guitarist, wouldn’t almost any drummer play the kit better than you?
Sure, learning to create songs in your home studio is admirable, and it’s definitely cheaper than going to a professional studio, but it will take a year or more to learn how to actually create professional sounding mixes. Anyone telling you otherwise is lying. I spent two years learning how, and I’m only halfway professional at it. There is a massive learning curve, think about how long it took you to learn to play or sing at a semi-pro or professional level to get the proper perspective. Then go look at the credits on any professional song you love… there’s a reason it was done in a professional studio by professionals.
Worst Songwriting Tip Number 5: “The only way to write a song is to…” or “You must…”
Any tip that includes “the only way” or “you must” is either from someone who doesn’t realize there are several ways to write and finish a song… or they’re trying to sell you their “only way”
As long as you finish the song, nobody really cares how you did it… they just want to feel something.
Remember to your audience, it’s about them, their reaction to your art, it’s not about you or even your song. This isn’t good or bad, it’s just how human beings work, so work with it.
There are better ways, easier ways, but so much depends on you, your songwriting strengths and songwriting workflow. Another songwriter, with different strengths might find a different approach more effective. What’s important is what works for you.
Does that make sense? Good… Here’s a bonus idea:
Songwriting tips won’t solve your big problems!
To write songs, you need a songwriting process to get from the first idea to a finished song you’re proud of. A tip is only one step in the songwriting process. Watch this video to learn how to create more songwriting ideas than you even need in a song, or check out this playlist for more songwriting advice that actually works.