Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of writing with songwriters and artists all over the world. Aside from creating magic together, one of my favorite parts of co-writing has been observing the way others develop their ideas into lyrics and learning about the tricks they use to make a song catchy and relatable. Here are my top five songwriting secrets to help you succeed in your creative process:
1. Imagine the story you are describing as a moment caught on a polaroid camera.
When writing, it is incredibly easy for your mind to wander off track. Creating a story around one specific “scene” will make it easier to develop details where the listener can picture exactly what the artist is conveying in his or her head.
For instance, in “reckless driving” by Lizzy McAlpine feat. Ben Kessler, the two lyricists do an immaculate job of combining literal and figurative language to provide a vivid description that evolves the story in a cohesive way.
2. Read your lyrics out loud.
I can not stress enough how vital and game changing it is to read your lyrics to a friend or co-writer after you’ve finished the first draft. Firstly, you want to make sure that what you are saying makes sense. Ask yourself, “Does it sound like I’m talking to someone?” “Do the ending lines of each section flow into the first line of the following section?” “Am I saying what I want to say?” If not, go back and start editing! You will be amazed by how one lyric or melodic change transforms the entire song.
3. Enter the “no thinking” zone.
This is one of my favorite tricks because if you’re a perfectionist or find yourself doubting your lyrics before penning them on paper, this technique will help you find the confidence to step outside your comfort zone.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re set on a melody, but having trouble completing the first verse. Maybe you have a couple of lines but don’t know where to take it. Similarly to journaling, simply write a few random sentences that connect to the previous phrases without worrying about the syllables or rhymes. Once you have something you like written, go back and see how you can reword it into a phrase that fits in with the flow of your song.
4. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas.
The biggest piece of advice I have received from songwriting mentors and collaborators has been to never stay silent in a session. We are creators – not robots, so it is completely normal to think of 100 bad ideas before landing on the best one. Plus, you never know which idea could inspire the other writers in the room.
5. Create and write EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Practice does not make perfect, but it does make progress! Every day, we see independent artists become overnight sensations with viral videos of their original songs. What we don’t see is the thousands of hours they’ve spent putting time into evolving their craft. Even if it’s only 10 minutes a day, write, write, write. Show up for yourself, even when you aren’t feeling inspired. Remember, it is okay to write bad songs. Sometimes it’s even better because it exercises your creativity. Ian Kirkpatrick, who has written and produced for artists such as Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Shakira says, “Don’t think of the times you sit down as isolated attempts at creating something good. You’re either going to create something good, or you’re going to get closer to it.” Remember, consistency is key, and finishing a song is more valuable than making it perfect.
Want more songwriting secrets? Keep up with the LyricStudio blog on a weekly basis as we share more every week.