Here's a collection of great songwriting tips from songwriters, musicians, singers, producers, and multi-talented artists from all around the world.
Being a singer-songwriter myself, one of the most helpful things I've realized when talking to other songwriters is that everyone's approach is a bit different—and hearing about how other people work can help give you a new perspective and sense of definition for your own songwriting process.
Have a read through the songwriting tips from these great songwriters below, and listen to their songs, follow their work, and send them a note if you like what you hear.
Let's support each other!
“Always record ideas on whatever is available. Have a system from scratching down lyric ideas or a melody. I have a notebook, and when I start a new idea, I do it messy and let my brain puke ideas all over the page. I then clean it up, arrange it, then sing through it a million times. Once I play it another million times and haven’t changed it then I’m pretty much committed. Sometimes that process happens in an hour—other times, months, even years”
Doug Blimline, Singer-songwriter
“Finish the song. There are times when we start writing a song and don't know where to go with it, or we think it's not good enough and want to scrap it. I have far too many unfinished songs for this very reason. Finish the song no matter what. You can put it away and take ideas from it for future use, or you might even end up liking it in the end.”
Clarissa Diokno, Singer-Songwriter
"When you write a song, you are writing to attempt to connect with the human spirit. Do not ask yourself what people will like, rather, ask yourself what you want them to FEEL! Write from a space of evoking emotion in others. When we allow people to drop into a space of feeling we open their heart to the possibility of change that will come through our music!"
Alexis Corey, Vocalist, Songwriter, Creative Consultant, Business Coach
“Don't make songwriting a job, part-time or full-time! It shouldn't be forced, it should come naturally. This might be hard to believe, but I've never suffered from or experienced what they call " writer's block”. I never ever write a song when I don't feel like it, and that's why I enjoy the process so much. For me, song ideas come at really random places—I could be watching the news and something the news reporter says would give me something to write about. It's that random!
I could be listening to a friend telling me about how their vacation went and boom! I'd have to stop them and quickly take out my phone and record the idea I got from something they said or the way they said it, and I'd have a chorus by the next day. Don't force the process!”
Innocent Zungu, Singer-songwriter
“Put all your thoughts down that come to you while playing the chord progression. For me, having the progression and playing it is the easiest way to write a compelling tune. The chords will evoke the feelings they give you naturally, and it feels like I’m writing from a deeper, more honest place. It’s okay to write more than you’re going to use, and sometimes what you don’t use in one song could be the best part of another one.”
Brady Uekert, Singer-Songwriter
“Write bad songs. You have to write bad songs so that you can get to the good ones.”
Nicholas Thomasma, Singer-songwriter and Earthwork Music Recording Artist
“Keep it simple. You don't need complicated hifi language or grammar to get your thoughts out... I believe that my songs reach a lot of people because of the fact that the language is simple enough to be understood and easy to be sung along.”
Sam T Rajkumar, Artist, Theologian, Singer-Songwriter, Author, Music Producer
“Don't be precious about your music. Be open to feedback - especially in the studio. Be willing to try a different approach to your songs - especially in the studio. You can always say "no" but be prepared to listen to alternatives first.”
Robert Graham, Pianist, Singer-songwriter, Vocalist, Music Director, Collaborative Pianist, Choir Director, Vocal/Repertoire coach, Educator, Writer, and Human Rights Activist
“Don't force the process if you want to be truly creative.”
Bruce Neilsen, Songwriter-Musician
“Write. Write daily. Even as little as 10 minutes. It helps exercise your songwriting muscles. Write without filtering what you think and write. Let it flow. Then, filter after writing. I find that it helps in overcoming creative blocks. These are really helpful tips I've learned from my songwriting teachers Coach Eds Vista Manuel and Sir Jim Paredes.”
Jonah Agas, Singer-songwriter
“Write a story. You can't get stumped for ideas if you tell a tale from your life experience and then set it to verse and music.”
Dennis DeVilbiss, Singer-Songwriter
“Find new and personal ways to say things. Don’t use worn-out clichés and easy words or phrases. Idioms don’t translate well across cultures and people get tired hearing phrases that were clever forty years ago. Lyrics that stick out are lyrics that catch you for a moment and make you consider what you just heard.”
Arn Poe, Songwriter, Keyboardist
“Write. If you don’t have a theme or idea, just write about what you're going through RIGHT NOW—your emotions and experiences are the best guide in authentic writing!”
Mandy Shipard, Songwriter, Worshipard
“Be yourself and try to write songs that you believe in. If you try to copy anyone else, you’ll only end up as an inferior version of them.”
Phil Matthews, Folk-rock Retro-pop Singer-songwriter, the Village
“Complete the song arrangement with intro, verses, chorus, bridge, and outro by using simple chord progressions first. Use that as the outline to fill in melodic changes and lyrics. This saves time whether you’re working alone or in a collaboration, and it makes it easy to create changes and multiple versions of a song without ever losing the foundation.
It’s easier to trial and error a sonic idea when you have a template that you created yourself!”
Prin Dumas Sielski, Songwriter and Producer
“The song should always tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. The same goes for the chord progressions used and each part of the song, to emphasize the mood of the lyrics and the musical journey.”
Ste Brady, Songwriter
“Shut off your ego and let the inspiration flow through you instead of from you.”
Ahmed Abou Elnasr, Musician
“Sharpen up on basic music theory—everyone's learned some in school. Tones, scales and chords to know, structure, keys…you'll be able to dress and decorate your songs with intros, chord progressions and modulations. It'll become helpful in transposing tunes, and most importantly, having a sense of what others are doing when playing your songs.”
Manee Valentine, Vocal Stylist, Song Designer “The Voice from the Heart"
“Jot down phrases you might overhear people say. Write down situations occurring around you. They will aid you in your songwriting and creating of stories, scenes, and situations.
It doesn't have to all directly come from or be about you. As an interpreter, you can simply sing and interpret something happening or occuring, as a viewer in other people's lives. Maybe you feel a little pressed to talk and write about it, or maybe you find arguments that are about you to be too personal or too close at heart to begin with. This will aid you in stretching out and writing about something you don't feel ready to deal with in confrontation with your peers and their criticism.”
Andy Touch, Singer, Performer, Artist, Lyricist, Musician
“Don’t try to do everything yourself. Whether it be working with a band, a producer, or just a team of fresh ears, your music will be better and get better when you’re not the only one listening to it.”
Joshua Faupel, Songwriter, J.M. Faupel
“Be patient with yourself. Rushing the process creates Ed Sheeran and Oasis.”
Patrick Smith, Singer-songwriter, Musician
"I always sing to my goats when I milk them in the morning. I don't necessarily sing anything in particular....just let noise or words happen...but I have a recording device handy in case it starts sounding interesting. I reckon the fact that I have a very non-judgmental audience (my goats) and the thinking linear part of my brain is occupied with doing the milking means that my creative brain is free to wander where it will."
Tim Darby, Singer-songwriter
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"Don't be a musician or audio engineer with financial gain as the desired end result.
Music has to be a passion because that will translate through your music, and that genuine raw emotion is what will connect with a listener. Prepare yourself for disappointments and more hard work than you can imagine. I played in a punk rock band Violent Society and from 1991 until 2003 we toured the US and Europe 15 times as well as released 5 full length, numerous EPs and singles. It was a slow build to achieving what we set out to do but in the end we succeeded. Slow and steady wins the race."
Mick D'Kaye, Audio Engineer, Filmmaker, Songwriter, Artist, Dog Rescue Enthusiast
The meaning of listen up is to take time for yourself for rehearsals. Don't stress out with releasing so fast. Release when everything is done and sounds good. You find faults after listening a while sometimes. You even discover new ideas by spending time in this process!"
Dominik Fries, Singer-songwriter, Producer, Audio Engineer
"Don't try to write like everyone else! Let your originality shine through. Cookie-cutters are meant for the kitchen, NOT for creative endeavors like songwriting."
Jay Wallker, Singer-songwriter, Manager, Agent
"What I've learned over the years is to be totally stress free. Don't force a song. Let it write itself. Never sit down to write a song without a song."
Auston Smith, Artist
“I write songs ( randomly, with no specific steps or guidelines). I usually start with a word or a phrase..as long as I have guitar or piano, I play random chord progressions and start gibberish. record it .. then polish it later. depending on my motivation.”
Frankeins Jangad, Singer-songwriter
“Don't give up. If you can't come up with a good song, all great songs take alot of patience and creativity to create. Also, look for great mentors whether it be a friend or someone who's made it in the music industry because they are the greatest inspiration for music you can have—and you can learn a lot from them, too.”
Katie Wright, Songwriter
“After having been a musician for about 30 years, I realized how powerful lyrics were when giant catastrophes crossed my life. Those songs became big productions that included large groups of people, artists, studios, videographers, that then became music festivals with cities involved, and sponsors etc. And that came out of simply writing one song.
To write profound words and lyrics for songs, it has to be or is most felt when it's written from the heart. Translating it from your brain to paper, to a microphone through cables, interfaces onto a computer with the right accompanied instrumentation is a huge process. But when thinking too much about all of the things involved—including self judgment, who I am, is that word there a good choice—when you're in flow, we need to get out of our own head and out of our own way and simply keep writing.
Writer's block is manmade. If it's not working for you, have a cold shower, go outside, get a new perspective, start another song. Often songs don't come together till later. And yet, it is easy to inspire yourself when you think you may need it. Go to YouTube, type in drumbeat and get something fresh into your brain. But, mostly it's about letting go of all judgment, and just keep writing.
There are many ways to find work flow in writing. One to look up is Taylor Swift's method. Quite systematic and works. But my main advice is get out of your own way and let it flow the way that only you do. And feel relaxed and trust yourself that if you want to fix things later, that they will be. Write your version of the story. Keep it simple.”
Tommy Gielingh, Singer-songwriter, Arist, Entrepreneur
“You don't need to strain your brain searching for the right word, or settle on a mediocre choice. Use available resources, such as thesaurus.com and rhymezone.com. to find a creative way to express your thoughts.”
Gia Gallagher, Singer-songwriter
“I've found out that I can't make things up in my songs. I can make it up in my stories and poems, but my songs force me to be truthful. However, I mustn't be writing from my own perspective, sometimes I feel someone else's pains or fears deeply enough to use their emotions to write a song, but it's got to be without any ‘additional flavors’.
So my advice is to write something you feel deeply enough about that you want to share. Sometimes you may get a line first. Don't ignore the line because it's just a line, write it down or record. When the other lines are ready to come, they will come.”
Nmesoma Okechukwu, Singer-songwriter
“There is more than one method to write a song. Do your research and see how other artists put a song together, but you need to find a way that works for you.
As I haven't been playing guitar long, I find it easier to create a backing track and structure for a whole song first. Structure meaning verse, chorus, verse, etc. Then I press record on my phone and see what lyrics and tunes happen. You can swipe these roles around and have a tune with lyrics first, then create music to go with it. Or if you just write songs and don't sing, you may need to collaborate with other people.
Either way, try lots of different approaches and see which way you create your favorite song. All the best!
Becca Huggett, Singer-Songwriter
“Give yourself permission to write a bad one. If it is bad, at least you’ve started the creative process, and, who knows, it might turn out to be excellent.”
Jenny Gaunt, Musician
“To write about what you're feeling inside, or about day to day experiences, because the song will be so much more meaningful and powerful.”
Emma Marshall, Singer-songwriter
“Collaboration is key!”
Mark Johnson, Singer-Songwriter
“If you feel words coming to you, just write them down and don’t block the flow by worrying about structure or if it makes sense. Just let it flow to paper, and organize your thoughts later.”
Jill F, Singer-songwriter, Jack of All Trades
“Don't feel pressed. For instance, turn on the TV without sound, pick your guitar (in my case) and let yourself go free of thoughts. Then it will happen…”
Luiz Delfim, Songwriter
“Use your notepad and your voice recorder on your phone to capture ideas, lines, hooks. Don’t rely on your memory.
Regularly harvest these ideas and see what fits. I write them down as it helps me visualize the song structure. I’m very visual.
Don’t wait till the muse is gone to record her inspiration, even if it’s 3 am. Don’t be afraid to rewrite and practice it and polish before giving up on a song. If you do give up on a song, recycle it into another form.”
Ronald Cordy, Singer-songwriter
“Keep writing and finish songs. I see a lot of new songwriters just not finish songs. Partly out of fear that they aren't good enough, but also because they're perfectionists and are afraid that they're not really done. But you've got to finish a song to really be able to go in and assess whether it's any good—or more importantly—if you LIKE it. Because 'good' is subjective.
It's really about whether you like what you're writing and that it moves you. Because if it moves you, it will probably move someone else :) And the perfectionist thing, yeah, it's a heavy burden, but if you never finish, you'll never put any music out into the world.
So often, good and done is really enough. I'm not saying don't try your best, but your 'best' will change over time. And we need music and art in our world. A lot of music.”
Kat Reinhert, Singer-Songwriter, Artist,Vocalist, Educator
“Learn from others, but don't compare yourself!”
Marissa Lundsten, Singer-songwriter
“Writing songs can be easy, but let's remember good songs always go down well with listeners.”
Dela Dem, Singer-Songwriter
“Don't let perfect be the enemy of done. Finish songs even if you are in the middle of it. Better to write 30 songs for an album and throw half of it away than overthink every part of it. You get more input if you start the process over and over.”
Michi Circus, Musician, Composer
“Start small, it can grow from there.”
Penny White, Songwriter, Vocalist
Thank you to these wonderful artists for sharing their experience and words of wisdom.
Building upon your musical ideas to write your own songs is a fun adventure—hopefully these tips have given you some ideas for lyric writing or coming up with riffs and song titles, or how to approach your writing process in general. Maybe it'll just help get you out of a rut :)
I know it's common to compare ourselves to what we imagine are the best songwriters when we're writing a new song—Grammy winners with hit songs, or the greats like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan who who've written some of the "best songs of all time".
But writing an entire song from your experience creates a wonderful gift of art and perspective for other people. So keep writing that next song—as long as your songs feel true to you, you're a good songwriter.
Go forth and write great songs!