The Five Pillars Of The Songwriting Process

NB: Republished with permission from Corey Stewart Online

A process is defined as “… a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular goal.” As for a songwriting process, that goal is of course the completion of a song from start to finish.

Songs are what makes this music industry go round and the more that songwriters are encouraged, educated and most importantly, empowered about their own creative workflow, the better off this music business will be.

How you write your songs, from the initial spark of a songwriting idea to the final stroke of your pen, all comes down to how you work your creative process.

Now, there are as many variations to the songwriting process as there are songwriters in the world; however, I sincerely believe that all of this can be distilled into five pillars of a songwriting process.

How effective your songwriting is depends on how you handle these five pillars which create the foundation of your songwriting process.

Below is an outline of the five pillars…

  1. The Songwriter:

The first pillar of the songwriting process starts with the songwriter themselves.

Every song begins with an individual’s inspiration, motivation, and personal experiences therefore, maintaining a healthy state of mental, physical, and spiritual health is fundamental.

When the songwriter is healthy in mind, body and spirit, they are in a better position to translate their thoughts and feelings into lyrics and melody.

Moreover, the songwriter’s mindset and environment significantly impact the songwriting process. Their thoughts, moods, and the physical surroundings can all influence the style and substance of the song hence, finding an environment that nurtures creativity and aligns with the songwriter’s comfort is crucial for the successful genesis of a song.

  1. The Foundation:

The second pillar involves creating an environment and process that fosters creativity and inspiration.

It’s about building a structure that can accommodate the spontaneous nature of inspiration because songwriting often springs from moments of inspiration that can occur at any time, thus having a system that allows for these moments to be captured is vital.

This means setting up a workspace that encourages focus, equipping it with the necessary tools, and arranging your schedule to allow time for creativity.

Whether this means having a quiet home studio or working in bustling public spaces, the important thing is to build a foundation that aligns with your creative style and rhythm.

  1. The Creation:

The third pillar focuses on the process of transforming an initial idea into a song.

This can be an emotional experience as it involves pouring personal feelings, ideas, and narratives into a coherent structure of verses, choruses, and bridges. It’s about bringing something into existence from nothing.

Each songwriter’s creation process is unique. Some might start with a melody, some with a lyric, and others might begin with a chord progression or a rhythm.

This pillar encourages songwriters to explore different methods and to find a process that best resonates with them.

  1. The Revision:

The fourth pillar involves the revision and refinement of the song after it has been written.

This process is crucial to ensuring the song’s quality, and it involves scrutinising the song, editing out any unnecessary parts, and refining the lyrics and melodies.

The revision phase is also about knowing when to stop refining. A songwriter needs to recognise when their song has reached its full potential.

This pillar allows songwriters to engage with their inner critic in a positive way, refining their song without letting self-doubt hinder their creative process.

  1. The Business:

The fifth and final pillar concerns the business side of songwriting. After a song is finished, it’s important to think about its purpose.

Is the completed song for the songwriter to perform at gigs? Is it for another artist? Could it be licensed for use in film or advertising? Or, was it merely (and just as importantly) a therapeutic endeavour?

This pillar requires a strategic mindset, understanding that songwriting is not just an art but also a business. It requires an understanding of the music industry, copyrights, and song placements.

This doesn’t mean losing the love for the craft; rather, it’s about finding the best platform for your work to be heard and appreciated.

If you pay attention to and integrate these five pillars into your songwriting process you’ll find that you’ll be a more productive, efficient, creative and self aware songwriter.

What you’ll find is that you will finish more songs than you start and you’ll not be afraid of songwriters’ block, procrastination, the blank page or your inner critic.

In fact, they will all become your friends.

These five pillars are a work in progress and I intend to explore the many facets of these five pillars through created and curated content in future posts, so if you have any questions you want answered regarding your songwriting process or, you have your own experiences you want to share, please let me know.

12 Ways To Greatly Enhance Your Songwriting Process

I realised a long time ago that when it comes to the songwriting process there’s no such thing as the perfect way of writing songs, it can always be improved upon.

Listed below are twelve ways in which I think you can enhance, improve and eventually master your songwriting process.

Even if you implement just one of these suggestions you will be well on your way to writing more songs and generally being more creative with your life.

Here they are in no particular order of importance:

  1. Always keep a journal:

Journaling is an essential part of the songwriting process. Keeping a journal allows you to capture your thoughts, feelings, and observations in real-time. It’s a place where you can freely express what’s on your mind and heart.

This documentation of your personal experiences can create a rich well of inspiration from which to draw ideas for songs. Over time, you’ll find that even the most ordinary experiences can serve as the basis for extraordinary songs.

  1. Always make time for you:

One of the most common challenges songwriters face is finding the time to write. Balancing work, family, and other commitments can be tough, but it’s important to carve out a special time in your day dedicated solely to songwriting.

Consistency helps, and even if you can spare only a few minutes each day, the cumulative effect can be significant. Making time for songwriting not only enhances your skills but also affirms your identity as a songwriter.

  1. Use all of your senses in your song lyrics:

Song lyrics should engage the listener on multiple levels, and this includes the sensory level. When writing lyrics, try to include elements that relate to sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.

By incorporating sensory details into your writing, your lyrics become more vivid and evocative, helping to create a deeper connection with the listener. This technique enhances the emotional impact of your songs and helps listeners to fully engage with your music.

  1. Become perpetually curious with the world:

Curiosity is a songwriter’s best friend. The world is full of stories, experiences, and ideas just waiting to be discovered. Maintaining a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world can infuse your songwriting with fresh perspectives and inspiration.

Try new things, ask questions, engage with different cultures and ideas, and don’t be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone. These experiences provide rich fodder for songwriting and can help you find unique and compelling song ideas.

  1. Tame your inner voice:

Your inner voice can be your greatest ally or your worst enemy. It can be filled with self-doubt, fear, and negativity that hinder your creative process. But remember, it’s merely a voice; it’s up to you to decide how much power to give it.

The key is to recognise when your inner voice is holding you back and learn ways to quiet it or refocus its message. Trust in your abilities as a songwriter, and let the creativity flow.

  1. Don’t be afraid of your own writing:

Not every song you write will be a hit, and that’s okay. Part of the creative process involves trying things that might not work out. It’s through these experiments that you discover new techniques, styles, and ideas.

Don’t be discouraged by the songs you deem as ‘bad’; instead, view them as stepping stones towards the ‘good’ songs. Each piece you write, regardless of the outcome, contributes to your development as a songwriter.

  1. Listen to lots of music/read lots of books:

Broadening your musical and literary horizons can significantly enrich your songwriting. Listening to a wide variety of music introduces you to different musical structures and melodic combinations.

Similarly, reading widely exposes you to different writing styles, narratives, and linguistic expressions. All of these can spark new ideas and help you refine your own songwriting style.

  1. Learn other people’s songs:

Learning to play or sing other artists’ songs can offer valuable insights into the mechanics of songwriting. It allows you to understand why certain songs resonate with you and others don’t.

By dissecting your favourite songs, you can explore their structures, chord progressions, lyrical choices, and more. This understanding can then inform your own songwriting, helping you to craft songs that resonate with others in a similar way.

  1. Find and know thyself:

Authenticity is crucial in songwriting. The most memorable songs come from a place of truth and personal experience. By knowing who you are, your beliefs, passions, fears, and experiences, you can write songs that are genuine and emotionally compelling.

This self-awareness allows you to avoid clichés and instead create lyrics that reflect your unique perspective.

  1. Don’t throw anything away…EVER!:

Every idea, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can hold potential. Something you wrote months or even years ago could suddenly take on new relevance or inspire a fresh idea.

Keep all your notes, drafts, and even those scraps of paper with a single line on them. Remember, your opinion of your work can change over time, and what you once dismissed as ‘rubbish’ might later prove to be a gem.

  1. Join a songwriting community (or two):

Being part of a songwriting community can be incredibly beneficial. It provides opportunities to learn from others, share your work, and receive constructive feedback.

This supportive environment can help build your confidence and develop your skills. Moreover, knowing that you’re not alone in your creative struggles and triumphs can be a significant source of motivation and inspiration.

  1. Find a songwriting collaborator (or two):

Collaboration can be a powerful tool in songwriting. Working with another songwriter can provide a fresh perspective, spur creativity, and help you learn new techniques.

A collaborator can challenge you, inspire you, and push you to create your best work. Moreover, the process of bouncing ideas back and forth can lead to innovative concepts that you might not have thought of on your own.

Every songwriter should have at least one songwriting collaborator in their contacts list

Phew! There you go. What do you think of this list? Is there anything that I have missed out and needs to be added? If you have any experiences after applying any of these suggestions (positive or negative) or, you have other suggestions that need to be added to this list, let me know.

Finding Your Muse: 20 Proven Strategies To Begin Your Song

Songwriting can be a magical experience, a form of expression where stories, emotions, and thoughts meld into harmonies and lyrics. However, getting started can often be the most challenging part.

To help you overcome this creative hurdle, we’ve compiled a list of 20 proven strategies to kickstart your songwriting process. Each technique offers a unique pathway to musical creation – the aim is to find the one that resonates with you.

Understanding the Songwriting Process

Before we dive into the strategies, let’s first understand the songwriting process. A song typically comprises melody, harmony, rhythm, and lyrics.

The melody is the tune you hum, the harmony supports the melody, the rhythm is the beat that drives the music, and the lyrics are the words that tell the story. Above all, creativity and personal expression are at the heart of this process.

The 20 Proven Strategies

Personal Experience: Start by mining your personal experiences for song ideas. Everything that’s happened to you, the emotions you’ve felt, and the people you’ve met are all rich sources of inspiration.

This kind of authenticity can lead to songs that deeply resonate with listeners because of their universal human themes. It also allows you to write with genuine emotion, adding another layer of depth to your music.

Melody First: If melodies often play in your mind, this might be your route into songwriting. Allow your musical imagination to roam free and start by humming or playing melodies on your instrument.

After you’ve come up with a melody that stirs you, build the rest of your song around it. Crafting a strong, memorable melody first can provide a robust backbone for the rest of the song to develop around.

Lyrics First: For those more comfortable with words, you may prefer to start by writing your lyrics. Write freely, letting your thoughts and feelings flow. Don’t worry about rhyming or rhythm at this stage, just focus on getting your ideas down.

Once you’ve got your lyrics, you can then craft a melody that fits the rhythm and mood of your words. This can result in a very cohesive song where the melody and lyrics perfectly complement each other.

Song Title First: Using a title as your starting point provides a clear direction for your song. It can help you maintain a consistent theme, making the writing process smoother.

Consider the emotions, stories, or images that the title evokes in you and use these as jumping-off points for your lyrics and melody. A strong title can also be very marketable, grabbing potential listeners’ attention.

Collaborate: Collaborating with another songwriter can offer new perspectives and push you to write in ways you wouldn’t on your own. Your collaborator may bring different skills or styles to the table, resulting in a richer and more diverse song.

A partner can also offer immediate feedback, helping you refine your ideas on the spot. Collaborating can be a fun, fulfilling, and productive way to write songs.

Improvisation: Don’t underestimate the power of improvisation. Let your fingers wander on your instrument, or hum random melodies, or spout spontaneous lyrics. You might stumble upon something surprisingly good.

Improvisation fosters a free and open creative environment, often leading to unique and innovative musical ideas. It taps into your subconscious, bypassing your internal critic and allowing pure creativity to flow.

Start with a Rhythm/Beat: In many music genres, rhythm is king. Starting with a compelling rhythm or beat can set a strong foundation for your song. Experiment with different drum patterns, percussive sounds, or rhythmic strumming patterns on your guitar.

Once you’ve established a rhythm that you like, you can then build your melody and lyrics on top. This strategy is particularly effective for dance, hip-hop, or any rhythm-driven music genres.

Build a Song Around a Concept/Story: Some of the greatest songs tell compelling stories or explore interesting concepts. If you have an intriguing story to tell or a concept you want to explore, let it guide your songwriting process.

This can provide a clear structure for your song, with each verse telling a part of the story. It can also help ensure that your lyrics stay consistent and coherent throughout the song.

Musical Experimentation: Pushing the boundaries of conventional songwriting can lead to original and memorable songs. Try writing a song with an unusual chord progression, or use an unconventional song structure.

Incorporate unique instruments or sounds, or experiment with various music production techniques if you’re working with a digital audio workstation. This kind of experimentation can set your music apart and help you find your unique sound.

Start with a Chord Progression: Creating a unique and catchy chord progression is a common starting point for many songwriters. The mood and tension created by the chords can spark ideas for your melody and lyrics.

Experiment with different chord combinations until you find one that resonates with you, and let that be the base from which your song grows.

Write From Your Influences: Being influenced by your favorite songs, artists, or genres is a completely natural part of the songwriting process. Studying the work of others can lead to new insights and ideas.

Try figuring out what exactly you love about your favourite songs – is it the melody, the lyrics, the chord progression, or the rhythm? Incorporating these elements into your own work can help guide your songwriting process while also helping you to develop your unique sound.

Write From a Hook: A strong hook can be a very effective centrepiece for a song. This could be a catchy melody, a compelling lyrical idea, or a distinctive rhythmic pattern.

Once you have your hook, build the rest of your song around it, making sure that every element of the song supports and enhances it. A great hook can grab listeners’ attention and make your song memorable.

Write From a Lyric Phrase/Rhyme: A compelling phrase or interesting rhyme can be a great seed for a song. Let it evoke images, stories, or feelings in you, and use those to write your lyrics and melody.

Try to keep the mood and rhythm of the song consistent with the original phrase or rhyme, to create a cohesive and engaging song.

Write to a Specific Music Genre: Writing within a specific genre can provide a clear structure and set of conventions for your songwriting. It can also help you reach a specific target audience who enjoys that genre.

Whether it’s pop, rock, country, hip-hop, or jazz, each genre has its own unique characteristics and tropes that you can draw upon.

Use Nature or Your Surroundings: Your environment can be a rich source of inspiration for your songwriting. The sounds, sights, and feelings of a particular place can provide a unique mood for your song.

Try taking a walk in a park, sitting by a beach, or observing a bustling city street, and let your surroundings seep into your song. This can add a vivid sense of place and atmosphere to your music.

Use Art/Literature as Inspiration: Art, books, movies, and other forms of media can spark a plethora of song ideas. Try writing a song that responds to a theme or character in a book, or captures the mood of a painting.

This strategy can lead to songs that are rich in imagery and emotion, and it also allows you to engage in a dialogue with other art forms.

Use a Musical Motif/Riff: A musical motif – a short, recurring musical idea – can provide a unifying thread for your song. This could be a distinctive melody, rhythm, or chord progression. By developing and varying your motif throughout the song, you can create a sense of cohesion and development.

Set Some Musical Constraints: By setting certain boundaries, such as writing a song using only three chords, you can spur new levels of creativity. Constraints can force you to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions. Plus, they provide a clear structure to work within, which can make the songwriting process less daunting.

Write to a Brief: If inspiration doesn’t strike, set yourself a brief. This could include the song’s target audience, the subject, the intended emotional response, or specific musical features. A brief provides a clear direction for your songwriting and ensures your song serves a specific purpose.

Try Freewriting: This involves writing non-stop for a set period, ignoring any internal censor. It’s a great way to get past writer’s block and can lead to unexpected and exciting song ideas.

The aim is to let your subconscious take over, allowing you to tap into your deepest thoughts and emotions. Remember, you can always refine your ideas later, so don’t worry about perfection during the freewriting process.

In conclusion, finding your personal pathway into songwriting is a journey of exploration and discovery.

Try these 20 proven strategies to start your song and see which ones resonate with you. With each new song, you’re honing your skills, finding your voice, and sharing a piece of your world.

Remember, every song you write brings something unique and beautiful into existence.

Which of these strategies do you find most effective? Or do you have your own unique way of starting a song?

Share your experiences in the comments below. And if you found this article helpful, why not share it with your fellow songwriting friends?

Let’s all grow together in this musical journey. Happy songwriting!