The future of music

20 Songwriting Tips That Actually Work

August 4, 2023
songwriting tips

Every songwriter has their own process of writing songs, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

However, there are certain steps you can take to improve your songwriting process.

So in today’s article, we bring you the best songwriting tips that turned out to be effective for many people.

One thing is for sure – these tips and tricks will help you get things started and ultimately make your songwriting process more exciting and rewarding.

1. Learn how to play an instrument 

Many songwriters start out as musicians. 

And although knowing how to play an instrument isn’t a prerequisite for being a songwriter, it certainly helps.

The thing is, if you want to write songs from scratch, you need to understand melodies, rhythm, chords, and many other musical concepts.

In other words, you need to understand music.

And one of the best ways to understand music is to take music lessons.

Most songwriters learn how to play piano or guitar, and they also take basic music theory lessons.

Luckily, it’s rather easy to learn how to play guitar or piano nowadays – with a variety of online music courses and apps, you can do it in a convenient and affordable way.

However, acquiring music skills takes time and practice.

But in the beginning, mastering the basics will be enough. 

You’ll be surprised how many popular songs are written with just a few simple guitar chords


With basic musical knowledge, you’ll be able to write songs more efficiently.

You’ll know how to combine chords, create memorable rhythms, and create catchy melodies. 

So, choose your instrument and learning source, and start working on your music skills and musicality. 

2. Make a plan

If you want to become good at songwriting, you need to learn how to organize your songwriting process.

In fact, you always need to decide where to start.

And whether you want to start with a melody or chords is entirely up to you.

Deciding where to start with writing a song might be tricky for beginners – it might take you a while to figure out what works for you.

So, keep exploring different ways of writing a song, and eventually you’ll know how and where to begin. 

The important thing is to make a plan beforehand so you don’t feel lost or overwhelmed.

3. Compose catchy melodies

Needless to say, developing a good melody is crucial.

The thing is, many popular songs have similar chord progressions – and as we mentioned before, many songs use the same basic guitar chords.

And what makes those songs sound memorable and catchy are their melodies.

Now, there are many ways to write a melody – some songwriters focus solely on the melody, and others write the melody, chords, and lyrics simultaneously.

Another great way to approach writing melodies is to improvise.

If you know how to play guitar, piano, or some other instrument, you can play different notes and chord progressions, try to come up with a melody that feels authentic and memorable, and write it down.

Alternatively, you can approach it in a more structured way and write the chorus melody first and then write the verses and pre-choruses that fit the chorus melody. 

You can also play around in your DAW’s piano roll – a grid used to create and edit melodies.

Either way, as a songwriter, you need to understand melody, and that includes becoming familiar with its elements such as pitch and duration.

And that’s precisely why taking music theory lessons would benefit you greatly.

4. Create a good rhythm

Apart from good melodies, you also need to come up with a memorable rhythm.

To add rhythm to your song, you can use digital tools, loops, and virtual instruments, or if you have the necessary skills, you can play drums.

In any case, before creating a rhythm for your song, you should learn common rhythm patterns and generally improve your rhythm.

You can practice with a metronome and practice playing before and after the beat, for example.


Moreover, you should listen to your favorite songs and pay attention to their rhythm patterns.

And what type of rhythm you will come up with also depends on your genre and the vibe of your song.

For instance, melancholic, sentimental, or dreamy songs tend to have a slower rhythm.

But at the same time, try not to get stuck in the rules of writing a song.

Sometimes mixing it up and doing something unexpected might be exactly what your song needs. 

5. Build your song around a riff

Many songwriters decide to build their songs around a riff.

So, whether you’re playing guitar or piano, you should come up with a powerful riff that will define your song.

Now, whether your riff will carry your song depends on the genre as well as the mood you want to create.

Some songs are instantly recognizable because of their iconic guitar riff.

So, you can listen to the greatest guitar riffs of all time to get inspired.

6. Come up with a hook 

Sometimes guitar riffs act as a hook for the song.

Hooks are a crucial part of the song, especially if you want to create an earworm.

But a hook can be anything from a chord progression to a catchy beat or a short line – anything that will grab your listener’s attention.

It’s a part of the song or a detail that will make your song engaging and memorable.

And honestly, coming up with a good hook is not easy – everyone would be producing hits otherwise.

Nevertheless, you can listen to popular tunes and try to figure out what works and why.

In most cases, a hook is a combination of a melody and lyrics.

7. Start with what you know 

Whether you want to write a killer song hook, a memorable rhythm, or beautiful song lyrics, you should start with what you know.

This is probably one of the most common tips for songwriting.

But it’s here for a reason.

As a songwriter, you want to write a song that resonates with many people.

And the only way to do it is to use your own experiences.

You don’t have to write anything personal or emotional – you just need to write about something you’re familiar with.

Or even better, you should write about a topic you’re passionate about.

That said, make a list of the topics, concepts, and ideas you’re interested in, and decide what your song is going to be about. 

book and pencil

If you believe in your music and the message you want to convey, other people will recognize it and a certain number of them will undoubtedly identify with it.

8. Keep it simple 

Although this songwriting advice might seem a little trivial, you should definitely try to keep things simple.

Follow your creative intuition and don’t stress over details. 

Of course, you’ll want your track to be the best it can be.

You’ll edit it properly, polish it, and prepare it for distribution.

However, try not to overthink it – especially when it comes to writing your first songs.

It takes time and practice to acquire songwriting skills and learn composition, so don’t worry if you’re not satisfied with your songs right away.

Many songwriters (most songwriters, in fact) have to go through a bunch of bad songs to get to the good ones. 

So, don’t rush things, take your time, and trust the process.

9. Try different tools 

As a beginner producer, you’ll use basic production tools and a beginner-friendly DAW. 

A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is where production takes place – it’s a piece of software that producers use to create, record, and edit audio files.

Regardless of what DAW you opt for, take your time to become comfortable with it.

You can watch YouTube tutorials or even consider taking an online production course that will help you learn more about your DAW. 

But as you gain more experience, you should expand your knowledge and use different tools in your music-making process. 

Many producers even use multiple DAWs to produce tracks.

Besides, using different tools will make your songwriting process interesting and more creative. 

On the other hand, having too many options can also be overwhelming, so it also wouldn’t be a bad idea to decide exactly what tools you’re going to use and focus on using them in the most efficient way. 

10. Explore different song structures

Just as you should try different tools for making music, you should also learn different song structures.

A typical song structure includes a verse, chorus, and bridge, in the following arrangement: intro, verse – chorus – verse- chorus – bridge – chorus – outro.

If you’re just starting out with songwriting, this typical arrangement will help you build a foundation.

But when you feel ready, you should mix it up and explore less common song structures.

This way, you’ll probably create something that’s more unique, but you’ll also improve your songwriting skills.

And if you come to the conclusion that you prefer a standard song structure, that’s great – but it’s important to practice and explore different ways of writing songs first. 

11. Experiment with genres and styles 

And the same goes for different music genres and styles.

If you want to know how to become a good songwriter, the answer is quite simple: you need to practice.

But practicing also entails writing different types of songs, exploring genres, and getting out of your comfort zone.

woman playing ukelele

There are many music genres you can explore, and each music genre comes with specific characteristics – a genre can be defined by special musical techniques, themes, or even mood and types of lyrics.

That said, you should get to know the genre you’re interested in, but you should also experiment with similar genres and styles.

This will ultimately make you a better songwriter and a more complete musician.

12. Practice regularly

You’re probably familiar with the saying that practice makes perfect.

But in this case, practice will make you a better songwriter.

You don’t need to write perfect songs – what is a perfect song anyway?

You just need to establish a regular practice routine and hone your skills.

For instance, you can incorporate short writing exercises into your daily routine – this can entail anything from jotting down ideas to setting a time limit to write a song. 

Choosing a word and writing the lyrics is also a nice exercise. 

You can also choose a character and change your perspective – this is a fun songwriting exercise as well as a good way to find fresh ideas. 

At the end of the day, you need to find a way to practice that works for you – a way that makes you feel productive and inspired.

The most important thing is to make writing a habit.

If you want to make it in the music industry, inspiration is important, but hard work is crucial. 

Also, try to remove all distractions while practicing.

Although many songwriters write songs literally everywhere – in cars and in planes – you should have a peaceful and efficient workspace. 

And if you’re having a hard time maintaining focus, you can try out the Pomodoro technique – this popular technique breaks down work into 25-minute intervals, followed by a 5-minute break.

13. Take breaks

Speaking of breaks – although it’s essential to practice regularly, you also need to know when to step away for a bit.

It’s okay to take a break.

In fact, taking long breaks will ultimately make you more productive and creative.

Writing songs is a creative process, and you can’t get good ideas and inspiration if you’re constantly focused on your practice or getting things done.

Also, when you finish a song, leave it alone for a while (a month, maybe) – and when you come back to it, you’ll be able to look at it from a different angle and perhaps notice some things you didn’t notice before.

More importantly, if you take a break from songwriting, you’ll be able to realize what truly matters to you.

If you’re passionate about music and writing, coming back to your practice routine will feel like a need rather than an obligation. 

14. Write everything down

Another important tip for writing good songs is to write everything down.

Carry a notebook with you if you can, and write down everything that comes to your mind and intrigues you in some way.

Even if you just come up with a vague idea of what you want to write about – write it down.

This way, when you decide to take some time to sit down, brainstorm, and write a song, you’ll already have some ideas and concepts to play with. 

Besides ideas and concepts, you should also write down words that sound nice, rhymes, names, or places. 

All of these bits and pieces can become your song’s title, a chorus, or a verse. 

a woman writing on her notebook with a cup of coffee

Lyric writing can be really challenging, especially if you’re not sure where to start.

But if you keep a songwriting journal, it will be easier for you to choose the topic of your song.

Moreover, it will help you determine what you want to get across in your lyrics.

Songs can be based on specific ideas and messages, but they can also convey a feeling, a vibe, or a strong visual image. 

Picking a song title first also helps sometimes. 

It all depends on what kind of music you want to make – either way, your notebook will give you a good insight into what truly interests and intrigues you. 

15. Work with others

Lyric writing and composing is a very personal project.

However, you should think about working with others as well.

Collaborating with other musicians and songwriters will help you gain a fresh perspective and new ideas.

Plus, you never know what’s gonna come out of it – many hit songs are written by a team of songwriters.

So, whenever you feel a bit stuck and don’t know how to have a creative and productive songwriting session, working with others might be a great idea.

16. Learn your genre

One of the best songwriting tips you can get is to learn your genre.

This entails listening to a lot of music, exploring more about your favorite artists, and paying attention to details.

You need to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and you should try to determine what you personally like about a certain verse, chorus, or lyric hook.

Immerse yourself in the genre, and learn more about other genres and styles as well.

This way, you can blend different genres.

You can also break the rules, challenge yourself, and think outside the box – you can create something truly unique.

But you need to learn the rules before you can break them. 

17. Find your style

If you write as often as possible and keep exploring new styles and genres, you’ll eventually start developing your own songwriting style.

This should happen naturally and organically, but you should also try to notice the patterns in your songs.

a person playing piano

Finding your own way of writing songs will help you go through the whole songwriting process in a more enjoyable and efficient way.

But finding your own style also entails developing a specific way of approaching music.

Many successful songwriters have signature writing styles – whether it’s lyrics, rhythm, or emotions, there’s something in their songs that makes them immediately recognizable.

That said, if you want to enter the music industry and become a famous songwriter, building your personal style is essential as it will help you promote yourself as a songwriter more effectively.

18. Don’t wait for inspiration

One of the ways of developing your own style of writing songs is to think about what truly inspires you.

Without a doubt, inspiration is a crucial part of every creative process.

And you never know when the inspiration is going to hit you and what or who will nudge you to come up with a new idea for a song.

However, even the most experienced songwriters go through writer’s block. 

If you want to become a songwriter, you have to be ready for those days when you’re just staring at a blank paper and waiting for the words to come to you… but they just don’t.

And one of the most common ways to overcome writer’s block is to simply take a break and step away.

Some writers or songwriters prefer to do something else, take a hike, read, or talk to people.

However, some songwriters deal with it in a way that they just keep writing.

In fact, this is probably the best way to defeat writer’s block.

The thing is, writing good songs requires a lot of patience and dedication – it’s hard work, especially if you want to get it right.

Sure, you always hear about a hit song being written in 5 minutes – and while that’s doable for experienced songwriters and some lucky exceptions, many songwriters don’t work that way.

But the most successful fiction writers and songwriters finish their work because they are consistent and persistent.

Consistency is the key.

So, don’t wait for inspiration – work and write to find it instead.

And if you feel stuck, you can improvise, follow your stream of consciousness, or do writing exercises.

Finally, if you develop a daily writing habit, you’ll eventually learn how to overcome writer’s block or any other obstacle without hassle.

19. Read and listen 

Another important tip for writing songs is to listen to music.

Of course, if songwriting is your hobby or your career goal, you’re probably listening to a lot of music already.

However, you should listen to some songs more actively – pay attention to rhythm patterns, rhymes, lyrics, sounds… 

Write down what you like and what you don’t like about a certain song.

Furthermore, you should also read – read books and poems and read them in the language in which you normally write.

A room full of book and a girl thinking a lyrics to her song.

Reading will help you expand your vocabulary – and that’s crucial for writing songs.

But reading will also inspire you and help you think about different ideas, emotions, and concepts.

Reading will benefit you in many other ways as well; it will boost your creativity, improve your cognitive skills, and increase your empathy.

20. Ask for feedback 

It’s easy to get so caught up in writing a song that you start believing you’re working on the next timeless classic.

However, it’s important to look at your track objectively – and if you’ve been working on a song for some time, that’s nearly impossible.

Therefore, it would be a good idea to ask for feedback.

Send your song to a friend or perform it live and wait for their response.

It would also be good to send your music to someone from the industry – they can give you valuable tips on how to improve your song and perhaps forward your song to someone else if that’s what you want.

Either way, constructive feedback, and someone else’s honest opinion can be life-changing for you as a songwriter.

But it’s also important to learn to judge which comment is helpful and which isn’t – ultimately, you need to agree with someone’s advice (at some level) to be able to apply it and work on your music to make it better.

At the end of the day, you need to be ready to accept criticism – it’s part of the job.

The most important thing is to not let it hurt you if it’s too negative.

And if it’s constructive and helpful, you need to use it to your advantage.

Is Songwriting a Skill or a Talent? 

Many people searching for songwriting tips that actually work also wonder if they will ever become skilled songwriters.

And the truth is, anyone can learn how to write songs.

Songwriting is an innate talent as well as a learnable skill.

Some people have a talent for music and/or writing lyrics, and they can come up with innovative ideas more easily.

On the other hand, it’s hard to succeed in the music industry no matter how talented you are.

If you want to become a famous songwriter, you need to put the work in – there’s no shortcut to success.

room with guitar microphone piano earphone and books

Every successful artist you know has their own story and background, but all of them have one thing in common – they are persistent, and they have clear goals.

Even if you just want to improve your skills so you can write songs for your own enjoyment, you’ll have to be ready to learn.

And you can learn and enhance your skills in so many ways nowadays – you can choose from online songwriting and composition courses, music apps, freelancing websites, and so on.

You can even learn how to play an instrument online, or even consider enrolling in a music study program if you feel more ambitious.

In any case, learning the craft of songwriting should be exciting, creative, and rewarding, and you should do what feels right for you.

Songwriting Tips – Final Thoughts 

Songwriting is a challenging process, but it’s also a very rewarding one.

And as with other skills, learning how to write good songs takes a lot of time and practice.

That said, writing regularly is one of the most important universal songwriting tips.

Write often, carry a notebook with you, and don’t wait for inspiration, but also don’t forget to take a break. 

Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles, work with others, and ask for feedback.

Eventually, you’ll develop your own unique style and methods, and the whole songwriting process will become even more exciting and enjoyable.

You may also like: How to Write a Song

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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