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5 Common Songwriting Mistakes

by | Master Your Craft, Songwriters

Songwriting is an incredibly dense, diverse, and magical craft. Many songwriters tend to fall into certain counterproductive habits that either hinder their songwriting or make the experience less enjoyable. In today’s article, we’ve rounded up some of the most common mistakes songwriters can make while creating. These mistakes can be caused by numerous influences – from your environment to your daily routines or rituals. However, the first step to solving the problem is recognizing it, and you might pick up a piece of yourself in the list below. 

Off The Record

One of the most common mistakes that songwriters make is not keeping a record of all their ideas. Many producers and writers rely on spontaneous inspiration to generate their compositions. While this technique might be fulfilling, it’s not necessarily consistent. Inspiration itself is fickle, and creatives need to be prepared for when the well runs dry. 

Try to get into the habit of keeping track of all your song ideas. If you’re a lyricist, keep a notebook on hand and write down any phrases or rhyme schemes as they come to you. You can also keep a voice recorder close by to sing any melodies or hooks you think up for later use. By keeping a collection of your ideas, you’ll train yourself to turn your sketches into completed arrangements. You’ll also have a healthy ammo of different ideas stashed if you ever get stuck during writing sessions. 

Information Overload

Many songwriters often become discouraged during the creative process by overwhelming themselves with too much to accomplish. A completed song usually requires a potentially complex set of rhythms, chords, melodies, and lyrics, all constructed on various instruments. It’s rare that even the most virtuous composers and producers consistently finish an entire song in one sitting on their own, which is probably for the best. 

When constructing your songs, decide which sections are the most crucial for acquiring your primary idea. Try not to think of completing the entire song and focus instead on exploring each creative idea that comes to you in the present moment. This mindset will help prevent you from becoming discouraged when your creativity runs short and motivate you to return to any unfinished song ideas for completion. 

The Lonely Island

Yes, it is possible to write, arrange, compose and play every instrument on an album. Songwriters like Stevie Wonder and Kevin Parker of Tame Impala fall into the category of people that have completed this mammoth task. However, these people also finished their works with the backing of a record label. They were surrounded by a community of well-studied and equally talented musicians advising their creative choices. 

Many songwriters think that the best way to complete a song or album is to carry the load of all the creative choices. While this method may ensure that you can have meticulous control over every aspect of your music, it can also easily cause creative burnout. Some of the world’s most memorable recordings were started by one person and completed by a team of trusted colleagues on the same page. The more knowledge and skills you outsource, the higher your caliber of creativity can grow. Let’s imagine that you’re great at chord structure but aren’t particularly good at drum parts. Find another musician who has these skills and have them workshop your rhythm, parts. Allowing others into your creative world will only gain you more knowledge, resources, and experience that you can apply to your songs endlessly. 

Off-Topic

Songwriting and storytelling go hand in hand. As the author of a good novel, your task as a songwriter is to make the experience of the song as relatable to the listeners as possible. Any song that tends to have too many complex arrangements, layers, or lyrical concepts can lose the listener’s interest, especially if they are unfamiliar with your work. Strong songs have a definitive concept like a good movie, and the composition is arranged to enhance and support that concept. 

For example, if you’re writing a slow ballad about a sad memory, it may detract from the song to include a random section with happier chords and lyrics. This concept does not apply to all songs, but it will help listeners settle into what you have to say. Try to keep your song ideas concise and straightforward, and you’ll find that your compositions will end up with some added cohesion. 

The Flatline

Any good story has defined sections, and songwriting is no different. You need to provide a sense of dynamic in your song to help enhance your overall idea. Significant sections need to sound big, and quiet sections need to sound quiet. If you can’t tell the difference between sections of your songs, your entire song will lack impact, and you’re more likely to lose the listener’s interest.

Make sure that your composition has a beginning, a middle, and an ending – the latter of which should be well defined. More often than not, the overall impact of a song is measured by how strongly an act finishes it and a strong chorus or hook that sticks in the listener’s mind. These components are usually the first to come to creatives, so lean into this intuition when coming up with arrangements and lyrical concepts. 

Final Thoughts

There is no such thing as the perfect song, and songwriters will benefit from knowing that the practice has no winner’s podium to compete for. More than anything, good songwriters know how to routinely self-explore and are well-practiced in mapping out their safest routes to create consistency. Remember to make an effort to enjoy the process of songwriting and try to stick to the music and ideas that feel authentic to you. Thanks for reading through our list of common songwriting mistakes.

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