Obviously, you’re not going to love every song you write, but the key to becoming a better songwriter is writing more and practicing your craft. In this blog, we’ll share some of our favorite tips for staying productive and making the most out of your time at home.
The harder it is for you to start creating, the less likely you are to do it. Make it as easy as possible on yourself to start writing and recording. Make sure all of your most-used instruments are tuned-up and ready to go. Leave a couple of microphones plugged in so you can quickly capture ideas or experiment with different instruments.
Another simple way to minimize your set up time is to make sure your studio or writing space is well-organized. By making sure you can easily find what you need when looking in your sample libraries and cable bins, you can spend less time setting up and more time creating.
Simple Tools, Simple Demos
Especially in these times where we are unable to get into traditional recording studios, it's truly important to have a way to get your ideas down fast. For some, that means a fully built out home studio, but for newcomers, it's important to have a simple way of recording your tracks.
Many pro audio brands have small desktop solutions for songwriting. There are too many to list here, but some of our best sellers include the iZotope Spire, Universal Audio Arrow, SSL 2+, Antelope Audio Discrete 4, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, and Apogee Symphony Desktop.
If you're looking for a simple grab and go package that has everything you need including microphones and monitors, check out our recent blog on bundles for recording and mixing at home.
How many times have you lost a great idea trying to figure out how to set things up in your DAW? By taking the time to learn the shortcuts in your DAW, you can significantly speed up your workflow, giving you more time to focus on creating.
Don’t be afraid to use DAW templates or plug-in presets as well. If you always use the same equipment when recording, this can be a great way to speed up your workflow.
Make Time For Practice
In order to improve your skills, you need to practice consistently. You can’t wait around for inspiration to strike, you need to set aside time each day to be creative. As the great Jack London once said, “You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
Finding inspiration is easier said than done. If you’re struggling to come up with new ideas, try taking a new approach. Try playing one of your favorite pieces on different instruments to see how they sound. Have you ever heard "Sweet Child O’ Mine" played on the piano?
Experimenting with new instruments could inspire you to hear the song in a whole new way, or write using an instrument you don’t usually write with. Don’t be afraid to get weird and experiment with new techniques. Change the key of the song, switch up the tempo, add in a second bridge, there are no rules!
Take Care of Yourself
You can’t expect to perform your best if you’re not well-rested, both literally and figuratively.
Get plenty of sleep and eat a balanced meal before your songwriting session. Maybe go for a walk or play some basketball. Make sure you’re in a good headspace by practicing yoga or meditation.
It may seem like a lot, but a healthy body and a clear mind will allow you to be more productive in the studio.
Distractions are the enemy of productivity. If you really want to get work done, eliminate every possible distraction. Turn off your phone, log out of social media, disable notifications on your computer, and get in the zone.
Don’t Cross the Streams
Far too many songwriting sessions have been stopped dead in their tracks due to perfectionism. People get a great idea and tweak it to death trying to make it sound perfect.
Try separating left and right brain tasks in the studio. During songwriting sessions, focus on the creative stuff; work on the lyrics, the performance, and the emotional content of the song.
Save the technical stuff like quantizing and EQing for the editing and mixing stages. Embrace the imperfection and know that you’ve set aside time to address these issues later.
Find What Works For You
Don’t go into every songwriting session trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, find a process that works for you and stick with it.
Maybe it’s starting with the lyrics, or the melody, or the chord progression. Or maybe you prefer to noodle around on the guitar until you find a riff that you find interesting. Whatever it is, just find a process that you’re comfortable with and use that as a starting point.
Having said that, don’t be afraid to pivot and move in new creative directions. Some of the greatest moments in music history came from happy accidents!
It may seem counterintuitive, but taking a 10 or 15-minute break every hour or so can really improve your productivity. It allows you to walk away from an idea and gain a fresh perspective so you don’t come down with demo-itis. It also helps prevent ear fatigue during long writing sessions.
Write Like No One Is Listening
Don’t be afraid to experiment with loops or samples. Have you seen the meme about the goat farmer?
There are no rules for expressing your creativity. If you go into a writing session with the mindset that every song is going to be your next single, you’re going to be a lot more critical of what you write.
Instead, go into each session with the mindset that no one will ever hear what you’re writing. Treat it as an exercise. That way, if you don’t like it at the end of the day, who cares? And if you do, all the better!
Find the Hidden Gem
The first iteration of an idea is rarely the best iteration of an idea. Don’t be afraid to edit! To help refine your ideas, try looping a section, and recording freeform. Just press record, start playing for a few minutes and see what happens.
Make note of any ideas that you like and listen back to pull out all of your best ideas. From here, you can combine snippets of your recording or record another pass and explore new ideas inspired by your favorite riffs and licks.
Go Big or Go Home
After capturing that initial spark of inspiration, it can be difficult to know where to take your song next. In these instances, I like to use one of two opposing production methods.
The first approach, I like to call “the kitchen sink method.” With this approach, you come up with an idea you like and keep adding more layers until you can’t add anything else without taking away from what is already there.
The other approach is the minimalist method. People who subscribe to this approach believe that a song is complete when there’s nothing left to take away. Try stripping down your productions to the bare minimum and shine a light on the elements that matter most in the track.
Try using these tips during your next songwriting session and see what you can come up with. Remember, don't get frustrated. We all have our off days, just keep working at it!