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10 Essential Songwriting Tips for Beginner Musicians

10 Essential Songwriting Tips for Beginner Musicians

One of the most jarring aspects of being an independent musician in the early days of your career relates to songwriting. So many emerging artists are intimidated by the songwriting part of being a musician, because they know that lyrics and storytelling are just as important as chords and melodies, but they feel it’s impossible to excel at both. 

Coming up with lyrics and stories that listeners can relate to and enjoy can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not a writer or have not done a lot of storytelling or wordplay before. However, with a lot of practice and some targeted guidance, you can craft persuasive lyrics that enhance the emotion of your songs and showcase your talent as a fully-rounded artist. What’s more, as a singer-songwriter, you will have more control of your own work and have an easier time navigating the complex universe of royalties and copyright management. But, where do you start?

1. Have a basic understanding of music theory

It goes without saying that having a bit of understanding of music theory can go a long way. Knowing your way around rhyme patterns and lyrical composition can help you make progress in your songwriting a lot faster, and can give you more confidence that you’re going in the right direction with your writing. Getting to know the circle of fifths can also help you merge your lyrics with catchy melodies and create songs that appeal to listeners. You can find numerous resources online on basic music theory, courses and tutorials on how to write songs as a beginner, so take some time to hone these skills and build up some confidence if you feel like you’re lacking in this area. 

2. Listen to a wide range of music

Another great way to learn about lyrics composition and songwriting is to listen to other artists, and pay attention to the lyrics, the way they flow with the music, and how they’re written. Don’t limit yourself to just one genre; instead, listen to a wide range of different music and see how different artists approach songwriting. Doing this will enhance and enrich your own knowledge of music and songwriting, and you’ll be able to find inspiration and unlock your imagination. That’s not saying you have to copy another artist’s lyrics, but you can be inspired and triggered to write something similar or employ a similar writing technique. If you can, check out videos of other musicians or writers talking about their songwriting process, and see if their strategies fit your style. 

3. Expand your vocabulary

If you want to become a prolific songwriter and create beautiful lyrics that inspire and touch the hearts of millions of listeners, it goes without saying that you’ll need a strong vocabulary. How do you achieve that? By reading, every day, as much as you can. Read novels, read poetry, read other artists’ lyrics, longform articles, whatever tickles your fancy. This will help you enrich your vocabulary and unlock your creativity, which in turn will help you become a better songwriter and find words and ideas for your lyrics much easier. If your plan is to gradually increase the depth and complexity of your lyrics, then you have to make sure that you read - and write - constantly. 

4. Make songwriting a daily habit

Besides setting time aside every day to read and enrich your vocabulary, you have to also work on practicing your writing skills. If you want to evolve as a songwriter, you have to take the time to write every day, because this is the only way to hone your skills and find new ideas, rhymes, or song structures. Make it a habit to write one song every day, setting aside a few hours at first, then trying to write faster and more efficiently. Polish your lyrics and improve where needed, but remember that not every song has to be exceptional. Even if you don’t feel inspired or in the mood to write, take that time to carve out lyrics for a song each day. These songs are not meant to be released if they’re not good enough, their main purpose is to help you practice and evolve as a writer. 

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5. Flesh out songs on pen and paper

Many songwriters and storytellers prefer jotting down words and ideas on pen and paper instead of recording digitally or taking notes on a device, and we advise that you also give it a try. Writing down words on paper allows you to write slower, and focus on each word as you write it; this gives your brain time to process what you’re writing down and identify new and different ways of expressing a certain idea. This process, since it’s more focused, can enable you to find new ways of saying something while you’re writing, allowing you to improve on your lyrics as you work on them. 

Playwrights and novelists continue to use old-school typewriters to this day, because this allows them to really immerse themselves in the writing process. Keep pen and paper in your bag and jot down words, expressions, phrases, and lyrics whenever they pop in your mind. This is not to say you should ignore the advantages of technology - if typing on a digital device or using voice recording apps feels more natural to you, by all means, follow whatever boosts your creativity. 

6. Never stop experimenting

There are different ways to approach crafting a new song; some artists start with the lyrics and then create the chords and melodies that accompany them, while others prefer coming up with the instruments and chord progressions first, and then moving on to lyrics. No matter how you go about it, your lyrics and your melodies go hand in hand, and they usually follow the same song structure - an example is the structure verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus, where the verses are different and the chorus remains the same. But you don’t have to follow a set recipe when it comes to songwriting. Instead, try to follow what comes naturally and don’t get stuck trying to make words rhyme perfectly or follow a set pattern. Allow yourself space to experiment with different song structures, different rhymes and lyrical compositions, and follow your gut instinct instead of trying to follow a rigid structure. 

7. Keep it simple

You know that saying, ‘when in doubt, throw it out?’ We like to say ‘when in doubt, keep it simple,’ because beginner songwriters often try too hard to create complex, intricate lyrics and they lose track of what’s really important. You want listeners to be able to relate to your lyrics, and even more than that, you want them to understand the message instinctively. If you have to pause a song, look for the lyrics online, and have to go over them multiple times trying to decipher what they mean, then you’ve made things a lot more complicated than they should be. 

It’s perfectly fine to experiment and elaborate on certain ideas and concepts, but you need to translate that message in such a way that your listeners will be able to process and understand it. If you pay attention to iconic songwriters like Bob Dylan, David Bowie or John Lennon, you’ll notice that their best songs have clear, focused, but powerful lyrics. Sometimes less is more, so keep working on polishing and refining your delivery to make an impact on your fans. 

8. Write from personal experience

If you’re a beginner songwriter facing the dreaded writer’s block, where you simply can’t find the right words or the right inspiration, take a break and pivot your perspective. Instead of trying to write about complicated concepts or things going on in the world, keep things simple and write about your personal experiences. When you write from a real place of emotion and authenticity, listeners are able to detect that, and your lyrics and melodies will have a much bigger impact. 

What is your story?

Write about things that you’ve been through, as this can be incredibly cathartic and it can help you process different emotions and situations in your life. At the same time, listeners who’ve gone through similar things will be able to relate to your words and receive your message and take it to heart. Ultimately, that’s what you want, to build a genuine, authentic connection with your fans. 

9. Embrace failure

One of the best pieces of advice you will ever receive as a beginner songwriter or aspiring musician is to be open to failure. Not every lyric will sound right, not every chord progression will make it into a song, and you’ll have to get used to scraping and letting go of what doesn’t work without putting yourself down. It’s part of the process, and a good exercise, but you’ll have to accept failure when it happens and learn from it, instead of getting deflated and losing motivation. 

Not every song that an artist releases becomes a hit, and every successful musician out there has gone through failure and disappointment, and that’s completely normal. Don’t beat yourself up when you experience failure, get bad feedback from a fellow musician, or from a fan, or get rejected by a music industry professional or record label. Instead, take it as a growth opportunity, learn from your mistakes, and improve on your craft and hone in your skills. 

10. Get feedback 

It can be easy to feel lost and unsure whether your songwriting skills are up to par, or whether you’re creating high-quality music that people will want to listen to. If you’re at the beginning of your career as a musician, you might also lack confidence and objectivity when it comes to your own work, in which case you will greatly benefit from feedback from professionals. 

One of the best things you can do for your career, especially as an emerging artist, is to Join Xposure Music and gain access to some of the best music industry professionals in the U.S. Some of the most successful musicians, songwriters, and producers have already joined our platform, and they’re ready to offer pointed, one-on-one feedback on your work, and guide you in the right direction. This feedback can be crucial in boosting your confidence in your talent as an artist and helping you expand your songwriting skills, so why not give it a try?

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do beginners start songwriting?

To start songwriting as a beginner, begin by immersing yourself in music and exploring various genres and styles. Listen attentively to different songs and pay attention to their structure, lyrics, melodies, and chord progressions. Experiment with basic chords on an instrument of your choice and try writing simple lyrics or phrases that express your thoughts or emotions. Don't be afraid to revise and refine your ideas, and keep practicing regularly to develop your skills and find your unique voice as a songwriter.

How can I teach myself songwriting?

To teach yourself songwriting, start by studying the fundamentals of music theory and song structure. Familiarize yourself with different chord progressions, melodies, and lyrics in existing songs across various genres. Practice writing your own lyrics and melodies, experimenting with different styles and techniques. Seek feedback from others and be open to constructive criticism. Set aside dedicated time for songwriting and make it a regular habit. Additionally, explore resources like books, online tutorials, and workshops to further enhance your understanding and skills in songwriting.

What are the basics of songwriting?

The basics of songwriting include understanding song structure, such as verses, choruses, bridges, and pre-choruses, and how they work together to create a cohesive song. It involves crafting compelling melodies that are memorable and catchy, and writing lyrics that effectively convey emotions, tell stories, or express ideas. Familiarity with basic music theory, including chord progressions and rhythm, is also important in creating harmonies and establishing the overall mood of the song. Experimentation, revision, and finding your unique voice are essential aspects of mastering the basics of songwriting.

How do I get better at songwriting?

To get better at songwriting, practice regularly and consistently. Study and analyze songs across various genres, paying attention to their structure, melodies, lyrics, and themes. Experiment with different writing techniques and push yourself to try new ideas. Seek feedback from others, whether it's from fellow songwriters or through platforms where you can share your work. Embrace constructive criticism and use it to refine your skills. Keep learning and expanding your musical knowledge, whether through books, courses, or workshops. Lastly, trust your instincts and continue to develop your unique voice as a songwriter.

Join Xposure Music and gain access to some of the best music industry professionals in the U.S.? Top experts from Sony, Columbia, Def Jam, or Universal have already joined our platform, and they’re ready to give invaluable, on-point feedback on your work, and guide you in the right direction. Whether you’re looking for feedback from a musician, a producer, or a songwriter, this is your chance to get objective feedback and take your career to the next level. 

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Gregory Walfish
Co-founder of Xposure Music, Gregory Walfish stands at the intersection of music, tech, and culture. With a software engineering background, he's passionate about artist development and technology.

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