Add New Skills To Your Songwriter’s Toolbox Like A Pro

songwriters toolbox-songtown


Songwriters, like any craftsmen, rely on skill. But skill is largely based on your ability to consistently add tools to your songwriter’s toolbox. Here are 4 steps to get you on the path to adding new tools, break out of old ruts, and level-up your writing.

Practice Active Listening.

When we‰’re listening to music, it‰’s important to go beyond the ‰”I like this‰” or ‰”I hate that‰” Passive Listening. The next time you hear a song that catches your interest, ask yourself more specific questions like “Do I like this unique phrasing the singer is using?” “What rhyme scheme is being used?” “Does it work?” “Do I like this song because of the production, or is it a great song?” Passive Listening promotes opinions rather than knowledge. Active Listening gets you inspired and will help you consistently add new skills to your songwriter’s toolbox. This is one of the biggest things skilled songwriters do differently.

Listen to New Music and Incorporate.

Ask yourself- Is there something in this song I can incorporate into my own songs or style? What do I dig about this song? Is it the way the melody soars in the chorus? Or maybe a rhyme scheme I’ve never tried before? Improving your craft or art is mostly a matter of knowing what questions to ask! If you are asking questions, then you are learning and coming from a place of growth. If you can find one new tool a month your writing will grow tremendously over time.

Co-write and Add Skills to your Songwriter’s Toolbox

Co-writing is a great chance to grow and learn from each other. My co-writers over the years have been great at so many different aspects of writing. Some of them had a unique way of twisting a lyrical phrase, some could create masterful melodic hooks, and working with them was a real education. I‰’m constantly adding to my songwriter’s toolbox through new co-writes. Plus it‰’s a fun hang where we can share new music we dig with each. The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing is a helpful book if you are new to co-writing, or want to improve your co-writing skills.

Learn and Memorize Songs

A famous classical composer was once quoted as saying ‰”Composing is the act of remembering a melody that has never been written.‰” Strengthening your song memory is one of the best ways to strengthen your compositing muscle.


Write On! ~Clay


Clay Mills is co-founder of SongTown and a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter. He has 2 Grammy nominations and is co-owner of the Nashville-based publishing company VibeCity Music.

6 thoughts on “Add New Skills To Your Songwriter’s Toolbox Like A Pro

  1. Well said, Clay!
    I feel like #4 is a well-kept secret and something worthy of elaborating on. I made my living with a “piano man” gig for a long time and as a result had to memorize a lot of songs. And I really think it was invaluable. Now, I want to set a goal to learn (and memorize) one current hit per… well, month to be realistic… And I want to deliberately choose something that is outside of my wheelhouse, so I can internalize whatever rhythms, vocabulary, etc. that are part of that song.

    1. Wow . Struck me personally as so many substantial ideas shared here. For my needs or mood at this moment me this was the best of your all informative lessons I’ve read look after starting to receive them in my emails since joining ST not that long ago.

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